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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

He's back. Sort of.

I've been reading Steven den Beste for a long time. The scope of his factual knowledge and his ability to order to those facts within a theoretical framework is nothing short of amazing.

So I was sorely disappointed a month ago when he announced that he was quitting blogging, at least for a while. I've been checking his site daily, hoping to find that "a while" had passed.

And now he is back with a post on one of his favorite subjects, anime. Good for him. Less good for me, though. I liked his political and foreign affairs posts much more than those concerning anime. And he says that he's still not moved to return as the Captain of the Clueless.

But complaints about the flavor of ice cream available just aren't right when the ice cream is free. So that is not a complaint. Steven, I'm glad to hear from you again.

After all, ice cream of whatever flavor tastes much better than silence.

Two recent stories coming out of Europe do not bode well for Senator Kerry's presidential aspirations.

The first, via Drudge, is a Financial Times report in the of statements by French and German officials that their respective countries will not send troops to Iraq even if Kerry is somehow elected. The second, via Powerline, is an International Herald Tribune story in which it is reported that France will not attend an international conference on Iraq unless the agenda includes discussion of a US withdrawal and the "insurgents" are invited to attend.

From Kerry's point of view, of the French and German statements reported by the FT, the French was worse. Not because it said anything different, but because it came from the Foreign Minister.

Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said last week that France, which has tense relations with interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, had no plans to send troops "either now or later".
The German statement is from Gert Weisskirchen, who is described as a "member of parliament and foreign policy expert for Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party" and is quoted as follows:

"I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president. That said, Mr Kerry seems genuinely committed to multilateralism and as president he would find it easier than Mr Bush to secure the German government's backing in other matters."
Other matters. Other matters don't figure in this election. Kerry's proposed solution for Iraq is to get France and Germany involved militarily to relieve our forces. And the French Foreign Minister and a "foreign policy expert" for Germany's ruling party just said that ain't gonna happen.

The IHT story may well be the more damning of the two reports, however. Kerry has not called for negotiations with the "insurgents", but the French just did. Can you imagine France sending troops to Iraq while simultaneously calling for negotiations concerning US withdrawal? I can't. And given that Kerry has evoked Vietnam in his campaign, can there be a worse Vietnam allusion than to the Paris "peace" negotiations that led to the unilateral US withdrawal from Vietnam and cleared the way for North Vietnam to conquer its now southern half? Where shall the negotiations begin? Shall we discuss the shape of the table? Shall we discuss how many representatives Zarqawi gets to send and whether he should defer any additional beheadings while the conference is under way?

Europe just finished Kerry. He is toast.

UPDATE: It seems that foolish minds think alike. Foolsblog agrees with me (or I with him, since he posted last night).
Saturday, September 25, 2004

I haven't been too pleased with the performance of the UN, lately. Neither is David Brooks, who has an op ed piece in the New York Times about Darfur:

Every time there is an ongoing atrocity, we watch the world community go through the same series of stages: (1) shock and concern (2) gathering resolve (3) fruitless negotiation (4) pathetic inaction (5) shame and humiliation (6) steadfast vows to never let this happen again.
There is no way to describe what's happening in Darfur other than as genocidal ethnic cleansing, and what does the UN do? It frowns sternly in the general direction of Sudan an issues a "threat" to consider economic sanctions at some unspecified time in the future. That threat, of course, will be followed in due course with another lengthy debate about whether and how to impose the sanctions.

A threatened debate concerning mealy mouthed sanctions in the sweet by and by does nothing but give the maniacs who are doing the killing and raping and burning additional time to do whatever the hell they want, which turns out to be more murder, more rape and more burning.

And of course, sanctions, in the unlikely event that they are complied with and the even less likely event that they actually have the intended effect, will take additional time, measured in years, to achieve that effect. Darfur is burning today. People are starving right goddam now. An ethnic "militia" is murdering thousands as we speak. And the UN does less than nothing. It offers the people with the gasoline and matches more time to do their thing.

This is yet another magnificent performance by the UN. You'd think that their recent performances elsewhere in the world (and not just Iraq; remember Rwanda?) would shame them into at least acting like they wanted to do something.

The UN has become a pathetic farce which raises obstruction and obfuscation into an art form. And, if anyone, anywhere finally gets fed up with the delay and diplobabble, heaven forbid they should actually try to do something. God help the nation that says, "If you won't do it, we will." Only crude cowboys and complete morons say stuff like that.

Any actions taken to enforce (enforce? is that a word?) all those resolutions solemnly passed with great fanfare are characterized by Secretary General of the UN as illegal.

I have a (Mrs.) Kerry-like suggestion for Mr. Annan: Take your resolutions and your opinions and shove it. Your organization has become a sad, sick joke. Time and time again, the UN has watched and done nothing as its honored members violated every provision of its charter, resulting in death and suffering on a scale which can scarcely be imagined.

Where in the name of God do you get the gall to criticize the people who spend sacrifice their own lives and their own money to do that which you have so pompously declared over and over and over again needed to be done?

Those people may not be able to right all the world's wrongs, but they've fixed a boatload more than you have.
Friday, September 24, 2004

I started to write a longish post about Kerry's contradictory statements on Iraq throughout the course of the campaign, only to find, via VodkaPundit, that John Hawkins did a far better job. And he has art!

Kerry obtained the Democratic nomination almost entirely on the basis that he was "electable." I think the Democrats should get their money back. Having tried to become all things to all people, electable may well be the one thing Kerry isn't.

The effect of the "weathervane" (sorry, no direct link, go here and scroll down) and "blowin' in the wind" ads now airing will show up in the polls in the next week or so, and I think Kerry will be seriously wounded. That leaves only the debates as a means for Kerry to improve his standing. There is no doubt that Kerry is a good debater. But is he good enough to withstand a recitation of the quotes in the linked article? I doubt it.

There has also been some speculation about outside events (such as a major terrorist attack somewhere) affecting the election. Well, there have been major terrorist attacks, both in Iraq (in terms of sheer volume) and Russia (in terms of gut wrenching horror). Events like those are wildcards. Their effect is unpredictable. So far, however, none seem to have derailed Bush or aided Kerry.
Thursday, September 23, 2004

The absolutely must read last word on Rathergate belongs to Iowahawk.

"My name is Rather. And I’m a dick."

This one is spreading like wildfire. I got it from Rand Simberg, and it's already been trackbacked twenty times or so.

I suspect that the one thing that Rather and CBS will not be able to tolerate is ridicule.

Go. Read.

Andrew Sullivan, in speculating about what a second Bush term would look like, says "I'd love it if he made a real push for a flat tax..."

Andrew, the flat tax is a great idea whose time will never come.

Reasons? At the beginning of any analysis, the purpose(s) of enacting a flat tax have to be examined. The main selling point I have always seen is simplicity. The tax code has become far too complex, and is no longer comprehensible to the average taxpayer. Simplicity is a good thing, at least in the abstract. Our tax compliance system is, in reality, a voluntary one, and ease of compliance will increase compliance, or so it is claimed. So the question becomes, (a) is the objective of simplicity in the tax code achievable and (b) will the flat tax achieve it?

The answers: Probably not and not likely at all.

First, the US economy is the most complex in the world. Imposing a tax on that economy requires complex rules. Failure or refusal to enact complex rules will result in simplicity, and simplicity is a good thing. But the corollary to simplicity is unfairness. Simple is easy but, in specific situations, unfair. Complex is hard, but (if not entirely fair) fairer. And, given our system of voluntary compliance, a widespread perception of unfairness will be the system's death knell.

I'm a tax attorney (boo, hiss). People like me get paid to figure out ways to reduce a client's taxes. A simple flat tax will make my job simple. A complex flat tax (if that's not an oxymoron) will not solve the problem that the flat tax aims to solve: Complexity in the tax code. Even if, by some political miracle (see below), a flat tax was enacted, exceptions will creep back into the law as legislators try to combat the perceived unfairness resulting from the new tax in specific situations.

Second, the tax code, as it stands, contains hundreds, if not thousands, of provisions on which everyone, and I mean everyone, has relied and continues to rely. Deductibility of home mortgage interest and real estate taxes. Deductibility of IRAs/pension contributions. Deductibility of charitable contributions. Those provisions are ones that you and I rely on directly every day in deciding whether to purchase this home or that one, whether make this investment or that one, and whether and to what extent to support our favorite causes. And that short list doesn't even consider the provisions affecting us indirectly, such as the laws pertaining to depreciation, S corporations, partnerships, or the more esoteric provisions concerning trusts, insurance companies, banks or corporate reorganizations, all of which are extremely complex. A flat tax (at least one that would achieve its presumed goal of simplicity) would require the repeal or radical modification of most or all of those provisions. But each one of those provisions has a constituency which will oppose the repeal. Sometimes a very large and very powerful constituency in terms of either numbers or wealth (and thus lobbying clout). I am no politician, but my guess is that logrolling in Congress would result in keeping most of the provisions noted above intact, which, again, will cause the flat tax to fail to achieve its objective of simplicity.

Third, switching to a flat tax will have untold economic consequences. To take just one example, the deduction for home mortgage interest, if repealed, would result in a huge new supply of homes for sale. Millions of homeowners would no longer be able to afford their homes because the mortgage was no longer being paid with pre-tax dollars. All of those home would come onto the market, over a very short period of time. At the same time and for the same reason, the average home buyer's ability to purchase a new home will be reduced, in terms of the amount of money he can afford to spend. That would result in a drastic reduction in the value of real estate. It might not be a crash, but it sure would look like one in the short run.

Fourth, the bulk of the wealth of the average American is in the value of his home. Unless the deduction for home mortgage interest and real estate taxes is maintained, the flat tax will be perceived as an attack (even if not a deliberate one) on the wealth accumulated over the years by the average Joe. If you are going to maintain that deduction, the argument for eliminating others is significantly weakened.

All in all, I don't think a flat tax will happen, and if I am wrong and it does happen, I don't it will last.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

60 Minutes II producer (or just plain 60 Minutes, or 60 Minutes, Wednesday, depending on who wins the civil war) Mary Mapes contacted Joe Lockhart at the Kerry Campaign and asked him to call Bill Burkett, saying Burkett had been quite helpful on the story that became DanRon. The request was made, apparently, as a condition of receiving the bogus documents from Burkett. Lockhart acknowledges speaking to Burkett in response to Mapes' request.

The press and the blogosphere are abuzz with the possibilities raised by this second contact between Burkett and the Kerry campaign (the first being with former Senator Cleland). Was Rathergate an attempted Democratic dirty trick by the campaign or the DNC?????? More violations of journalistic ethics at CBS!!!!! Stay tuned for futher details!!!!

But the thing that bothers me about this wrinkle is not the (logical but somewhat unlikely) possibility of involvement in Rathergate by high officials of the Kerry campaign. What gets me is that Mapes was freely disclosing her source to Lockhart at the very same time that Rather was refusing to tell the rest of us who that source was.

That raises two questions:

Having already disclosed the source to people outside of CBS News, how can Rather have claimed for more than a week that his journalistic ethics prevented him from disclosing the source to the pajamasphere? This is in addition to the obvious one of whether Rather should have protected his source at all, having been burned by that very same source.

The more interesting of the two questions is this: Lockhart knew the identity of the source. He knew (or should have known) that the source had provided faked documents to Mapes and Rather. So why didn't Lockhart disclose the identity of the source? Wouldn't that have been proof positive that the Kerry campaign was not involved in the scam? Wouldn't that have been the best possible condemnation of the avalanche of mud and irrelevancies that this campaign has become?

Was it an opportunity missed? Or an attempt to protect a friend in the press?
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

In The World According to Garp, Robin Williams and his wife are looking at a house to purchase when a light airplane literally crashes into it. Williams' line is "Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical. See? It's been pre-disastered. We're going to be safe here."

That sounds to me like what Dan Rather must have been thinking when he called Burkett an unimpeachable source. Burkett had, for all practical intents and purposes, already been impeached. In at least one instance, the man had impeached his own statement.

From The Houston Chronicle:

... Burkett's allegations have changed over the years, and have been dismissed as baseless by former Guard colleagues, state legislators and others.

Even Burkett has admitted some of his allegations are false.
Emphasis added. I can just see Rather thinking to himself, "The odds of Burkett being impeached again are astronomical. He's pre-impeached. We're going to be safe here."

Monday, September 20, 2004

On MSNBC: CBS "cannot vouch for the authenticity of documents used to support a "60 Minutes" story about President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service after several experts denounced them as fakes."

So who is Bill Burkett?

From Smash:


Bill Burkett, who has emerged as a possible CBS source for disputed memos about President Bush's Guard service, has a long history of making charges against Bush and the Texas National Guard. (Houston Chronicle)

What kind of charges? Here's something Burkett himself wrote on March 19, 2003:

In January of 1998 and what seems like a full lifetime ago, I was stricken by a deadly case of meningoencephalitis. I was returning from a short duty trip to Panama as a team chief to inspect the hand over of Ft. Clayton to the Panamanians. I had been 'loaned' from the senior staff and state planning officer of the Texas National Guard to the Department of the Army for a series of these special projects after angering George W. Bush by refusing to falsify readiness information and reports; confronting a fraudulent funding scheme which kept 'ghost' soldiers on the books for additional funding, and refusing to alter official personnel records [of George W. Bush].
Got that? He blames Bush for his illness. But wait, it gets better:

George W. Bush and his lieutenants were mad. They ordered that I not be accessed to emergency medical care services, healthcare benefits I earned by my official duty; and I was withheld from medical care for 154 days before I was withdrawn from Texas responsibility by the Department of the Army, by order of the White House.

I was a pawn then caught in a struggle for right and wrong, but also caught within a political struggle between a man who would do anything to be 'king' of America and an institution of laws that we knew as America.Bush conspired to deny him medical treatment?
That's quite a story. But apparently, it wasn't even up to Dan Rather's standards, as it never made it past the "Veterans for Peace" website.

So how does Burkett really feel about President Bush?

We must now revert to the history of Europe to discern what to do. We must study the nemesis of France and how Napoleon was felled before understanding the damage a tyrant does to a nation and society. We must examine the ruthless and dictatorial rise of yet another of the three small men—one whose name is not spoken out of fear of reprisal, but his name was Adolf. We must examine history, in order to not repeat it, and to understand the mesmerism of a public to a murderous scheme. Three small men who wanted to conquer . . . and vanquish. Each created a need for a balancing throng; history then recorded the damage from a far better perspective.
To quote a somewhat less famous blogger (moi):

"You relied on Burkett????? You put the reputation of CBS News and its 60 Minutes flagship at risk based on Burkett's say so? How stupid can you get?"
Apparently mindblogglingly stupid.
Sunday, September 19, 2004

Powerline notes that the Niger Yellowcake story has resurfaced. The Italian businessman who apparently obtained the (crudely) forged documents on which the US and the UK based their claim that Saddam was attempting to purchase yellowcake (low grade uranium which would presumably be enriched into weapons grade stuff) from Niger has now testified in an Italian court that he was on France's payroll.

This has lead to a "furious row" between France and Italy in which Italy claims France was attempting to set up the US (and the UK) by inducing us to rely on bogus documents, thus undermining the case for the Iraqi war.

All this sounds very familiar, no? To the best of my knowledge, however, Karl Rove is not alleged to have been involved. But then, Terry McAuliffe has not yet given an interview on the subject.

Powerline notes (and I agree) that Saddam was almost certainly attempting to purchase something from Niger. Niger's exports are livestock, cowpeas, onions, and the products of it's small cotton industry. And yellowcake. I think its reasonable to assume that the high level Iraqi official (Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, aka "Baghdad Bob") who, according to none other than Joseph Wilson, supposedly contacted Niger to talk about trade was not going to talk about goats.

However, Powerline then adds that Bush was unwise to back off on the yellowcake claim as he did. I disagree. This is precisely the argument now being made by Rather about his Bush/National Guard story. His documents were forgeries and his report was based largely, but not entirely on those forgeries. Rather also had Texas politician and Democratic fundraiser Ben Barnes talking about using his influence to get Bush into the Guard, without, of course, identifying Barnes as a major Kerry contributor or the fact that his story has changed several times over the years.

Rather is now being heavily criticized not only for going ahead with the story based largely on crude forgeries, but for his subsequent stonewalling and his continued professions of belief in the story despite the evidence of fraud with respect to the documents. And his critics are right. Ben Barnes was nothing new. Rather's story was the documents and the documents were fraudulent.

That is why I think Bush was right to not push the yellowcake claim once it was established that the documents were forged. Yes, there was other evidence. But it was both old and somewhat tenuous and therefore not, to my mind, a sufficient basis for a decision to send young kids out to fight die.

And can you imagine the glee with which Terry McAuliffe would have greeted a Bush claim that the documents were fake but accurate?

In some of his title fights, Muhummad Ali intentionally let his opponent beat on him for the first (ten?) rounds or so of the bout. After the opponent tired himself out hitting Ali where it didn't hurt, Ali finally began to fight back. He won. He told an interviewer after his first use of the strategy that this had been his plan going into the fight.

His fans (me included) hated watching their champion being pummeled without response. It was also risky. The key to the strategy lies in the timing. Wait too long and, exhausted oppponent or not, you will be too far behind in points to come back, necessitating a far more difficult knock out for victory. Not long enough, and your opponent will not be tired. Ali called it "rope-a-dope" and, though I have not watched much boxing since the retirement of Sugar Ray Leonard, as I recall, no one else has ever been able to successfully duplicate it.

In the boxing ring.

Over the past few years, however, spectators have been treated to an absolutely spectacular exhibition of rope-a-dope by George Bush. I am continually amazed at how he waits passively, absorbing blow after blow as his opponents voluntarily crawl farther and farther out on a limb. And then, at precisely the right time to inflict the maximum damage on the opponent, with one calculated speech, Bush saws the branch off behind them.

This observation is not original to me. Bush has done it many times. The issue of Israeli/PLO negotiations, and the war in Iraq are two of the most noticeable examples. Whether the strategy is planned and executed by Bush or Karl Rove or someone else working for Bush is irrelevant. It is planned. It has happened far too many times not to be.

And it seems to have happened yet again with Rathergate (or DanRon, as one wag is calling it). This snippet from a story by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post says it all:

[CBS reporter] Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that [White House Communications Director] Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.

At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."
Emphasis added. They did indeed. Was it planned this time? The only way to tell would be if Bush's response was responsible for Rather's flame-out. But this time, Bush did not even have to do any of his own sawing. The blogosphere did it for him, with obviously devasting results.

Once again, Bush opponents were deep into the details of planning their victory parade, only to wake up on the floor a few minutes later, asking, "What hit me?"
Friday, September 17, 2004

The presidential polling boom is in full swing. New polls are coming out daily. At the moment, there is no consensus among the pollsters. The race is either a dead heat (a Harris poll released Thursday, and a Pew Research poll taken between 9/11 and 9/14) or a Bush blowout by 16% among likely voters (Pew Research, taken between 9/8 and 9/10), take your pick.

More than occasionally, for various reasons, a poll is just flat wrong. But I think that, in this case, its possible that there is an explanation for the wild swing in the Pew poll: Rathergate.

Rather made the story impugning Bush's National Guard Service late (late for polling, at least) in the evening of 9/10. The reaction in the pajamasphere was both strong and immediate, but the mass media didn't pick up the story until the weekend (9/11-9/12) and only really got going on it on Monday, 9/13.

That means that whatever damage Rather did to the Bush campaign with the story is not picked up at all in the earlier survey (9/8-9/10), but is reflected in the later poll (9/11-9/14) without much diminution by reason of the destruction of the memos as forgeries in the blogosphere.

The conventional wisdom is that Rather did little damage because no one cares what Bush did or didn't do thirty five years ago. I disagree. I think that the story had a significant impact on the electorate, which was negated by Rather's incredible stupidity in relying on those memos, which was pointed out over the following week or so.

As to the race, my gut tells me Bush is ahead by a significant margin. Of course, my gut may just be telling me what I want to hear.
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Perhaps fake, but accurate. That's what CBS' defense of the memos amounts to. The content of the documents, though forged, reflects what really happened.

OK, then, should Karl Rove produce a series of memos similarly "proving" John Kerry's legislative record? The best part is that no forging would be involved, because the memos would be completely blank (it being the Bush position that Kerry has no legislative achievements). The documents would be "less fake" than Rather's laughable memos, since they would involve no actual words. And they reflect what the Bush campaign believes to be what really happened. That would be enough according to CBS to run to air with the documents to attack Kerry using what amounts to a campaign stunt by the other side. Is that the standard used by CBS?

I love the line where CBS says they're going to try really really hard to authenticate the documents.

Authenticate them? Mr. Rather, that ship sailed long ago. You should have done what you now plan to try prior to your initial broadcast. And when you couldn't, you should have round filed them. Your failure to do so was a large mistake. Your subsequent appeals to authority and ad hominem invective (We're CBS. We have editors and such, so we must be right. Our critics are "some guys in their pajamas.") were a bigger mistake.

The bottom line? CBS has basically admitted that the documents cannot be authenticated. Their own witness (the late Colonel Killian's secretary) says so, even as she says that the sentiment they express is true. Therefore, at the very least, its source enlisted CBS News in general, and Dan Rather in particular, in an attempt to manipulate the election based on forgeries. Why does that source deserve CBS' continued protection?

Certainly not based on journalistic ethics, as claimed by CBS. At least no journalistic ethics that I've ever heard of. Your source burns you, you burn the source. Automatically. Failure to do so invites future attempts by indicating that there is no cost to providing CBS with forged documents, even ones where the forgery should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense.

And that gives rise to what is, to my mind, a most intriguing question: If the protection of the source is not based on journalistic ethics, WHY IS RATHER CONTINUING TO STONEWALL ON HIS SOURCE? His career and his legacy are both at stake. He has pledged them both to protect a source that gave him fake documents.

There are three logical possibilities:

1. There is no source. Rather himself (or someone at CBS) fabricated the documents. Probability? Zero or something approaching it.

2. There is a relationship between Rather and his source that causes Rather to want to protect the source. I can't see Rather literally throwing his career and reputation away to elect John Kerry, so Rather's position is not explained by assuming that the source is the Kerry campaign, even though Kerry was the intended beneficiary of the scam. No, this possibility is likely only if the source is a family member or something like that, which is itself unlikely. Probability? Unlikely.

3. Rather believes the source to be extremely weak. I think this is the most likely of the three possibilities. In fact, I think that it is very likely to be true. Assuming the source of the documents has problems other than the documents themselves that can be or have been used to impeach his credibility, disclosing his identity does not solve Rather's problem.

Indeed, it makes it worse. The reaction would be, "You relied on __________????? You put the reputation of CBS News and its 60 Minutes flagship at risk based on __________'s say so? How stupid can you get?"

Therefore, Rather might as well try to continue to stonewall and change the subject. If successful, he suffers less damage than he would by disclosing the source. But that damage control effort will probably only be temporary (although just how temporary is impossible to estimate). The one thing that I believe to be near certain is that the source will be disclosed or discovered, eventually. Deep throat would not be able to remain anonymous in the age of the internet while continuing to provide information to Woodward and Bernstein.

And certainly not if he had attempted to bring down a President with forgeries.

UPDATE: on Friday morning, I read Opinion Journal, as usual and find this editorial by Bernard Goldberg, saying pretty much the same thing as I did. Pretty good company, no?

Caution: Patting yourself on the back can be painful.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Over at Moira's place, she is singing the praises of the pajamasphere. In the comments, one Lynx Pherret asks if there is an auxilliary for mere bathrobe wearers.

I'm in. Sign me up for the Bathrobe Brigade.

I am PJ challenged, as are many others, and took up a robe when skivvies became, shall we say, less than acceptable due to (ahem) caloric overconsumption with complications arising from simultaneous underexpenditure of same.

The Daughter programmed my cell phone to display "Robe King".

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Citizen Smash posts on the car bomb in Baghdad and the small arms attack in Baquoba. He thinks that the new Iraqi government will attempt to clean out the current safe havens of Fallujah, Baquoba and Samarra prior to the January elections held there.

What bothers me most about the war in Iraq right now is the progression of events we have seen several times:

An series of attacks, followed by an expedition to Fallujah, where the "insurgents" are surrounded, outgunned and (to this non-military eye) terribly vulnerable, followed by "successful" negotiations for a cease fire pursuant to which we back off. The cease fire, of course, turns out to be meaningless because no arms are surrendered and no one is taken into custody. Then, three or four weeks later, a new series of attacks are mounted from the same places we had surrounded, and the whole process is repeated (and I fume impotently).

It won't take long for people to start comparing that state of affairs to the Tet Offensive, which was simultaneously a military disaster and a huge political win for North Vietnam. That war truly was won (and lost) on the streets of the United States.

The on again/off again attempts control Fallujah have happened twice, now. If it happens much more, US voters might well conclude that Bush is waiting to get past the US election to finish cleaning out the three towns.

That would not be good. Trying to control the timing of anti-terrorist military efforts for political purposes can only hurt by politicizing the conduct of the war. To be perceived as trying to do so (even if it is untrue) is almost as bad.

If the bad guys are surrounded and cut off from food, water and ammunition, for God's sake kill them or capture them. Bush bet his reelection on Iraq. This is no time to start hedging that bet.

Senator Kerry has a problem. The problem is the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" (also known as the Deaniacs).

Fritz Schrank, a Delaware lawyer/blogger, has been solicited by Kerry for a campaign contribution. The solicitation itself is a scream, and Fritz does a fine job of fisking it, noting the complete absence of any reason to vote for Kerry, as opposed to against Bush. I especially like the part where Kerry declares that when (not if) he wins, we will look back on this moment as the turning point. If you're already assured of winning, Senator, why solicit additional funds?

I must say, though, that Kerry is, once again, confusing me with his tactics on the war in Iraq.

He was for the war and against it.

He was against paying for it, but he was for paying for it before he was against paying for it.

We didn't send enough troops, so we should bring the troops who are there home, within four years. No, wait: one year. No, starting in six months.

Kerry's statements that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction were completely accurate, but Bush lied about them and misled is into war.

But it doesn't matter that Bush misled us into war because Kerry would have gone to war regardless of whether or not he thought he would find WMDs.

Britain, Australia, Spain, El Salvador, Poland and the umpteen other countries that contributed to the Iraq effort were a coalition of the bribed and coerced. The only way to avoid having a coalition of the bribed and coerced, apparently, is to bribe and coerce France and/or Germany.
This week, we are back to the BUSH LIED!!!!! PEOPLE DIED!!!!!!! theme. Forget the fact that the CIA and every other US intelligence agency thought Saddam had WMDs. Forget the fact that literally every intelligence service in the West thought Saddam had WMDs. Hell, we should (please!) forget that even Kerry thought so, too. Bush knew differently and if he didn't contradict the overwhelming weight of the intelligence assessments from around the world, its only because he is either a liar or a complete moron.

Oh, wait. That would make Kerry a liar or moron, too. Sorry. I take that back. Until next week.

Some free advice for the Senator:

Howard Dean lost the primaries. He is not the candidate. You are. The Deaniacs are not going to vote for Bush. They're going to vote for Nader or for you. I think you're going to lose this election, even if you get the Deaniac vote, but I'm a convinced Bush supporter. Mine is not the vote you're looking for, because you won't get it. This race, as far as you are concerned, is now between you and Nader. Your only chance is to convince enough Deaniacs that you have a shot at winning.

Your party overwhelmingly nominated you because they thought that you could win. The downside to having obtained the nomination solely on "electability" is that a significant portion of the people who nominated you will vote for Nader if they believe going into the election that you will lose. To them, it's about winning the election. It's not about Iraq anymore, if ever it was.

Your position on the war is irrelevant to the Deaniacs. It is sufficient for them that you are not Bush. You are losing them now not because of your position(s) on the war, but because you are trailing in the polls. The way to get them back is not to adopt their positions, since that will put you farther behind in the polls and thus cause further defections to Nader among the Deaniacs. The way to get them back is to do better in the polls.

I acknowledge that this is a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. It's a conundrum. You can't do better with the voters until you do better in the polls, which are, of course, a measurement of how you're doing with the voters.

I'm not sure how to go about improving your position in the polls, but I know that shifting leftwards on the war in Iraq won't do it. I know that your consistent inconsistency on the war won't do it, either. I suspect that you have to decide what your true beliefs are (besides the obvious one that you should be the President), state them clearly and repeatedly and hope for the best.

Of course, if you really are the anti-war candidate, that might mean alienating a (perhaps small but) significant chunk of your party, represented by Zell Miller. And that would put Bush over the top, if he isn't there already.

Hey, I said the advice was free. Not that it would be, you know, useful.
Saturday, September 11, 2004

Ah, the wonders of the internet. On Wednesday night, Dan Rather goes on the air to report that Bush got into the National Guard because of his influential family, disobeyed a direct order and did not meet his obligations to the National Guard. The "family influence" claim was based on the statements of Ben Barnes, former Texas Lieutentant Governor. The rest of the claims were based on the now infamous documents obtained by CBS News. The documents were authenticated by Marcel Matley, a document expert, and by Major General (retired) Hodges, the (immediate?) superior of the author of the documents, who was himself Bush's superior officer.

Within twenty four hours, serious questions had been raised concerning all of the new witnesses and new documents trumpeted by Rather. The questions were so serious that Rather felt the need, on Friday evening, to attempt to rebut them on the air.

And by Saturday evening, Rather's rebuttal had been shredded.

His document expert, who supposedly authenticated the documents, formed his opinion after having viewed copies, since that was all CBS had. But that same expert wrote in 2002 that "... modern copiers and computer printers are so good that they permit easy fabrication of quality forgeries. From a copy, the document examiner cannot authenticate the unseen original but may well be able to determine that the unseen original is false. Further, a definite finding of authenticity for a signature is not possible from a photocopy, while a definite finding of falsity is possible." (Emphasis added.) General Hodges stated that CBS had misled him by telling him that the documents had been handwritten, and that all he had said was that if Killian (the supposed author) had written it, then that was how Killian felt about the matter.

The original criticisms of the documents (the use of New Times Roman; the proportional spacing; the centering and superscript) were hardly affected at all by the rebuttal. If you are old enough to remember Watergate, the infamous 18 minute gap in one of the Nixon tapes was explained away by partisans as having been accidentally caused by Nixon's secretary (Rose Mary Woods) performing a complicated stretch across three quarters of her large desk to answer her phone without taking her foot off a floor switch. The explanation was ridiculed as the "Rose Mary Stretch."

Well, the explanation of how Colonel Killian could have produced the documents contemporaneously with their dates had the same ring to it as the Rose Mary Stretch.
He would have to have had a high end IBM typewriter, the IBM Selectric Composer. In the Texas Air National Guard? Right.

He would have had to stop typing, rummage in his desk for another type ball having a smaller typeface, replace the existing type ball with the new one, futz with the paper, and type "th".

He would have had to reverse the process to get back to 12 point New Times Roman.

He would have had to do this several times in the course of one short document.

He would have had to type out and carefully measure the length of each line in the caption for centering purposes and start typing at the proper point on each line on a fresh paper.
I don't understand how there could be any questions about it. It could have happened. It did happen. Of course that's what a man who, according to both his widow and his son, didn't like to type would do!

And new faults were found (the terminology used in the memos was not in use at the time the memos were supposedly written; the signature block was wrong; the caption was wrong; the person said to be exerting pressure to sugarcoat Bush's evaluation had retired 18 months before date of the the memo; both Colonel Killian's son and his widow said he never took notes or kept memos, didn't write like that and admired Bush, even travelling to another base to pin his wings on him and meet Bush the elder; the son also questioned one of the signatures).

Additional document experts have offered opinions contrary to that of Mr. Matley (not to mention Matley's prior article saying that what he had done could not be done).

Rather's first new witness (Barnes) was recalled to have earlier stated exactly the opposite of what he was now claiming and revealed (by his daughter, no less) to have a motive of hyping his upcoming book.

And General Hodges, the witness apparently thought to be the "trump card," recanted, so to speak, as noted above.

I think the documents are forgeries. I think Matley's "authentication" of the documents is complete bullshit (and so does Matley, at least as of 2002) I think Barnes is a terrible witness for the "influence" claim, and that Hodges is a non-witness at best.

But I don't think Rather intentionally trumpeted forged documents and biased, misleading witnesses. I think he fervently wants Bush to lose the election because that's what he thinks needs to happen in order for things to improve in the world, and he allowed that desire to blind him to the multiple, egregious and obvious flaws in the report.

His actions subsequent to the initial report, however, are something different altogether. As Nixon learned, its not the original problem that will kill you, its the coverup. Rather's Friday night rebuttal was pathetic. "Some typewriters" had the superscripted th option in the early seventies? Well, at least one did that used New Times Roman, but for God's sake man:

Who would write a memo and stick it in a file on the off chance that the subject of the memo would be running for reelection 30 freakin years later?

Where were these witnesses and documents in 2000?

Rather's claim that everyone else's document analysis is wrong because they are looking at copies of copies of faxes of copies begs the question: Should not CBS then release the actual documents that Matley was looking at, rather than just copies of them? Why won't it, and why won't they tell us where they got the documents from? If the documents are in fact forgeries, surely they owe no obligation to protect the source that embarrassed them. And since releasing the documents and documenting their provenance appears to be the only way to salvage the claims made by CBS, why won't they do so?

If there are two ways to produce the documents, one taking a whole bunch of time and effort using the Rose Mary Woods Stretch-like procedure outlined above and one taking minutes using nothing but MS Word and maybe Photoshop, does not Occam's Razor tell us that forgery is the more likely explanation?

Why would Colonel Killian keep an official order for Lt. Bush to report for a physical exam in his "personal file?" Why does his widow say that Colonel Killian did not keep such things?

In his rebuttal, Rather said he would report only "definitive evidence" contrary to his story. The various items listed above are not definitive evidence. They are strong evidence. They are, in my opinion, far more than a preponderance of the evidence. But they are not definitive. But then almost nothing could be definitive this long after the fact. The problem here is Rather's disingenous use of the standard of proof required for rebuttal evidence. The evidence for the original story turns out to be flimsy at best, and Rather thinks that only "definitive" evidence countering it is worthy of being reported?

Airing the original story was a mistake. Sticking to it in the face of the volume, nature and quality of the criticism levelled against it is a much, much bigger mistake. It is the type of mistake that ends careers.

Can Rather survive the ridicule? CBS News is already in last place for news among the three broadcast networks. The damage done to their flagship 60 Minutes franchise is massive and will grow larger as people start to ask what did Dan know and when did he know it and as clippies continue to be created and circulated on the net.

NOTE: I normally try hard to credit sources on my posts. In this case, there were just too many. All, repeat, all of the above facts were discovered by others and reported elsewhere on the internet in blogs, mainstream sites, newspapers such as the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, etc. Most of the analysis was done first elsewhere as well, but not, I think, all in one place. My apologies. Today's ration of free ice cream does not include sourcing references. I'll try to do better tomorrow.
Friday, September 10, 2004

Andrew Sullivan comments (Reaganites versus Bush) on a Salon piece by Doug Bandow.


Quite simply, the president, despite his well-choreographed posturing, does not represent traditional conservatism -- a commitment to individual liberty, limited government, constitutional restraint and fiscal responsibility. Rather, Bush routinely puts power before principle.
Granted, Bush is no small government or libertarian Republican. Does Bandow expect Kerry to govern better or more conservatively on other issues than Bush?

Kerry is proposing just as much or more new spending as Bush is. The other difference is that Kerry wants to raise taxes to pay for it. Both are big government spenders. The difference is that Kerry is a tad more responsible than Bush (but not more conservative) with his fig leaf "tax increase on the wealthiest."

As previously confessed, however, the war is what matters to me. Kerry would retire into defensive positions and respond militarily only after an attack. Bush, on the other hand, asks, why wait for them? Why concede the initiative to them? You know they're coming.

Neither strategy is perfect. Execution of either of them would be (is) difficult. To my, eye, there are many fewer problems with Bush's approach. It at least has a chance of preventing further attacks on US soil. Kerry's approach has no such chance.

On most social and numerous economic issues, I'm with Sullivan. I like balanced budgets and small government that isn't peeking into my bedroom or trying to run my local school (not to mention my life). But that does not mean that most Americans or even most Republicans are. Why does it matter that the deficit is $400 Billion plus versus whatever Kerry's numbers show if:

We tell the ghost of Osama that he is free to do everything he needs to in order to prepare another 9/11 attack (with a cost in the trillions) with no military interference from us; and

We will voluntarily limit our military options to responding to such an attack?
That doesn't make us better people than Osama (since we already are). It will make some of us just as dead as he probably is.


One wonders why this kind of piece isn't published by the Weekly Standard or National Review.
Me too, but I also wonder why that kind of piece is passed over by people like the NYT and WaPo and 60 minutes in favor of anti-Bush exposes on his 35 year old service record in the National Guard.

Regardless of who wins the Presidency this time around (and either candidate can still win, despite the current euphoria among Bush supporters), the real loser in this election is going to be the media establishment.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

CNN reports on the failure of the Genesis capsule:

Genesis capsule plunging and tumbling out of control toward the Utah desert wasn't how the mission was supposed to end

Up to this point, the mission had been a success.
There an old, old joke about a guy (variously reported to be Irish, Polish, German, whoever happened to be the but of jokes at the time) who jumps out of a window on the 50th floor of a skyscraper. He is heard to say as he passes the 5th floor on his way down, "So far, so good."


From Instapundit, who notes that Edward Wasserman, a professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee, is not too keen on having his facts checked by others (go to to avoid registration hassles):

News is a messy and elusive form of information. Journalism is crude, tentative and fumbling, always involving compromise, and there's a healthy measure of give-and-take in the process.

But anybody who enters the profession makes a core commitment to do his or her best to determine and tell the truth. And that commitment is now under assault.
Let's read that again, shall we? Anyone who becomes a professional journalist makes a "core commitment" to "do his or her best" to "determine and tell the truth".

Really? If that's true, then this is the best the profession can offer us? 60 Minutes as a Kerry infomercial? Hundreds, if not thousands of stories on Bush failing to meet the requirements of service in the Air National Guard and dead silence on Kerry's oft-repeated, and now admitted fairy tales about spending Christmas in Cambodia? The best efforts of the profession to determine and tell the truth include an AP report that insults me and every other Bush supporter by falsely claiming that the audience at a Bush rally booed when told Clinton was in the hospital? That's as good as it gets, Mr. Wasserman? I don't think so. I think they can and will do better, if pushed to do so. But not according to Wasserman. He thinks that any criticism of a professional journalist by a non-journalist is bullying and intellectual extortion.

The attack doesn't come from ideologically committed journalists and commentators who put together reports clearly selected and spun-dry to sell a political line. As long as such writers retain some minimal respect for fact, the transparency of their motives may even work to enrich the variety of information and interpretations available to all.
Again: Really? Minimal respect for fact is the best journalists as a whole can do? According to a professor of journalism ethics? Not a healthy respect, not a reverence for fact, but minimal respect. I guess that the AP story about the crowd booing the announcement of Clinton's heart surgery at a Bush rally had a "minimal respect for fact." I will concede that the reporter's respect for fact was minimal. So minimal that I couldn't see it.

And transparent motives? Transparent to whom? Did I miss it when the New York Times started printing their reporters' "motives" along with their bylines? Tell me where the motives of the authors of the NYT's initial reportage of the Swift Boat Vets controversy were made "transparent". Was it before or after the 65th paragraph when they finally got around to saying that the Christmas in Cambodia story was the only Swift Boat accusation that Kerry had "not yet put to rest"? Put to rest? Kerry had not only not put it to rest, he had admitted it to be true. So where are the motives of the reporters in that story made transparent and how is it possible that such misreporting "work[s] to enrich the variety of information and interpretations available to all"?

To the contrary, such efforts work to decrease the information and decrease interpretations available, not to increase them.

The more compelling danger concerns news organizations in the so-called mainstream. These are the country's best-staffed and most influential news organizations, and they're losing their nerve.
Good! I certainly hope its true. The media (with some notable exceptions) has become quite brazen about what they are doing.

I understand why. It's hard now even to write for publication without being aware of just how thoroughly what you say is going to be inspected for any trace of undesirable political tilt and denounced by a free-floating cadre of rightist warriors.
Ah, the vast right wing conspiracy raises its ugly head. Journalists apparently need to be protected from people who, for one reason or another, get annoyed with something written by said journalist who may or may not:

Have made a "core commitment to determine and tell the truth"

Have lived up to that commitment

Have a minimal respect for fact.
Then, horror of horrors, this unpaid (and thus presumably unprofessional) cretin actually has the gall to criticize (yes! criticize!) his betters. What nerve! That they are more than occasionally right matters not one whit. That they are sometimes (even frequently) wrong is what counts.

According to Wasserman, only professional journalists with minimal respect for fact are to be forgiven their mistakes (without ever having confessed same). According to Wasserman, only professional journalists, with their core commitment to determine and report the truth, can allow their political agenda to affect their reporting. Wasserman apparently believes that the fact that some (most? all?) criticism of the effect of a journalist's political agenda on his reporting is itself politically motivated disqualifies it as criticism.

If that's apparent to me as a mere columnist, I can only imagine the current mind-set of supervising editors: If we give prominence to this story of carnage in Iraq, will we be accused of anti-administration bias? And - here it gets interesting - will we therefore owe our readers an offsetting story, perhaps an inspirational tale of Marines teaching young Iraqis how to play softball?
That's right, Mr. Wasserman! The only good thing that isn't being reported from Iraq is free softball lessons!

Soft stories like Marines teaching Iraqis how to play ball is Wasserman's straw man. He needs a reality check:

How many stories were there in the last week about US casualties?

Compare that to how many stories there were in the last six months about Iraqi construction projects (what's being built, where, for how much, who is building it, when will it be done, what will it mean for the locale and the nation). The only person I have seen doing stories like that is Arther Chrenkoff, and the only place I have seen it is on his blog and the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.

How many stories were there in the last month about whether Bush's service in the Air National Guard met all the requirements?

Compare that to how many stories there were about Kerry's time in Vietnam and whether all of the claims he makes about his service are true.

Look, I know that no single press organzation can report everything. The entire Western media probably can't report everything. In know that bad news sells newspapers ("good news is no news, no news is bad news and bad news is good news"). But Wasserman's complaint about having to report (literally) softball feel-good news to "offset" other stories that don't play well on one end of the political spectrum is nonsense. Balancing one story with another doesn't work. That isn't journalism. But refusing to report stories because they don't play well on the end of the political spectrum the reporter or his paper inhabits doesn't work and isn't journalism, either.

Now, both stories may well be integral to the news. If so, both should be told. The problem arises when the pressure to tell the softball story comes not from a principled desire to deliver a factual account that is broadly emblematic of significant happenings in Iraq, but from a gutless attempt to buy off a hostile and suspicious fragment of the audience base.
What about when the refusal to deliver a factual account of a story comes from a desire (transparent or otherwise) to end the adminstration of a president? That refusal can be characterized in one of only two ways: it is either a gutless attempt to avoid losing (eg: by buying off) readers on the "correct" end of the political spectrum (which is Wasserman's spin), or its a brazen attempt to manipulate the election (which is mine). There are no other possibilities. But as long as the press is not goring Wasserman's political ox, he seems to be OK with either of them.

News then becomes a negotiation - not a negotiation among discordant pictures of reality, as it always is, but an abject negotiation with a loud and bullying sliver of the audience. News of great significance becomes not an honest attempt to reflect genuinely contradictory realities, but a daily bargaining session with an increasingly factionalized public, a corrupted process in which elements of the news become offerings - payments really - in a kind of intellectual extortion.
Once again, Mr. Wasserman nails it. People who, like me, have tired of hearing the received wisdom of the media are bullies, forcing the media to cover the stories we want in the way we want by extortion. That's why there are no complaints about bias in the medi....

Oh. Sorry.

If, as Wasserman claims, the extortion comes from a "sliver" of the intended audience, why not tell them what they can do with their complaints and bullying and extortion? After all, journalism is a business. If your business is being dramatically and negatively affected by bullying attempts at extortion emanating from a sliver of your customers, simply walk away from the extortionists.

What does Wasserman propose? Does he want me to let his fellow professionals with a "minimal respect for fact" continue to try to change my mind on the sly, by slanting their news stories to fit their political views? Should we just step back and let the professionals handle it? After all, aren't those professionals nobly trying to educate this poor, deluded, right wing troglodyte? I think Wassserman's conclusion comes down to "Shut up, he explained."

Columnists are supposed to write opinion pieces, as are editorial writers. The reporters who write for the news pages are not. Period. Minimal respect for fact and supposedly transparent motives does not transform an op-ed piece into a news report. If I want to read political commentary, I know where to go. The problem is becoming one of where to go to get news without the political commentary.

The performance of this country's finest news organizations in the run-up to the Iraq invasion of March 2003 will be remembered as a disgrace. To be sure, it was an angry, fearful time, when independent-minded reporting might not have been heard above the drumbeats of patriotism and war. But it's hard to read the hand-wringing confessionals from news organizations that now realize that they got the prewar story wrong without concluding that the real problem was they were afraid to tell the truth.
Leave aside Wasserman's unsupported claim that the "drumbeat of patriotism and war" somehow obscured "independent minded" journalism. The performance of the country's finest news organizations in the run-up to the War in Afghanistan was also a disgrace. Do you remember the "brutal Afghan winter" that was going to freeze both GIs and helicopters in their tracks? I do. Do you remember the stories about how Afghanistan hadn't been conquered since Alexander? I do.

And in the runup to the war in Iraq, I also remember reports about how the Iraqi sanctions were killing hundreds of children a month. And I remember reports about how there would be tens of thousands of US casualties (mostly from the weapons of mass destruction which the article claimed three paragraphs previously did not exist).

And the performance of this country's finest news organizations in the run-up to the election has been a disgrace. Shameless spinning for Kerry and equally shameless Bush bashing are both being fobbed off on the public as news.

My point is that the failures of professional journalists are not limited to the run-up to the war in Iraq. Moreover, Wasserman's (wholly unsupported) conclusion that those failures are occuring because the journalists are afraid to report is nonsense. Hard hitting reporters who can actually back up their conclusions with documented facts are lavishly rewarded in our society. Pulitzers and movie deals were awarded to Woodward and Bernstein. Book deals, fame, lecture tours all await the reporter who breaks an important story.

The absolute pinnacle of the reporting world is the New York Times. If you make it to the Times, you've arrived, professionally speaking. But in the past several years, the Gray Lady has suffered Jayson Blair's fabricated stories, and Howell Raines quixotic jihad against the Masters Tournament, both of which masqueraded as news. The trend has continued with both war and political reporting. Professional journalism is rapidly becoming an oxymoron.

No, journalism has not suffered due journalists' fears, but their stupidity and contempt. Their failure to realize that they no longer control access to the raw data in the age of information is stupid. And their inability to realize that their readers can actually hold a thought for more than the few minutes it takes to read the current stories is nothing short of contemptuous.

Resisting undue outside influence is part of what news professionals do. But it's hard enough to get the story right, without holding it hostage to an open-ended negotiation with zealots who believe they already know what the story is.
But Wasserman does not want journalists to resist outside influence. He wants to eliminate criticism of journalists altogether, so that no more "abject negotiation with a loud and bullying sliver of the audience" need happen.

The criticism of journalists by non-journalists is not the problem here. The problem is that the "zealots who believe they already know what the story is" are, more often than not, the supposedly professional journalists.

With minimal respect for fact.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004

What took me sixteen hundred words to say, Mark Steyn says in less than one hundred:

Last week, apropos the Islamists' impressive mound of Israeli, Nepalese and Russian corpses, Kofi Annan's office issued the following statement: "The secretary-general strongly condemns all hostage-takings and killings of innocent civilians."

Or, as Cole Porter wrote in Friendship: "If they ever put a bullet through your brain, I'll complain."
That's the UN policy on Sudan. Americans don't want it to be the policy in the war on terror. That's why they'll stick with Bush.

Every once in a while, you come across something that requires no comment. This time it was in Ozblogger Tim Blair's comments:

It's amazing to me that the "left" (how outmoded and meaningless these distinctions are) have evolved into the most uptight, anti-rational, superstitious and piously moralistic bunch since the Puritans walked the wild forests of America (though I hesitate to make the comparison, since the Puritans accomplished great things).
There's more. Go read it.
Monday, September 06, 2004

I started to scan through the usual bazillion short entries on Instapundit and there at the top was a post about a Kerry press release which supposedly calls John McCain a liar. That would be especially stupid, and Kerry never struck me as that dumb. He's wrong about things that matter to me, but I never considered him stupid. So I followed the link to Tom Maguire at Just One Minute to see for myself. Maguire's post contains a snippet of McCain's convention speech but no explanation of what lying lies McCain lied about. There's a link to the press release, but not the release itself. The link to the press release comes back "page not found" on Confused, I followed Maguire's link to PowerLine to see if I could find the press release or a working link to it there. Same problem.

So I tried I looked in the press releases for September and August. The title of the release described by both Maguire and PowerLine was "The 2004 GOP Convention: Four Days Filled With Lies, Mischaracterizations, Distortions, And Half-Truths." No such release.

Then I searched the Kerry site for that phrase and got three hits:

SEARCH RESULTS 1 - 3 of 3 total results for "The 2004 GOP Convention: Four Days Filled With Lies, Mischaracterizations, Distortions, And Half-Truths."

John Kerry for President - Press Releases: September Archive
...The 2004 GOP Convention: Four Days Filled With Lies, Mischaracterizations, Distortions, And Half-Truths Kerry Statement on Allegations Made in Senator Bob Graham’s New Book “Intelligence Matters” 4 Fanning Out Across the...

John Kerry for President - Official Web Site
...The 2004 GOP Convention: Four Days Filled With Lies, Mischaracterizations, Distortions, And Half-Truths Akron, OH September 4 - Huge crowds greet John Kerry in Ohio. Springfield, OH September 3 - Kerry and Edwards kick off a...

John Kerry for President - Agenda
...The 2004 GOP Convention: Four Days Filled With Lies, Mischaracterizations, Distortions, And Half-Truths New Kerry Ad Exposes Bush Misleading on Medicare Fanning Out Across the Heartland, Kerry, Edwards and Family Outline Plan...

Sort By Date | Hide Summaries

Of course, none of those is the press release in question. Hell, none of them is a press release. None has the title described above and none refer to McCain or even the Republican convention.

Back to Maguire at Just One Minute. Various commenters indicate that release has just disappeared. Rob Bernard has what he says is the actual release copied in toto onto his his site. And there it is. A laundry list of statements from the convention, including four snippets from McCain's speech (items 10 through 13). The release contains no specifics. It just repeats something someone said and, by implication from the title of the release, I suppose, claims the cited statement to be it to be a "Lie, Mischaracterization, Distortion, or Half-Truth."

The material on Bernard's site contains the same snippet appearing on Just One Minute, so its a safe bet that Bernard's cut and paste is in fact Kerry's press release. So Kerry did say that McCain lied, mischaracterized, etc. at four different points in his convention speech. That is incredibly stupid, having run ads featuring McCain only a couple of weeks ago.

But the problem here goes well beyond calling McCain a liar/mischaracterizer/distorter/half-truther.

First, the Kerry campaign tried to disappear the press release. They didn't retract it. They didn't say. "Some staffer was compiling a list of things and hit the wrong button mistakenly posting his list to the website" or something similar. They tried to unring the bell. Did they really think they could do that? I'm positive that they've heard of the internet. Don't they think people read the things on their site?

And second, the press release compares poorly to a 5th grader's first book report. It does not point out what the supposed lies, etc., are. The reader is left to guess. Only the most partisan of Democrats could possibly take it seriously, and rumor has it that they are all on Kerry's bandwagon already.

Note to Kerry: Preaching to the choir convinces not one wavering soul in the congregation. And you still need to convince more people in the congregation.
Sunday, September 05, 2004

Andrew Sullivan has indicated repeatedly, forcefully and eloquently that he cannot vote for Bush. He will be voting for Kerry. This is based entirely on his concern with gay rights, especially single sex marriages.

Even though I agree with him on the issue, I think he's wrong to base his vote on that, because Kerry won't be much better than Bush on the issue and because, as painful as it is, all Sullivan has to do to win is wait. But that's his prerogative, and, in any event, it's not the point of this post. My point is that for years, I thought single issue voters (think abortion) were foolishly giving their votes to people with whom they disagreed on most things in order to elect someone to champion/oppose a single cause about which they were passionate. It seemed to me that they were unnecessarily restricting their choices and marginalizing themselves by ignoring every position but one of every politician for every office.

Until, that is, I became a single issue voter.

No matter how bad the economy really is or how bad it gets, no matter what else happens, the only conceivable issue for me in this election is the (misnamed) War on Terror. Which of the two choices realistically available to me, Bush or Kerry, will do a better job of prosecuting that war?

My take: Bush wins hands down on that issue.

Initially, Bush, along with the rest of the country, especially including its leaders of every political stripe, failed to recognize the size and immediacy of the threat. But since 9/11, Bush's performance on this issue has been both outstanding and far better than I think Kerry's would have been.

Kerry faults Bush for the lack of allies. That's nonsense, and Kerry is smart enough to know it (and also smart enough not to acknowledge that it's nonsense). Do we have enough allies? We do not and we never will. There is probably no such thing as "enough" allies. But Kerry is not complaining that we don't have enough allies. His real complaint is that we don't have the right ones: France and Germany.

Basically everyone agrees that taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan was the right thing to do. The disagreement revolves around Iraq. Should we have deposed Saddam, and was it related to 9/11? The answer, in both cases, is yes. The allied action in Iraq is related to the War on Terror in the same way that the allied landing in North Africa was related to the defeat of Germany in WWII. The best description of the strategy involved was written about a year ago by Steven denBeste. (Come back, Steven. Please. Pretty please. The sooner the better.)

Bush's acceptance speech at the convention tracks denBeste's outline closely. Iraq is intended to be a beachhead for liberal democracy in the Middle East, and

"[f]ree societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace."
What Bush failed to note is that democracies historically simply do not attack one another.

While I am quite sure that France and Germany were invited to join the "coalition of the willing," including either or both of those countries as allies in the war in Iraq would have required wholesale changes in the strategy and tactics used by the coalition. Inviting a partner who can make no realistic military contribution and who will, as the price for his cooperation, impose demands which make the implementation of your strategy impossible is just plain dumb, regardless of the economic or political support that might be provided.

Kerry's other major complaint is that Bush has damaged our relationship with those two major European powers. Have our European alliances been damaged by the disagreement over Iraq? Well, yes and no. There is damage, and it is substantial, but I think that the disagreement over Iraq was only the immediate cause. There were underlying disagreements which predated Iraq and even 9/11 which were eventually going to erupt anyway, resulting in much the same amount and type of damage.

Kerry also criticizes Bush for "misleading" us into Iraq. That's Demo-speak for failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And yes, that was a massive intelligence failure that occurred worldwide, including in France and Germany. Does the fact that others made the same mistake as the CIA (for which both Bush and Clinton bear the responsibility) excuse the CIA's failure? Not at all. But it does establish beyond any doubt that the CIA (and therefore both Bush and Clinton) had reasonable grounds to make the determination they did. Intelligence is never perfect. Sometimes its just plain wrong. This may be one of those times. Or maybe the damn things are sitting in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, waiting to be smuggled into Israel.

Weapons of mass destruction were one of a number of reasons to go into Iraq. They were never the only reason, as Kerry recognized when he said that he would also have gone into Iraq, even if he knew that he would find no WMD.

So much for Kerry's complaints about Bush. What would Kerry actually do, if elected? We don't really know. He says he would do what Bush is doing, but more effectively. He says he would get the cooperation of our traditional allies (code words for France and Germany). And he says he would begin to draw down US forces in Iraq within six months.

What does "more effectively" mean and how would Kerry accomplish it? We don't know. We don't know because he hasn't told us.

What cooperation does he think he can get from France and Germany that Bush can't? We don't know. We don't know because he hasn't told us.

Draw down our forces in Iraq starting in six months? It's always a bad idea to tell the other side in a conflict when you will be leaving, especially if the date you pick is not in the distant future. All they have to do to win is hunker down and wait, then come out to play after we've gone. They know damn well that if we leave, we won't come back. So we better not leave until the job is done. Really done. That means more than just the absence acts of of terror for a short period. It means dead or incarcerated terrorists. Lots of them. It means a functioning government and a functioning economy. It probably means permanent bases in Iraq for the foreseeable future. It did in Germany. And Japan. And Greece. And Turkey. Those four countries were the beneficiaries of a serious US military presence for decades during the Cold War, and that military presence was a huge factor in winning the Cold War.

And then you have Kerry's statements during the primaries about the coalition of the bribed and coerced. What a stupid way to treat the people who are doing what you want them to do (who are sometimes also known as "allies"). Is that how he intends to get France and Germany on board? Will he reward them as he rewards our current allies, by denigrating their contribution and their integrity (not to mention our own integrity)? Forget the insult to our friends. Does Kerry believe that calling our allies bribed and coerced is a "more effective" way to build a coalition?

Top all that off with Kerry's Senate testimony upon his return from Vietnam. Yes it was a long time ago. Yes, he was a much younger man. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and not conclude that he was grandstanding by repeating allegations that he did not then believe to be true. But my question is this: If Kerry once believed that our armed forces were routinely engaged in rape, mutilation, torture and other atrocities consituting war crimes, does he still believe that those things happened in Vietnam on the scale he described to the Senate and with the (at least tacit) consent of "all levels of command?" If so, the Swift Boat Vets are absolutely right, he is utterly unfit for command. If not, he must say so, and hold the nuance, please. Yes or no will do.

Bush's recent statement that the war cannot be won was foolish. We can win. We must win. We will win. (I know. I know. That's what Kerry said.) I don't think that "winning" means that there will be no more terrorism in the world. A warped mind, a bag of fertilizer and some fuel oil are all that is necessary to commit an act of terror, and all three ingredients are abundant throughout the world. I think that winning means that fewer terrorists exist, and that those terrorists that do exist are local, lacking the ability to strike beyond their own locale as they did on 9/11. To me, winning means that terrorists have no umbrella groups like al Qaeda to provide financial and logistic support.

It is only speculation, but I think Bush was really talking about what winning will look like. There won't be surrender documents signed on the USS Missouri. Winning the War on Terror will bear more resemblance to the end of the Cold War: a gradual decrease in the frequency and severity of terrorist incidents, followed (and in some cases, preceded) by seemingly abrupt political changes towards liberal democracy in the Middle East and parts of Asia. I think we won't realize we have won for at least several years after we have, in fact, won.

Whatever he meant by that statement, Bush beats Kerry like a retarded mule on the only issue for me this fall.

(Kudos to Pervasive Light for the retarded mule imagery.)

CNN's breaking news banner says Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri (the King of Clubs in the infamous deck of cards) has been captured. If it is possible to link to the banner, I don't know how to do it, but CNN's home page is here.

My money says that before the end of the day, someone will question the timing of the capture. The only question in my mind is how closely associated with the Kerry campaign that someone will be.

This is bad news for Kerry in at least three ways:

It's yet another reminder (as if we needed one after the Russian Schoolhouse massacre) that we're in a war.

It's an indication of progress in that war.

Along with the Clinton bypass surgery and the story from Russia, it will suck still more oxygen out of the press coverage that Kerry desparately needs.
It's a shame, really, that Kerry needs bad news from Iraq and the economy in order to succeed.

But he does. And, for the moment, Kerry is (thankfully) doing very poorly.

Update: CNN is now saying that there is "confusion" about the story, that the Iraqis are denying they have al-Duri and that the Pentagon is "expressing doubt."
Friday, September 03, 2004

Today, you printed a lie which is rapidly spreading around the country, if not the world. That lie is insulting to me, as a supporter of President Bush, the people of West Allis, Wisconsin and all Americans who plan to vote for Bush. In an unattributed wire story, your reporter stated:

"President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday wished Bill Clinton (news - web sites) "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery." "He's is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally. Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them."
That is patent nonsense. Was your reporter even at the event? You can listen to an audio clip of Bush's comments and the audience's reaction here. That reporter simply fabricated the supposed boos and Bush's supposed failure to stop them. While I did not like President Clinton's policies or his behavior in office, your story is insulting to the people at that rally, and to me and everyone who supports Bush because it deliberately attempts to falsely portray the Bush's supporters as callous, unkind, uncivil and uncaring.

Your subsequent revision of the story is completely insufficient. Your revised copy reads:

President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday offered former President Bill Clinton (news - web sites), who faces heart bypass surgery, "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery."

"He is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin.

The crowd reacted with applause and with some "ooohs," apparently surprised by the news that Clinton was ill.
There are no "ooohs" in that audio clip, either. Your reporter, having been caught in his original fabrication, is apparently attempting to lay the groundwork for a later claim that he mistook the "ooohs" for "boos".

This story goes well beyond slanting a story in favor of one side of an issue and crosses into Jayson Blair and David Glass territory. Even so, had the original story not been repeated in many different places (Salon, WSTM TV, WRIC TV, KWWL TV, KPLC TV, and numerous other news outlets throughout the country, a more complete list of which can be found here), that revision might have sufficed to correct the misimpression your reporter deliberately created for the obvious purpose of attempting to affect the upcoming election. But the story is spreading rapidly and it is incumbent upon you not only to deal severely, publicly, and quickly with your reporter, but also to contact every news outlet that repeated the fabrication, apologize to them and request that they print your apology and retraction. Then, and only then, you should explain to your readers how you dealt with the reporter that so abused their trust.

The only possible result of your failure to do so immediately is for all future AP reports on the election to be treated as campaign press releases issued by the Kerry campaign organization. Perhaps under those circumstances, it would be necessary for the FEC to be informed of your in-kind contributions to the Senator's campaign.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Carey Gage

(Via Powerline)

InstantMan points to a Time press release about a new poll. The poll shows the race to be 52/41/3, Bush/Kerry/Nader among likely voters if the election were held today. That obviously leaves undecided and "other" at 4%. The margin of error is +/-4%. That means that the survey puts Bush's lead outside the margin of error, and that's a first in this race.

What is the change in voter preferences among the candidates from the last Time poll? 46/44/5 Bush/Kerry/Nader.

There's more in the press release, but not enough to answer the many questions that occur to me, such as:

Did Bush take votes from Kerry, Nader, or
some combination of the two (and what combination)?

What are the numbers without Nader in the race? (Support for third party candidates typically fades as election day approaches, and Kerry is more likely than Bush to benefit from Nader defections. Also, Nader is having trouble getting on the ballot in some states, and he obviously won't be a factor where he is not on the ballot.)

Is there a state by state breakdown (and accompanying totals for the electoral college?

If not, is there at least a breakout of the potential swing states like Ohio, Florida and Michigan?

What percentage of likely voters is undecided, and how did that change from the last Time poll?
Standard warning language: The election is not being held today. Horse-race polls may or may not reflect reality on the day they were compiled. They sure as hell do not provide a reliable indication of what will happen two months from now.

Still. I like the numbers.

UPDATE, 9/4/04: Newsweek comes up with similar figures. They call it 54/43/3, Bush/Kerry/Nader, with (apparently) no undecideds and a margin of error of +/-4%. Perhaps they just left out the undecideds and figured the percentage of voters for each candidate from the pool of decided voters. The Newsweek survey was taken on Thursday and Friday, 9/2-3 (and therefore at least partially reflects the results of Bush's acceptance speech), compared with the Time survey, which was taken on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8/31-9/2 (and therefore could not reflect any effect from the speech).

Bush's reaction to the polls is the right one: a shrug and "I've got a lot of work to do."

Assuming that both polls are accurate, there is still no information on the effect the changed voter alignment will have on the electoral college.

Also, Glen Reynolds points to this table, breaking down the Newsweek survey by day to show the effect of the acceptance speech:

9/3 only 54 38 4 4
9/2 only 49 43 3 5

That is a helluva bounce from a single speech.

Glen speculates that the numbers may also reflect the disaster that was Kerry's midnight rally after the Republican convention. (Approximate quote: I will not have it. I will not allow Dick Cheney and his five draft deferments to question my patriotism. Of course, Cheney did no such thing. Cheney questioned his policies and his judgment. The absence of any substantive response to Bush and Cheney was striking.)

This is not good news for Kerry. Those are Dukakis like numbers.
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