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Thursday, March 16, 2006
The Competenence Issue and the Domestic Side of the WoT
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

There are a variety of reasons why the Bush administration, despite a deep well of goodwill and high expectations post-9/11, is inspiring doubts from the population.

Specifically in the domestic side of the war on terror, the LAT notes that the Moussaoiui case, where prosecutorial misconduct will affect his sentence, is hardly the only example of administration failing in the area of the prosecution of terrorists: Moussaoui Case Is Latest Misstep in Prosecutions.

Indeed, the Moussaoui case may be the least of the mistakes, as he will get life in prison despite the attempt by a prosecutor to coach seven TSA witnesses.

Here are some of the others.

  • Jose Padilla:
    Gen. John Ashcroft announced in 2002 that Jose Padilla, a Bronx-born Muslim, had been arrested on suspicion of “exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.”

    Padilla was held nearly four years in a military brig without being charged. This year, as his lawyers appealed his case to the Supreme Court, the administration indicted him in Miami on charges of conspiring to aid terrorists abroad. There was no mention of a “dirty bomb.”

  • Brandon Mayfield:
    n May 2004, the FBI arrested Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer and Muslim convert, saying that his fingerprint was on a bag containing detonators and explosives linked to the Madrid train bombings that had killed 191 people two months before. The former Army officer was held as a material witness even though officials in Spain considered the fingerprint evidence inconclusive.

    Mayfield was freed after almost three weeks in custody and received an apology from the FBI, which blamed the misidentification on a substandard digital image from Spanish authorities.

    The Mayfield case is an especially egregious error, as the man’s picture was shown around the world as a potential al Qaeda member. It is hard to erase that. Further, three week is jail, when one is innocent, is a horrible injustice-imagine how disruptive that would be to your life, not to mention having to actually be in jail.

  • Some others:
    • A computer science student in Idaho was accused of aiding terrorists when he designed a website that included information on terrorists in Chechnya and Israel. A jury in Boise acquitted Sami Omar Al-Hussayen of the charges in June 2004.

    • A Florida college professor was indicted on charges of supporting terrorists by promoting the cause of Palestinian groups. A jury in Tampa acquitted Sami Al-Arian in December.

    • Two Detroit men arrested a week after the Sept. 11 attacks were believed to be plotting a terrorist incident, in part based on sketches found in their apartment. A judge overturned the convictions of Karim Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi after he learned that the prosecutor’s key witness had admitted lying to the FBI, a fact the prosecutor had kept hidden.

The only success that comes to mind is that of the Lackawanna Six.

The CSM also notes:

Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo prison camp where many terrorist detainees are held, was arrested and accused of espionage. writes that, “When returning from duty at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, he was arrested on September 10, 2003, in Jacksonville, Florida and charged with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage, and failure to obey a general order. He was then transferred to a United States Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.” CNN reported at the time that he might also be charged with treason.

The military never said what country Yee was supposed to have been spying for. He was held for 76 days in detention. All court-martial charges against him were “quietly” dropped in March 2004. The US military has never offered an explanation for its actions, or an apology to Yee.


The LA Weekly reported on March 1 that there are now doubts about the FBI case against a father and son accused of terrorism in Lodi, Calif. That case went to trial in February. The Los Angeles Times also reported Wednesday “terrorism experts and even federal officials” are expressing serious doubts about the testimony from the government’s key informant in the case, who said he saw Al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman Zawahiri, in 1999 in Lodi. Government sources say that while Zawahiri was in the US in the early 90s, he had not returned to the US since 1995 at the latest.

The piece also notes the following stats:

The Bush administration says that more than 400 people have been charged with terrorism-related crimes and that 228 have been convicted. But LA Weekly points out that “the vast majority of these cases have involved minor crimes not directly related to terrorism, such as immigration violations.” In June 2005, The Washington Post looked at 361 “terrorism-related” cases, as identified by the Justice Department, and found that only 39 convictions for crimes related to national security or terrorism.

In general, this an unimpressive record, and also one brings into question precisely how concerned we should be about domestic terror cells and/or the actual ability of the federal government to catch them if they are out there.

Another thought: the administration has argued that it needs expanded powers via the USA PATRIOT Act, and the NSA wiretapping program, yet we haven’t really caught anybody of great significance. Indeed, the most significant domestic catch to date is Moussaoui, who was caught pre-9/11.

Of course, the 9/11 hijackers themselves weren’t caught-and obviously we want to caught any such future group. I am not saying that there is no potential threat, but there are significant question here. And, of course, I have long thought and argued that the best way to ward out further domestic terrorism is the disruption of terror networks abroad. I fear that, on balance, once they are in the US, catching them is a difficult proposition.

Update: Some minor editing was done several hours after the original post to correct a few typos/errors.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, Criminal Justice | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Money Down the Drain
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:50 am

Via the AP: Harris Sticks With Fla. Senate Bid

Rep. Katherine Harris will fight rather than quit her U.S. Senate campaign, saying she’ll spend $10 million she inherited from her father to revive her bid, which has been set back by her ties to a bribery scandal.

Somehow I don’t think that that is going to be money well spent.

Filed under: US Politics, 2006 Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Florida Masochist linked with Still in it
More Bad Numbers
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:43 am

Ok, we’ve had low-points in the CBS poll, AP poll, the CNN/Gallup Poll, the Pew Poll and now the NBC/WSJ poll hitting low point for Bush:

According to the poll, only 37 percent approve of Bush’s job performance — his lowest mark ever in the survey. That’s a two-point drop since the last NBC/Journal poll, and a one-point decline from his previous low of 38 percent last November. In addition, just 26 percent believe the nation is headed in the right direction, a tie from the previous Bush administration low, which also occurred in November.

As I noted earlier, this is not the results of bad press, but rather this administration has some very serious problems and there is a prevailing concern about its competence:

Consider the following list of policy items: Iraq, Katrina, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, NSA wiretaps, Dubai Ports World, federal spending, the prescription drug benefit, or social security reform and tell me precisely where one would truly approves of the job that the president has done in the given policy area. Certainly there are divergent views on any single one of those items, but none of them has been a smashing success, and several could be deemed utter failures without much debate.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Competenence Issue and the Domestic Side of the WoT linked with [...] the Bush administration, despite a deep well of goodwill and high expectations post-9/11, is inspiring doubts from the population. Specifically in the domestic side of the war on terror, the LAT note [...]
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:23 pm

Bush’s approval numbers have hit yet another new low-this time in the Pew poll: Summary of Findings: Bush Approval Falls to 33%, Congress Earns Rare Praise.

For those of you keeping score at home, that would be considered low.

It would appear that the Dubai Ports issue figures heavily into the number, as Congress scored at 58% on that issue.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
The Censure Issue
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:26 am

Via WaPo: A Senate Maverick Acts to Force an Issue

Feingold, 53, says he is convinced that Bush broke the law in ordering National Security Agency wiretaps of overseas telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens that involved people suspected of terrorist activities without first obtaining special court approval, and that his party must take a firm stand in protest.


Feingold’s resolution, formally introduced Monday, would censure Bush for approving an “illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil.” The senator’s intention was to refer the matter to the Judiciary Committee for hearings and a vote before consideration by the full Senate. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) tried to force an immediate vote, to put the Democrats on the spot, but Democratic leaders objected, and for now the censure measure appears to be stalled.

I will say this about this affair: I would like to see a full investigation of the President’s action on this matter to determine if he did, in fact, violate the law. If he did, I would actually like to see a censure resolution voted out. If a President misbehaves, a President ought to be called on it by the Congress.

In other words, I would like to see a formal finding on what was done and a determination made as to its legality-and, further, as to the degree to which there was an honest issue of interpretation that led to the administration’s actions, and to what degree it was a deliberate ignoring of existing statute. In other words, were there gray areas, or were there stark areas of black and white, legally speaking? To be honest, my interpretation of the situation leans heavily towards the latter, while still seeing some of the former.

Of course, there has never been a full airing of this topic (not the operational aspects, but the legal/policy aspects) to my satisfaction.

The fact of the matter is, of course, that partisan and electoral politics so infuse this issue that true and an honest communication from the Congress to the President is not going to happen. Members of both parties (both in government and out) see this situation mostly from the point of view of how it effects 2006 and 2008, not from the POV of whether the President took proper actions.

Of course, I am of a mind that the censure option should be one that is more frequently on the table, insofar as the Congress ought to have a tool for the formal communication of serious displeasure with the President. However, this is a tool that clearly isn’t likley to come into vogue, as the article notes:

Censure, or official Senate condemnation, is a rare tool that has been used against only one president — Andrew Jackson, in March 1834. Jackson ignored the censure, and it was expunged three years later. Censuring is a symbolic act compared with impeachment — an indictment by the House permitted under the Constitution, which, if approved, leads to a Senate vote on acquittal or removal from office.

Really, President Clinton deserved a censure, rather than an attempt at removal from office-although I have often thought that the idea of impeachment without removal was a censure, after a fashion.

Of course, back to practical politics, a major problem with the censure idea is that it really would end being not a tool of inter-branch communication and criticism, but simply one of inter-party point-scoring. So, my musings regarding its use are in many ways a political fantasy predicated on the idea that Congress is really concerned about policy and proper governance and not political gain. Ah well, once can be an idealist in one’s own thoughts from time to time, I suppose.

Still, while I do think that Feingold is engaging in some pre-2008 politicking, I also think he is making a principled stand from his own point of view, and he also had to know that the resolution would fail (and, to be fair, he also knew it would get a lot of press).

To me it is unfortunate, albeit not surprising, that there hasn’t been a fuller investigation into the President’s actions on this NSA wiretap policy, as I think it is something that we all have a right to know more about, and that it is an issue that is serious in terms of how much power can a given president assert in such areas in the name of national security.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, 2008 Campaign | Comments (6) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
In the Mail
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:59 pm

In my mailbox (the old fashioned kind):

Special Notice for Steven Taylor: You have been selected to represent Pike Road, AL in the 2006 Grassroots Survey of Democratic Leaders….Your survey responses will give the DNC a better understanding of the view of Democrats in the Pike Road area. With your input, the DNC will be more effective in building grassroots support for our Party’s agenda.

Perhaps, but I somehow doubt it.

Of course, question #16 asks how much of a gift I wish to make to the DNC…

Filed under: General, US Politics | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
His Evil Twin?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

Here’s a twist in the Claude Allen story (the former adviser to Bush who is accused of shoplifting): he has an identical twin brother who has financial problems.

See both the story linked above and the following from Joshua Micah Marshall.

Bizarre, in any event.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, March 13, 2006
More Bad Numbers for Bush
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:02 pm

Another poll takes Bush to a new low (for that poll).

Via the AFP: Bush approval, support for Iraq war, hit new low

The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed 36 percent of those surveyed said they “approve” of Bush’s performance, down from 37 percent in November.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Many Can’t Wait for 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

Via WaPo: At Republican Conference, the Future Is Now

That’s funny. We could have sworn the last presidential campaign just ended. It couldn’t have been, what, more than a year, year and a half ago that George W. Bush was getting re-inaugurated and was so flush with political capital — all of which feels as far away as Dubai right now.

And then we woke up to find it was already 2008, which might turn out to be the longest presidential year ever.

Time does fly, does it not? Considering I will turn 40 in 2008, I suppose I shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to get there (it will also be the last year before my oldest hits his teens…eek!).

At any rate, such are the nature of our times: presidential election season starting earlier and earlier. No doubt that Bush’s current approval numbers make looking at ‘08 even more fun for GOPers at this moment in time, but don’t kid yourself: we would be talking about presidential candidates for 2008 even if Bush was at 60%.

The 2004 contest was well underway in early 2003, almost two years before the 2006 elections, so it is hardly a surprise that we are starting even earlier in this cycle, given that both the Republican and Democratic nominations are wide-open.

Indeed, the Democrats held their first straw poll on June 15, 2005.

Heck, my first post on the 2008 election was the morning after the election, wherein I noted:

A sure sign that the talking heads think that this election is over: Russert and Brokaw are talking about 2008.

That was posted at 12:27am, cst (the timestamp says 1:27am, but the blog was set for eastern time). So, it is hardly a surprise that there is great discussion now over 2008.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006
Speaking of the Straw Poll
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:15 am

James Joyner has much more.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006
Straw Poll Results
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:17 pm

Via Reuters: Frist wins Republican straw poll

Frist, who packed the home-state crowd with supporters wearing blue “Frist is my leader” buttons, won nearly 37 percent of the 1,427 votes cast by delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was second with 14.4 percent, while Sen. George Allen of Virginia finished tied for third with
President George W. Bush, whose name was added to the ballot by 10.3 percent of the delegates at the urging of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

This, of course, means pretty much nothing. The vote was held in Frist’s home state, for crying out loud-not to mention, well, it’s a straw poll.

Filed under: US Politics, 2008 Campaign | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Moderate Voice linked with Good News For Democrats (UPDATED)
Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Frist Wins Hotline Straw Poll
Friday, March 10, 2006
Rascist or Just Silly?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:21 pm

Perhaps I am out of touch, but the following anti-Harold Ford website, sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Fancy Ford, comes across to me as an attempt to paint Ford as an out-of-touch, wealthy partier. (In fact, the very first thing that “Fancy Ford” brought to mind was “Fancy Feast” cat food).

However, many seem to see it as a racist attempt to paint Ford as a pimp (see: Jesse Berney, Joshua Micah Marshall, MyDD, and Atrios).

I always find these kinds of accusations interesting, because the underlying argument (or, in some cases in the pieces linked to above, overt assertion) is that the GOP is a bunch of racists, yet it is (in this case, at least) the Democrat-allied commentators are the one’s who automatically see this as a race attack-that any attempt to paint Ford as wealthy and over-indulgent means that he is being portrayed as a pimp. In short: who exactly is saying the wealthy + black = pimp?

Indeed, the “fancy” label makes me think more of accusing Ford of being effete or effeminate (not straight up homosexual, however, given the Playboy Bunnies being prominently featured on the first page of the site), rather than being a pimp.

The totality of the site seems aimed at saying Ford is a hard-partying rich boy and therefore not the kind of person who should be in that august body, the US Senate, where only hard-partying old men should apply, I guess.

On balance, the site strikes me as silly and I have a hard time thinking it will sway any voters.

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Norton to Leave Interior
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:40 pm

Via the AP: Sources: Interior Secretary to Resign

Interior Secretary Gale Norton is resigning after five years in President Bush’s Cabinet, The Associated Press has learned.

No other details at this point. I am always mildlyl surprised when folks stay in these positions for more than a term, insofar as the likelihood is that they could get a lower stress, higher paying job outside of government once they have served for several years.

Update: More from the Denver Post:

Gale Norton resigned today after serving more than five years as secretary of the Interior and overseeing a dramatic expansion of drilling, logging and development on the public lands of the West.


“Now I feel it is time for me to leave this mountain you gave me to climb, catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector,” Norton said in a two-page resignation letter to President Bush.

A source who requested anonymity said she is not leaving because of any problems, and is expected to cite water issues and her push for “cooperative conservation” among her accomplishments.

“She wants to go home for a while,” the source said.

Hmm. I’m dissappointed that she doesn’t want to spend more time with her family.

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US-UAE Trade Talks on Hold
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

Via Reuters: US-UAE postpone free trade talks amid ports row

The United States and United Arab Emirates have postponed free trade talks set for next week, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Friday.


“This is not unusual. Just in the past few months, we’ve postponed rounds with Ecuador three times, Panama twice and Colombia once,” Moorjani said. “We continue to work on our negotiating issues” with the UAE, she said.

This is quite true. Still, one can’t help but think that this isn’t designed to be something of a message given the DPW mess.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, War on Terror | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Not So Approving Numbers
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:46 am

Via the AP: Bush’s Approval Rating Falls to New Low

The survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday of 1,000 people, found that just 37 percent approve of his overall performance. That is the lowest of his presidency.

Bush’s job approval among Republicans plummeted from 82 percent in February to 74 percent, a dangerous sign in a midterm election year when parties rely on enthusiasm from their most loyal voters. The biggest losses were among white males.

On issues, Bush’s approval rating declined from 39 percent to 36 percent for his handling of domestic affairs and from 47 percent to 43 percent on foreign policy and terrorism. His approval ratings for dealing with the economy and Iraq held steady, but still hovered around 40 percent.

Ironically, I saw this headline just after reading an e-mail pointing me to the following at Ankle Biting Pundits:

But more that a couple friends of mine on hand in Memphis are considering using the straw poll as a device to show consistent and strong support for President George W. Bush. If just enough people write in the name of George W. Bush on their straw poll ballots, their thinking goes, maybe they can show the snarky media that Republicans are unfazed by its relentless and dishonest negative assaults on the President and his administration.

I think this is a fine idea, and I hope it catches on in Memphis

First off: it’s a straw poll,and is meaningless. Need I remind the audience that Alan Keyes won a Republican straw poll in Alabama in late 1999/early 2000?

As they used to say in Marvel Comics: ‘nuf said.

Really, a write-in to show the media what-for is plain silly.

Second: when a president hits 37% in the polls, that president has far more problems than simply negative press coverage.

Consider the following list of policy items: Iraq, Katrina, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, NSA wiretaps, Dubai Ports World, federal spending, the prescription drug benefit, or social security reform and tell me precisely where one would truly approves of the job that the president has done in the given policy area. Certainly there are divergent views on any single one of those items, but none of them has been a smashing success, and several could be deemed utter failures without much debate.

In terms of Bush’s base, the only areas that one could likely say that Bush probably has truly high, and deep, approval is tax policy and the Supreme Court. Even there there is some debate over taxes in some quarters because of the spending issue and even though the base no doubt is pleased with Roberts and Alito, there is still the lingering bad taste of Harriet Miers for many.

As such, it is ridiculous to place Bush’s political woes at the feet of the press.

Update: James Joyner comments on the poll and notes that Bush’s numbers are bad regardless of which poll one consults.

Filed under: US Politics, Computer Junk | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Frist Wins Hotline Straw Poll
Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Bush Popularity Hits New Low in AP Poll
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More Bad Numbers linked with [...] ion, a tie from the previous Bush administration low, which also occurred in November. As I noted earlier, this is not the results of bad press, but rather this administration has some very serious pr [...]
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