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Friday, April 30, 2004
Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Gore Part Deux?

By Steven Taylor @ 2:40 pm

Democrats Fear Kerry Looking Like Gore

It’s a recurring nightmare for Democratic strategist Tony Coelho-the party’s presidential candidate portrayed as a flip-flopping opportunist, ill-served by a strife-torn staff. It happened in 2000, when Coelho ran Al Gore’s campaign. Now, it’s happening to John Kerry.

Democratic leaders fear he’s getting “Gored.”

“What the Kerry people don’t understand is, it’s succeeding,” Coelho said.

Scores of Kerry supporters like the former California congressman say their initial response is to remain hopeful, based on polls showing the presumptive nominee tied with President Bush (news - web sites) while the Democratic Party is better funded and more united than in 2000. But they are worried about history repeating itself.

“No question, it’s a rerun of 2000,” said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for the former vice president’s 2000 race.

“Every Sunday, Team Bush goes in overdrive by outlining the upcoming week’s attacks on Kerry. It’s followed by paid advertisements and assigning top-notch surrogates,” Brazile said. “This is the exact moment in 2000 when Gore was seriously damaged as the Bush team painted the former vice president as a “serial exaggerator.’”

While certainly the GOP is playing this card to the hilt, this is the kind of stuff that has to have some basis in reality to stick. The story cites: Kerry has given the GOP plenty of fodder, including:

_ Voting against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, in favor of the use of military force in Iraq in 2002 and against final passage of an $87 billion reconstruction bill for Afghanistan and Iraq. Explaining that he supported an amendment that would have provided the aid by rolling back Bush’s tax cuts, Kerry said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” The Bush campaign turned the quote into an ad.

_ The Massachusetts senator, who supports higher automobile fuel economy standards, told reporters last week that he doesn’t own a gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle. Asked whether his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had a Suburban at their Ketchum, Idaho, home, Kerry put a razor-fine point on his answer: “The family has it. I don’t have it.”

_ For years, the decorated Vietnam War veteran has said that he threw his ribbons over a fence at the Capitol during a 1971 anti-war protest, not his three Purple Hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star. However, in a tape of a television interview Kerry gave after the protest, he suggested that he also threw his medals.

There are others.

In this case, his votes on Iraq in 1991 and recently are real issues. Clearly, he hasn’t been a picture of consistency. The SUV and medals business are the kinds of things that reinforce the image of irresoluteness.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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British Troops Implicated in Another Prison ABuse Scandal

By Steven Taylor @ 2:20 pm

Britain Weighs Prosecuting 8 Soldiers

Britain’s military authorities are considering whether to prosecute eight British soldiers for allegedly abusing prisoners in Iraq, the Ministry of Defense said Friday.

The case came to light a year ago, when The Sun newspaper reported that a soldier had a roll of film showing an Iraqi detainee bundled up in netting and suspended from a fork lift. The Sun claimed the film also showed troops performing sex acts near captured Iraqis.

On Wednesday, a similar scandal hit the U.S. military after the CBS program “60 Minutes II” broadcast images of Iraqis stripped naked, hooded and being tormented by their American captors.

Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
  • Signifying Nothing linked with ScumWatch: Army Edition
Worser and Worser

By Steven Taylor @ 2:17 pm

Kennedy calls Iraq war “worst blunder” in US history

US Senator Ted Kennedy issued a scathing assessment of the US-led war in Iraq, saying it “may well go down as the worst blunder in the entire history of American foreign policy.

“Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam,” the liberal Massachusetts senator said from the floor of the senate.

But, since Iraq is the worst, meaning Viet Nam was better than Iraq (because you can have only one “worst"), calling Iraq Viet Nam means that Iraq is better than it is, and therefore not the worst, right?

Oh, my head hurts.

Filed under: Iraq | Comments(2) | Trackbacks (0)
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The Iraqi Prisoner Scandal

By Steven Taylor @ 1:58 pm

This entire affair is truly sickening and galling. This BBC story, US general suspended over abuse, details the story.

Here are the basic charges:

CBS says the pictures it obtained show a wide range of abuses, including:

* Prisoners with wires attached to their genitals

* A dog attacking a prisoner

* Prisoners being forced to simulate having sex with each other

* A detainee with an abusive word written on his body.

My first reaction is that at least the US reaction is 1) disgust and 2) action.

And this is a pathetic excuse:

The station spoke to one of the six soldiers charged, Sergeant Chip Frederick - a reservist whose full-time job is as a prison officer in the US state of Virginia.

Sgt Frederick said he and his fellow reservists had never been told how to deal with prisoners, or what lines should not be crossed.

“We had no training whatsoever,” he said.

First off, the guy is a prison officer, so it isn’t like he hasn’t had training. Second, and more importantly, it doesn’t require training to know that it is out of bounds to use prisoners as toys, let alone connect wires to the genatalia. Please.

Further, these sadistic morons have managed to hand the jihadists some wonderful information for their propaganda machine. As Reuters reports:

The photos appeared to show U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad run by the military posing and laughing as naked, male prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or made to simulate sex acts with one another.

The pictures were also shown on Arab television, outraging Arabs already embittered by the U.S. invasion and occupation of an Arab country, and seemed sure to further alienate Iraqis whose resentment of Washington has fired two simultaneous uprisings.

The Reuters story also notes:

A former head of the U.S. Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba has been sent to Iraq to ensure proper prison conditions, after photos apparently showed U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, the military said on Friday.

Hopefully this will be cleaned up in a hurry and all who are responsible will be properly punished.

Filed under: Iraq | Comments(8) | Trackbacks(3)
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  • King of Fools linked with Punishing the Bad Guys
  • Signifying Nothing linked with ScumWatch: Army Edition
  • damnum absque injuria linked with 'Hat of the Day: Chip Frederick
Amusing

By Steven Taylor @ 11:51 am

Dean preps for talkshow 04/29/2004

While everything’s still in the early talking stages, the former Democratic presidential candidate is mulling the idea of hosting his own syndicated gabfest. He’s hooked up with ex-Big Ticket TV topper Larry Lyttle ("Judge Judy") and longtime political consultant Gerald Rafshoon, who would likely serve as exec producers of a pilot for any such project.

Somehow I’m not seeing it. Dean doesn’y exactly have a TV personality.

Further, he doesn’t appear to want to be the next Chris Matthews, but rather the next Oprah:

Dean seems interested in going in a completely different direction.

“The last thing we’re going to talk about is politics,” Lyttle said. “We’d talk about a myriad of other things instead of politics.”

Dean’s skein would likely have more in common with the talkshow Bill Clinton had been considering a few years back.

“He’d look at things like, What happens if you lose a sibling? What about when you’re victimized by not having health care?” Lyttle said, arguing that Dean has the perfect persona for the small screen.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)
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  • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
Time to Drop the Castro Fixation

By Steven Taylor @ 10:52 am

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin LadenThe Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden’s and Saddam Hussein’s money, documents show.

Not surprising, but rather ridiculous, to be sure. Given that Castro isn’t going anywhere until he sheds this earthly existence, it seems to me that we are spending far too much money and time trying to make his life difficult, when we would dimish his power, and improve the living conditions for many Cubans if we would just lift the sanctions and allow Cuba to economically liberalize.

Really, what is the point of being so obssessed with Castro at this point? He is hardly a national security threat at this point. Further, on a practical level, what are the sanctions doing for the US at this point?

Filed under: War on Terror | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
New Poll Numbers

By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

Support for War Is Down Sharply, Poll Concludes

Asked whether the United States had done the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, 47 percent of respondents said it had, down from 58 percent a month earlier and 63 percent in December, just after American forces captured Saddam Hussein. Forty-six percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, up from 37 percent last month and 31 percent in December.

The diminished public support for the war did not translate into any significant advantage for Mr. Bush’s Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The poll showed the two men remaining in a statistical dead heat, both in a head-to-head matchup and in a three-way race that included Ralph Nader.

Support for Mr. Bush is stronger in other areas vital to his re-election, including his handling of the threat from terrorism, which won the approval of 60 percent of respondents.

[…]

his approval rating has slid from the high levels it reached during the war.

It now stands at 46 percent, the lowest level of his presidency in The Times/CBS News Poll, down from 71 percent last March and a high of 89 percent just after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

A few observations:

  • The lower numbers on Iraq are hardly surprising, given the events of the last several weeks.
  • The lower approval rating is problematic, although volatile.
  • The fact that Kerry hasn’t gained any in the national polling can’t be reassuring to the Kerry camp.
  • The 60% approval number for Bush on terrorism is pretty important-and perhaps helps explain why Kerry hasn’t gained any against the President, despite the lower approval number.

    Some historical data for comparison (for what it’s worth):

    At this point in his winning re-election race in 1996, President Bill Clinton’s approval rating in The New York Times/CBS News Poll was 48 percent.

  • Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Thursday, April 29, 2004
    Cohen on Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:35 pm

    WaPo’s Richard Cohen admonishes Kerry to Lighten Up in his column today.

    Some highlights:

    1) Again with the PBJs!

    John Kerry has a “batman.” This is a British military term for what amounts to a servant, someone to take care of an officer’s personal needs. In Kerry’s case it’s Marvin Nicholson Jr., who keeps the Massachusetts senator in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottled water. This, though, is the wrong man for the wrong task. What Kerry really needs is someone to slip him gags. He may be the presumptive nominee, but he is an objective pill.

    Question: if Nicholson enters the room, and Kerry calls out “who’s there” does Nicholson growl “I’m the batman!"?

    2) Again with Bob Dole comparisons

    But instead of dismissing Bush and Cheney with a lighthearted putdown of the sort that would prompt Bush to seek therapy, Kerry got angry. He waxed indignant. He said, in the manner of Rumpelstiltskin stomping the ground, “I’m not going to stand for it!” In doing so, he mimicked Bob Dole, who lost it entirely during the 1988 New Hampshire primary when he scowled at George H.W. Bush and snarled, “Stop lying about my record.” For Dole, this was not good television.

    Comment: it may have been bad TV for Dole, but it is a clip for the ages. I find it to be wholly hy-larious.

    3) And, depression (since Cohen supports Kerry) and More Unfortunate (for Kerry supporters) comparisons:

    My candidate is a dour man. At least that’s the way he seems on TV. Sometimes he seems angry, which is not good, but most of the time he just seems gloomy. It does not help that he has a face that hardly needs to be enlarged for Mount Rushmore, but what really matters is that he seems as if he is no fun. No one would call Kerry, as FDR did Al Smith, “the happy warrior” or discern some impishness in him. Bush has that quality and so, of course, did Bill Clinton.

    About the only recent presidents who were decidedly un-impish were Jimmy Carter, who came to Washington to take the fun out of politics, and the first George Bush, whose joke is only now becoming apparent. Both got the gate after just one term.

    Response: Ouch.

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments(2) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Beyond Self-Parody

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:41 pm

    Last week, I noted that Kerry’s reference of the Mekong delta during a visit to New Orleans had the Senator approaching self-parody in regards to Viet Nam.

    The following LAT story (with the almost ironic title of Kerry Escalating Use of War Veteran Status), indicates that Kerry has clearly crossed the self-parody line:

    Perhaps the most incongruous mention of his service came as Kerry rode his campaign bus Wednesday with some local officials. The candidate offered his guests peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, a daily staple for him on the road.

    His passion for PB&Js, Kerry told his companions, dated back to Vietnam, where he not only ate them frequently but traded them for other commodities.

    Hat Tip: Michael Medved

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments(9) | Trackbacks (1)
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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #10
    The Taylor Challenge (Regarding Kerry)

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:10 pm

    Preface: Clearly candidates often find themselves faced with a storyline attached to their campaign, fairly or not (e.g., Bush isn’t too bright, he doesn’t read, doesn’t ask questions, or Gore is an exaggerator, etc). Kerry clearly finds himself being classified as a “waffler” or “flip-flopper” (i.e., being on multiple sides of issues on a regular basis).

    I think, as a matter of analysis, not partisanship, that Kerry currently has a very serious problem as described above. Further, I think that this is likely to become an increasing liability. And while there are some parallels here with Gore, I think that Kerry could end up being more of a Bob Dole type candidate. Indeed, even with Gore’s liabilities, he was the sitting Vice President coming off a flawed, but successful, administration. Kerry is challenging an incumbent President.

    The Challenge: I am looking for serious commentary from commenters, and hopefully other bloggers who support Kerry along the following lines:

    1) Is it fair to say that Kerry has the problem described above?

    2) If not, why would you argue such?

    3) If yes, what would you recommend the candidate do to deal with this problem?

    4) Do you think that this problem is simply one of image, or is there a real problem here?

    Caveat: The point here isn’t the explain how Kerry is, indeed, right about a specific issue (e.g., medals and ribbons are interchangeable terms, etc.).

    UPDATE: This is my entry in today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments(5) | Trackbacks (0)
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    More on Gore’s $6 million

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

    Slate points to this Explainer written about Gephardt’s campaign cash once he quit, but that is relevant to the Gore donations as well.

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    NEWSFLASH: US Withdraws from Viet Nam!!

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:23 am

    Saigon, South Vietnam (1973) As a result of the Treay of Paris, US troops have been completely withdrawn from South Viet Nam. It is rumored that SecState Kissinger will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. President Nixon was unable to be reached for comment (something about listening to tapes).

    (In other words: just in case anyone hasn’t noticed: the Viet Nam war is over-could we bring Campaign 2004 into, well, 2004?).

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments(4) | Trackbacks (1)
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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    Tastes Like Chicken

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:13 am

    James Joyner has an excellent post on the “Chicken Hawk” issue (which, for reasons that have nothing to do with politics, always reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn cartoons)-his analogies to firefighters and law enforcement are apt.

    At any rate, while I can see the point about saying that in the late 60s/early 70s Kerry’s service was of an order higher than Bush’s, and certainly multiple quanta more impressive than Cheney’s lack of service.

    Fine.

    However:

    1) What does that have to do with the quality, or lack thereof, of the subsequent political careers of the three gentlemen?

    2) What does that have to do with whether Bush or Kerry would make a better President?

    3) I would note: George H. W. Bush was an authentic war hero, as was Bob Dole: both were beaten soundly by Bill Clinton, who wasn’t a war hero. Carer was in the Navy, Reagan made some propaganda films, yet Reagan won. U. S. Grant was a general and won the CIvil War, but was a rotten President. FDR never served in the military, yet was a successful CINC. To my knowledge Thomas Jefferson never served in the military. Was Zachary Taylor a great President? Washington and Jackson left their marks, to be sure. In other words: what exactly does military service mean about being President? Is there a correlation of note?

    4) Above all else, as I noted yesterday: why should serving in the military mean you are safe from all criticisms on your post-military defense-related activities?

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments(6) | Trackbacks (0)
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    The “Irish 3″ Choose to Remain in Jail

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

    Irishmen refuse to leave jail in Colombia over death fears

    Three Irish republicans acquitted of training Colombian Marxist rebels are refusing to leave prison in Bogota because of fears they could be killed by death squads.

    James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley, who have already spent 32 months in a Colombian jail, were told by Judge Jaime Acosta that they could leave prison if they paid a fine of $6,500 each.

    At first their supporters hoped they could leave the country altogether, but now the three men have told they must remain in Colombia pending an appeal by the public prosecutor against their acquittal.

    Mr Monaghan’s lawyer, Pedro Mahecha, said last night that the three men fear that if they leave prison they will be murdered by right-wing death squads, and have therefore decided not to pay their fines until the Government guarantees their safety.

    Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    A Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    USAT has an interesting piece on the politics of the economy: It’s the economy, voters. But whose economy? Bush says USA is on upswing. Kerry sees it sinking. Each has numbers on his side.

    One of the first paragraphs states the following:

    Some Americans feel prosperous, others hard-pressed. That has given both presidential candidates ammunition as they try to shape attitudes about the state of the nation.

    This kind of statement annoys me greatly, because the question is: when is this not the case, aside from times of an utterly horrific econony? And even then some feel prosperous and others feel hard-pressed. Yeesh.

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    OK, Kerry Can Blame the RNC (at Least to Some Degree)

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:10 am

    WaPo reports: Leaks About Foes Seen as Routine in Campaigns

    On Monday morning, Sen. John F. Kerry was confronted with a 1971 videotape that appeared to contradict his past accounts of whether he had thrown away his military medals as a Vietnam War protest.

    […]

    copies of the tape were provided to two news organizations by the Republican National Committee, according to several media staff members familiar with the situation who, not surprisingly, said they could not be identified while discussing confidential sources.

    Jim Dyke, the RNC’s communications director, said he could not “discuss what information we discuss with reporters” and added: “It is interesting that John Kerry, confronted with his own words, blamed the RNC. Where the tape came from, the place to start would be the National Archives.”

    Not surprising, and validates Kerry and McAuliffe’s citation of the RNC as at least partially responsible for the medals flap. Nor am I surprised. However, it is still over the top for the Kerry camp to forget that the actual grilling came from ABC and, more significantly, the problem was not created by the RNC, it was created by Kerry’s own words over time.

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    1Q GDP: 4.2% Growth, and Other Econ News

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

    Economy Grows at 4.2% Rate in First Quarter

    The economy grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the opening quarter of 2004, a solid showing and fresh evidence that the business recovery is solidly on track. But the performance wasn’t the blowout that some analysts wanted.

    In regards to that last sentence: is it ever?

    The goal was 5%, it seems:

    The reading on gross domestic product for the January-to-March quarter, reported by the Commerce Department Thursday, marks a slight pickup from the 4.1 percent rate registered in the final quarter of 2003. While the first quarter figure suggests that the recovery is in good shape, it fell short of the strong 5 percent pace that economists were forecasting.

    And they think we are staying in the 4-5 range, which is healthy, although granted not “en fuego":

    Economic growth in the current April-to-June quarter is expected to clock in at a rate in the range of 4.5 percent to 5 percent, according to some analysts’ estimates. Growth in the second half of this year, however, may slow a bit to around a 4 percent pace, a still-healthy rate, some economists said. That may occur as the stimulus of tax refunds and tax reductions fades, if energy prices remain high and mortgage rates climb - factors that could slow consumer spending, analysts said.

    Some jobs news:

    n other economic news, the Labor Department reported that new filings for jobless benefits fell last week by 18,000 to 338,000, another sign that layoffs are easing. Workers’ wages and benefits grew by 1.1 percent in the first quarter, the biggest increase in a year, the department said in a second report.

    […]

    After months of sluggish payroll gains, the economy added a hefty 308,000 jobs in March, the most in four years. Economists are hopeful the March employment figures are a sign that the job market is turning a crucial corner. But they said they want to see net payroll gains in the range of at least 150,000 to 200,000 a month on a sustained basis to provide confirmation that the corner has been turned and the labor market is on a real path to full health.

    Filed under: The Economy | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Interesting

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    Hussein’s Agents Are Behind Attacks in Iraq, Pentagon Finds

    A Pentagon intelligence report has concluded that many bombings against Americans and their allies in Iraq, and the more sophisticated of the guerrilla attacks in Falluja, are organized and often carried out by members of Saddam Hussein’s secret service, who planned for the insurgency even before the fall of Baghdad.

    The report states that Iraqi officers of the “Special Operations and Antiterrorism Branch,” known within Mr. Hussein’s government as M-14, are responsible for planning roadway improvised explosive devices and some of the larger car bombs that have killed Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners. The attacks have sown chaos and fear across Iraq.

    If true, then the idea that this is a popular uprising loses credence.

    Also, the idea that Saddam’s regime had no ability to exploit radical Islam is again called into question:

    In addition, suicide bombers have worn explosives-laden vests made before the war under the direction of of M-14 officers, according to the report, prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The report also cites evidence that one such suicide attack last April, which killed three Americans, was carried out by a pregnant woman who was an M-14 colonel.

    That is to say, to get operatives to engage in suicide bombings, the regime would have to cultivating its own jihadists. So the idea that Saddam wouldn’t cavort with Islamic terrorists because of the secular nature of the regime is again called into question.

    Of course, there haver been other examples, such as Saddam’s payments to the families of suicide bombers and his harboring of Abu Abbas.

    Now, I am not trying to make too much of this, but I have always found it telling and significant that such tactics (such as the M-14 activities mentined above-and which we knew about prior to the war) were employed by the regime. While pro-war advocates have overly played-up the al Qaeda links with Saddam, then, too, the anti-war advocates have largely ignored the fact that there are legitimate reasons apart from any al Qaeda connections to say that Iraq fits into the broader war on terror (or the war against jihad, as Christopher Hitchens puts it).

    UPDATE: James Joyner has a lengthy news round-up on this topic

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Wednesday, April 28, 2004
    Here’s the Basic Answer

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:06 pm

    Reading the story more carefully (Gore Pledges Over $6 Million to Democrats) one finds:

    Most of the money comes from Gore’s general election legal and accounting compliance fund, which showed $6.6 million on March 31. The $240,000 going to the Florida Democratic Party comes from an account established to help pay for the 2000 recount drive.

    That makes more sense.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    A Point of Clarification

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:38 pm

    In regards to my earlier post about Gore’s $6 million, I would note that I was being somewhat flippant when I said “no wonder he lost.” However, I was not being wholly facetious, as I do find it curious as to why he would have money, let alone that much, let over from the 2000 campaign. Given some of the comments on the post, let me explain why I think it is odd.

    1) There are two distinct periods of campaign financing for a presidential race: the primary season and the general election campaign (call them Rabbit Season and Duck Season).

    2) In Rabbit season the candidates collect all the money to run their campaign for the party nomination is a manner not unlike a run for House or Senate, with one important difference. That difference is that if they agree to a spending cap (both an overall limit, and limits that are state-specific for each primary or caucus) the Feds will provide matching funds for every contribution up to $500 from individuals. Prior to 2002 and BCRA, the overall limit on individual contributions was $1000, after BCRA it was $2000. PACs can donate up to $5k.

    The cap in Rabbit Season 2000 was roughly $40.5 million (plus there is some room for admin costs).

    Normally, candidates exhaust this fighting off challengers (as Dole did in 1996) and the presumptive nominee is left with very little towards the end of Rabbit Season.

    Now, in 2000, George W. Bush chose not to adhere to the cap, so received no matching funds and therefore could raise and spend to his heart’s content. Gore, however, stuck with the caps. In 2004, Bush, Dean and Kerry all eschewed the caps and matching funds.

    3) In Duck season the major party candidates are given a grant of $67.56 million and are not allowed to raise any other money for their campaigns (although in the past they could fundraise for their party’s in this period) or spend anything other than the public monies.

    So, given all of this, it strikes me as mildly curious that Gore had $6 million in the bank. It is possible that the money was left over from Rabbit Season, but that begs the question as to why he didn’t spent it then. And if the money is left over from Duck Season, it is especially odd, as it really does mean that he left $6 million in the bank that could have been spent in Florida that might have actually helped him win. The odds are that the money was from the primaries, however.

    I don’t think that any of it would have been coming in as donations after the election-especially not in that amount. And the Dean example that someone mentioned doesn’t hold-Dean is still operating under Rabbit Season rules, and is trying to pay off debt, hence the continued fund raising receipts.

    If anyone can further enlightenment on this topic, let me know.

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    Brother, Can You Spare $6 mil?

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:26 pm

    Al Gore to Donate $6 Million to Democratic Groups

    Former Vice President Al Gore promised on Wednesday to give more than $6 million left over from his 2000 presidential bid to help Democrat John Kerry fight “outrageous and misleading” Republican attacks.

    Gore, largely out of the public eye since endorsing Kerry’s rival Howard Dean in December, said he will give $4 million to the Democratic National Committee and $1 million each to the party’s House and Senate committees.

    Two things:

  • I thought big donations of evil money to campaigns corrupted politics and was bad, bad, bad.
  • How did Gore manage to have $6 million left over? No wonder he lost. It’s like saving a time out in a football game that you lose because time ran out-it isn’t like you can take it home with you.

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    • CALIFORNIA YANKEE linked with Gore To Donate $6 Million to Democrats
    A Bizzare Tale

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:01 pm

    Peace in Colombia Up in Air as Militia Leader Vanishes

    Some believe Carlos Castao dodged assassins’ bullets and is hiding out in the tangled tropics. Others believe his body is in an unmarked grave. A few have ventured that he’s in the United States, in a witness protection program, tattling on old allies.

    Mystery has enveloped the fiery figurehead of Colombia’s brutal right-wing paramilitary forces, who disappeared after apparently being targeted for assassination by his own organization nearly two weeks ago.

    But as officials and military analysts sift through conflicting stories, most agree that his disappearance consolidates power among other paramilitary leaders with deep roots in Colombia’s cocaine trade, complicating government efforts to advance peace talks with the faction.

    […]

    Without him, commanders are likely to harden their stance at the peace table, especially in their push for immunity from extradition to the United States on drug charges.

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    Pouting Voters

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

    I am hearing a bunch of grumpy Pennsylvania Republicans calling into Limbaugh pouting because Toomey lost to Specter who say that they can’t vote in good conscience for Specter.

    This kind of thing always drives me nuts, because if the argument is that “I can’t vote for X because he/she isn’t conservative/liberal enough for me, so I will vote for the other party or I won’t vote at all” then people are voting emotionally, not rationally. It is just like the Schwarzenegger stuff back in CA recall-although it is more significant, as legislative success is linked to a given party having a majority. In this case, if one is a conservative Repulican one is far better off in terms of likely policy outcomes to send a liberal Republican to the Senate, to help the Reps control the chamber, than they are “sending a message” by allowing a Democrat to win, and threaten Rep control of the Senate.

    The same logic can be applied to Nader voters who eschewed Gore, or will skip on Kerry, because neither is liberal enough-all that does (indeed, arguably did) is elect Bush. Electoral politics is often about avoiding one’s worst outcome by fighting for one’s second or third best option. One rarely gets exactly what one wants out of elections (as I argued in print here).

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    Attention, Attention: Kerry WILL BE THE NOMINEE, So Just Chill

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:18 am

    As I noted on Monday, John Kerry will be the Democratic Party’s nominee, barring some sort of major, dramatic event. However, as James Joyner notes, many out there seem to think that the Dems will somehow replace him.

    This reminds me of the “brokered convention” speculation from late last year (see here and here). (And while I was wrong about Howard Dean, I was quite right about the probability of a brokered convention).

    The bottom line is, that despite some examples of liberals expressing concerns about Kerry, the truth is that what will happen is that supporters of the Democratic Party are likely to start digging in their heals in and becoming more vociferous about their support for Kerry, not less. The Senator may look like a loser to Republicans, but I guarantee that he doesn’t look like such to a lot of Democrats. We are entering/have entered the stage of the political game that I like to call the “politics as sports” phase (indeed, in some ways we are always in it): at this point the hard-core “fans” are going to root for their “team” no matter what. And the hard-core will think that their side has a chance, no matter what.

    And let’s face facts: the polls don’t show Kerry losing badly at this point, and really, he has had a bad week so this means that the Party will jettison him? It just doesn’t work that way. While I think that there is a good chance that the election will not be as close as some have predicted, and that Kerry is a weak candidate, the bottom line is that there are large number of Democrats who will vote for their party’s nominee, and ditto the Reps-and so there is a chance that Kerry could win. Changing candidates at this point after the primaries and after the spending of all that time and money would be a huge negative for the Democrats.

    Plus, it is clear that reasonable folks on different sides of the ideological spectrum see events differently-and so Reps shouldn’t assume that what they see as a problem is seen the same way by Dems. Some examples on the medal flap include Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias.

    Further, if one is a Bush supporter, one likely thinks that the National Guard business is nonsense, but if one doesn’t like Bush, one likely thinks otherwise.

    The real questions here are not about medals or how many times Bush showed up in Alabama. The issues are honesty and the ability to present one’s position with clarity. I agree that if a lie can be found in Bush’s Guard records, that that would be a political problem for him. However, the difficulty for the Democrats is that despite all the digging in the data nothing has turned up, and further, since this is an old story in many ways, the public has likely made up their minds already. Plus, as the incumbent, Bush’s distant past is less important than his immediate one.

    Kerry’s medal problem, while an old story, has become a new story because interviews he gave to Peter Jennings and Charlie Gibson, and the fact that the Senator has made contradictory statements in the on record on this topic over the years. But, as I have noted, the main issue isn’t what he did in 1971-t is the fact this story fits into the emerging image that Kerry has created: one of a man who has a hard time making a clear statement and who likes to be on all sides of an issue.

    The bottom line: Bush doesn’t need his actions in the 1970s to convince the public of his foreign policy and defense bona fides-he has a presidency upon which to base those. However, Kerry desperately needs his actions in the 1970s upon which to build his campaign. This is why Kerry is constantly refers to his service in Viet Nam and why it is that his anti-war activities post-war complicates matters for him (and contribute to the notion that Kerry stakes out multiple positions on a given issue). For Kerry Viet Nam and the 1970s are primary. For Bush, his Guard service, and the 1970s in general, are secondary, if not tertiary.

    UPDATE: This is my entry in today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

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    A Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:46 am

    From the NYT: Kerry Turns Tables on Bush and Cheney Over War Records, said Kerry:

    “I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can’t account for his own service in the National Guard-and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do—criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served,” Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, told a reporter for The Dayton Daily News. “I think it’s inappropriate.”

    Here’s the question: when has Bush or Cheney question Kerry’s service (or anyone else’s for that matter)?

    Is the Senator aruging that because Kerry served that any and all actions related to defense policy that Kerry undertook after his military service are therefore untouchable? That is, of course, absurd.

    And I agree with Jonah Goldberg:

    Kerry has a particular problem with Vietnam. Unlike say John McCain, Kerry has two completely contradictory Vietnam narratives and he wants to brag about both and not be criticized on either. Lots of politicians have tried to have it both ways on Vietnam. But [he] wants to get credit for fighting in a war which he says was criminal and a mistake and he wants credit for denouncing that war as criminal too.

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    Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps? (with apologies to Brad DeLong)

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

    Said NPR this morning: “Republicans have also raised questions” about the ribbons/medals bit.

    The only Republican who could be considered a surrogate for Bush whom I have heard say anything specific about the medals business was Karen Hughes, I think on CNN, whilst on her book tour. Last I noticed it was ABC News and Charlie Gibson, hardly a Rove puppet, who raised the medal flap, and the press writ large has swarmed on it like sharks on blood in the water. Indeed, the Reps have sat back and watched. I am sure they are enjoying it, but to assert that this is a Bush campaign/RNC generated story is, at worst, to simply be towing the Kerry line, and at best extremely lazy reporting.

    In re: Kerry-the litany of how Bush and the Republicans are attacking him on the medals business remind me of how in the past he would state that the administration has questioned his patriotism. The problem with both accusations is that they are demonstrably untrue: Bush, nor his campaign, has attacked Kerry’s medal toss nor have accused him of being unpatriotic. However, it is true that they have questioned Kerry’s legislative votes and proposals, which are not attacks on his patriotism, and indeed, are legitimate targets.

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    Hamdi and Padilla

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 am

    While I have little sympathy for Hamdi in particular, I must admit that I do not see the justification for holding either he or Mr. Padilla indefinitely: Justices to Hear Challenges to Post-9/11 Presidential Powers

    The central figures in the cases before the court today are American citizens. Yaser Esam Hamdi is a Louisiana-born Saudi-American who was seized in Afghanistan. The United States government says he was fighting on behalf of the Taliban.

    José Padilla was born in Brooklyn, moved to Chicago, where he became a gang member and committed numerous street crimes, then traveled in the Middle East where, federal authorities say, he associated and plotted with Al Qaeda terrorists. Two years ago, he was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on suspicion of plotting with terrorists to detonate a radioactive device in the United States.

    Neither Mr. Hamdi nor Mr. Padilla has been charged with a crime.

    Mr. Hamdi and Mr. Padilla are being held in the same Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Neither was allowed to see a lawyer for two years. Later, they were given limited access to lawyers, although the government insisted, in effect, that it was doing the prisoners a favor rather than granting them their rights.

    I especially have a hard time seeing the the logical behind holding Padilla as an “enemy combatant” given that he was arrested on US soil. And it seems that given that Hamdi is a US citizen, and was brought back to US soil, that he ought to be able to challenge his status as an “enemy combatant.” Indeed, it occurs to me that I don’t understand why American citizens who take up arms against US troops wouldn’t simply be charged with treason. However, since I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the ‘net, I am not sure what the precise legal machinations of such a charge would be, or why that wasn’t the logical first action rather than what has been done.

    And while we are at it: it seems to me that it is not at all unreasonable for those being held at Guantanamo to be allowed a hearing to determine if, indeed, they qualify as enemy combatants.

    I don’t care who the President is, what party he belongs to, or whether or not I voted for him: the ability of any chief executive to hold a US citizen in prison indefinitely sans trial concerns me greatly, and vitiates the basic institutional logic of the Constitution.

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    Tuesday, April 27, 2004
    Ouch

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 pm

    Writes Joe Gandelman:

    The Moderate Voice (a non-Bush/non-Kerry swing voter) will simply say this:
    — The Kerry campaign is to a well-run campaign what Michael Jackson is to a nice, relaxing sleepover at Neverland.
    —Question: Is Bob Shrum a GOP mole??

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    Thanks

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 pm

    Here’s a long-overdue list of thanks to blogs linking to me. Each has been added to my reciprocal list at the bottom of the left sidebar.

  • You Big Mouth, You!
  • Independent Thinker
  • riting on the wall
  • Life and Law
  • Resource.full
  • Minorities For Bush
  • Ramblings’ Journal
  • Read My Lips

    Blogrolled, but not part of the reciprocal list (until now):

  • The Moderate Voice
  • The Queen of All Evil

    Also, The Flying Space Monkey Chronicles has moved to a new url.

    And the following non-blog has linked to me as well: Yahoo! Directory Political Weblogs

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    Listserv Politics, a Rant by Me

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:01 pm

    I have had the following happen several times over the years: I am on a listserv, someone accidentally sends out an innocuous e-mail to the list that was supposed to go to one person, which starts a mini-thread and then all of a sudden a bunch of people on the list get indignant and send “please unsubscribe me” and “me too!” e-mails.

    First, what’s the big deal about getting a few wayward e-mails? Second, if getting wayward e-mails is annoying, isn’t sending out a bunch of “unsubscribe” requests also annoying (indeed, to me, moreso). Third, since normally people don’t spontaneously get subscribed to highly specialized listservs, why act like getting e-mail from it (even superfluous mail) is such a galling surprise? And, fourth, if you got on the list, then get yourself off by your own bad self-don’t send these “unsubscribe” requests to the ether and hope that the e-mail gods will take care of your problem.

    In this case the original e-mail was about a pending conference, which was list-topic-appropriate, but should have been sent to only one person. This ended up in three e-mail congratulating someone on a new baby. The horror!!

    Methinks that there are a lot of uptight people out there.

    (Okay, rant over).

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    Note to Dog-Owning Gardeners

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:42 pm

    Golden Retrievers like Calladiums. It would appear that they make for good eatin’.

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    Consumer Confidence Up Due to Improving Job Situation

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:49 pm

    Consumer Confidence Rises on Jobs

    U.S. consumer confidence jumped in April, driven primarily by increased faith in a recovery in employment, a report published on Tuesday said.

    The Conference Board, a private research firm, said its index of consumer confidence jumped to 92.9 in April from a revised 88.5 in March. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the index to ease to 88.0.

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    PoliBlog Gets Results!

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:45 pm

    Earlier today I noted:

    Kerry risks creating yet another example of flip-flopping by personally attacking the President’s Guard service, since in 1992, in defending Bill Clinton’s lack of Viet Nam service, he said the following on the Senate floor: (the rest in this post)

    And now:

    Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said Kerry is “doing exactly what he said he would never do, ‘divide America over who served and how.’” She was referring to Kerry’s defense of Bill Clinton in 1992 when critics said the future president was a draft dodger who avoided service in Vietnam.

    Whaddya know.

    Source: Kerry Says Bush, Cheney Have No Standing

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
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    In Support of Atrocities?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:37 pm

    Rich Lowry at The Corner notes the following, which echoes a comment left on this post earlier today by a good friend of mine:

    Both Susan and Alan stand by Kerry’s war crime allegations from 1971. So I asked Alan why he would support a man who has confessed to committing atrocities in Vietnam. Alan’s answer was that everyone committed atrocities in Vietnam and U.S. soldiers are committing atrocities in Iraq even today. And this is the year liberals are supposed to be portraying themselves as pro-veteran and pro-military service!

    And in this context, I would remind us of Kerry’s own statements just over a week ago on MTP:

    MR. RUSSERT: You committed atrocities.

    SEN. KERRY: Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me. You know, I
    thought a lot, for a long time, about that period of time, the things we said, and I think the word is a bad word. I think it’s an inappropriate word. I mean, if you wanted to ask me have you ever made mistakes in your life, sure. I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger. It was honest, but it was in anger, it was a little bit excessive.

    MR. RUSSERT: You used the word “war criminals.”

    SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don’t like it when I hear it today. I don’t like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn’t talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier-I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I’m not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way.

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    Happy Birthday, Saddam

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:23 pm

    A shame you’re in jail: Saddam Gets Birthday Eve Visit from Red Cross

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    Is Kerry Digging the Hole Deeper?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:56 am

    As I have argued previously, this may not be the best move for Kerry: Kerry Demands Bush Prove Guard Service.

  • For one thing, it looks like tit-for-tat over the medals flap, which will help keep the medals controversy alive.
  • Fighting this election over events of thirty years ago is a bad strategy-we have troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan in active combat, and we still face the threat of al Qaeda. Eventually 2004 trumps 1971.
  • While Kerry’s service is a plus, his post-service activities are, at best, a wash. as many people will object to them, thus nullifying some of the ground that might could be gained from the “I served and he didn’t” business.
  • I again point to Kerry’s own words: “We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric” and “We do not need to divide America over who served and how.”
  • Kerry appears to be on the defensive, which isn’t very presidential and part of what he needs to establish is that he has the capacity to be “presidential".

    I am honestly curious: is there a Kerry supporter out there who thinks this is a wise course of attack for Kerry to pursue? I agree that catching Bush in an obvious, provable lie would be to Kerry’s advantage-however, this strikes me as unlikely given all the scrutiny his Guard records were under a few months back with no hard evidence of untruth uncovered.

    This isn’t shaping up as a particularly well-run campaign.

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    • Accidental Verbosity linked with I'll take inept Senators from Massachusetts for $100, Alex.
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    Viet Nam, Medals, and the National Guard

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

    Kerry Questions Bush Attendance in Guard in 70’s

    “This is a controversy that the Republicans are pushing,” Mr. Kerry said on “Good Morning America” on ABC. “The Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me, and this comes from a president and a Republican Party that can’t even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. I’m not going to stand for it.”

    Later in the day, Mr. Kerry challenged what he called attacks on his military record from Republicans who did not fight in Vietnam.

    “I did obviously fight in Vietnam, and I was wounded there, and I served there and was very proud of my service,” Mr. Kerry said. “To have these people, all of whom made a different choice, attack me for it is obviously disturbing.”

    This brings several things to mind:

  • As Robert Tagorda and I both argued back during the Bush National Guard flap in February, it seems that the DNC’s/Kerry campaign’s interest in that story was as much about providing cover for Kerry’s anti-war days as it was about damaging Bush. Kerry’s continual referrals to Bush’s Guard service in the GMA interview yesterday certainly made it seem like he was trying to use it to deflect the whole medal/ribbons questioning from Gibson.
  • While Kerry may claim that this is a Republican-created story, it seems to me that this is a media-driven story. Charlie Gibson is no GOPer, and the whole controversy appears to have surfaced because of the finding of that tape of Kerry’s 1971 interview. Indeed, rather than being the Rep’s fault, this mess is Kerry’s-one he has constructed over a series of years.
  • Kerry is going to have to get beyond this whole “I fought in Viet Nam” business, and start making clear what he will do as President in 2005.
  • Kerry risks creating yet another example of flip-flopping by personally attacking the President’s Guard service, since in 1992, in defending Bill Clinton’s lack of Viet Nam service, he said the following on the Senate floor:
    The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them; that one help identify the positive things that we learned about ourselves and about our nation, not play to the divisions and differences of that crucible of our generation.

    We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. Someone who was deeply against the war in 1969 or 1970 may well have served their country with equal passion and patriotism by opposing the war as by fighting in it. Are we now, 20 years or 30 years later, to forget the difficulties of that time, of families that were literally torn apart, of brothers who ceased to talk to brothers, of fathers who disowned their sons, of people who felt compelled to leave the country and forget their own future and turn against the will of their own aspirations?

    […]

    We do not need more division. We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric. What has been said has been said, Mr. President, but I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country.

    This all leads one to ask who is 1) re-opening the wounds of Viet Nam, 2) attempting to divide America over the question of service in that war, and 3) reducing the complex and emotional issue of Viet Nam to simple campaign rhetoric.

    And the issue here really isn’t the medals, or the comparative value of service rendered by each man. The issue here is what kind of image is Kerry constructing for himself, and how will it affect his electoral fortunes. I continue to see a candidate who has a very, very difficult time dealing with relatively easy issues (like the SUV bit), or who has practically made his Viet Nam services into a joke. This is all in the context of the fact that Kerry’s policy position are vague, and aren’t easily distinguishable from Bush’s.

    Kerry is already facing an ad blitz by the Bush campaign that I think has been effective in defining Kerry as a waffler who lacks sufficient defense bona fides as a Senator. Kerry’s own actions continue to reinforce the former, and just citing his Viet Nam record and saying “I’ll do better than Bush” isn’t sufficient to combat the latter.

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    PA’s GOP Primary

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 am

    This should be interesting: Specter Faces Spirited Challenge Today in Pa. Primary.

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    Monday, April 26, 2004
    Something Else I Don’t Miss

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:35 pm

    Earlier, Jen caused a flashback about apartment living, now Steve Bainbridge reminds me of something else I don’t miss: SoCal traffic-anyplace that needs realtime traffic info for the daily drive is place with too much traffic. However, I will concur that the tech is pretty cool. And I certainly wouldn’t mind XM Satellite radio.

    But I definitely don’t miss the 405.

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    Fashion Bloggin’

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 pm

    All of a sudden Signifying Nothing has become a Fashion Blog. Brock is blogging on hats, and I concur: hats are cool-I just don’t have the gumption to wear them. Plus, they make my head sweat and mess up my hair. (I like the hat in photo, btw).

    Meanwhile, Chris is concerned with suits-and notes that while sociologists are slobs (such is the implication), political scientists are fashion plates-at least at conferences. On balance, I concur as well. Certainly polisci conferences are resplendent with ties (although they often rather old ones).

    Ours is perhaps the best dressed department on campus (at least all the males wear ties), and I always wear a jacket and tie, if not a suit, daily (except when I teach in the summer). Although it seems that Chris doesn’t share my dress code for teaching. I understand that Dr. Professor Lemon does as well, and I know that my former colleague James Joyner always wore a jacket and tie to class also.

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    More Medal Madness

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 pm

    Self-proclaimed swing voter and Moderate Voice Joe Gandelman saw Kerry on GMA this morning and he wasn’t exactly impressed. Kerry has to hope that Joe’s reaction was, shall we say, atypical of moderate swing voters.

    (Although I must question Joe’s assertion that the 1971 clip “showed that the younger Kerry had great hair"-he certainly had a lot of it, but I am not sure anyone in 1971 had great hair).

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    Trackback Problem Sovled

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:34 pm

    My lack of trackback problem has been solved: MT-Blacklist was blocking all comments and trackbacks with “www.” in the url of the poster or trackbacker.

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    More on the “Clarity Issue” and Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:27 pm

    Roger L. Simon has a good post on the Kerry/medals flap that dovetails nicely with my earlier post in which I noted Kerry “clarity problem". Along those lines write Simon:

    Now I was a war protestor then and, as I have written earlier, I have mixed feelings about those (like Kerry) who claimed to have opposed the war in those days and then went. There were plenty of ways, especially for those in Kerry’s economic class, to have avoided it, even if that meant moving to Canada to preserve their ideals, which many did. So the message to me about the Senator has always been one of weakness of character (not physical bravery, which he apparently had), of moral confusion. Sure he’s entitled to have changed his opinion or to have made mistakes. Everyone has. But in this era, more perilous to our country and the world than any since World War II, who wants someone in the White House who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions?

    I think this constitutes a serious problem for Kerry, especially since, as even Kevin Drum notes, the Senator is having a hard time presenting clear policy position on key issues.

    I suspect that Kerry’s defenders will focus on the issue of medals (or ribbons) going over the fence and note that it is a story that is more than thirty years old. However, that really isn’t the issue. The issue is that a candidate who is already perceived by many as a waffler, now appear incapable of setting forth a simple, clear statement on an event that ought to be quite easy to describe. Instead we have as ABCNEWS.com details, a disputed timeline in which Kerry appears to contradict himself numerous times:

    Many veterans were seen throwing their medals and ribbons over the fence in front of the U.S. Capitol. The Boston Globe and other newspapers reported that Kerry was among these veterans.

    “In a real sense, this administration forced us to return our medals because beyond the perversion of the war, these leaders themselves denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives,” Kerry said the following day.

    But in 1984, when he first ran for the U.S. Senate, Kerry revealed he still had his medals. According to a Boston Globe report on April 15, 1984, union officials had expressed uneasiness with Kerry’s candidacy because he had thrown his medals away. Kerry acknowledged the meHeartsdals he threw away were, in fact, another soldier’s medals. He reportedly invited a union official home to personally inspect his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, awarded for his combat duty as a Navy lieutenant.

    In the 1971 Viewpoints interview, he made no mention of the ribbons or the medals belonging to another veteran.

    And in 1988, Kerry again clarified his statement by saying he threw out ribbons he had been awarded for three combat wounds, but not his medals. “I was proud of my personal service and remain so,” he told the National Journal.

    Eight years later in 1996, Kerry said while he did throw out his ribbons, he didn’t throw out his own medals because he “didn’t have time to go home [to New York] and get them,” he told The Boston Globe.

    However, in the 1971 interview, he seems to say that he threw a good number of medals over the wall, including his Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart:

    “I gave back, I can’t remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals,” Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C., news program on WRC-TV called Viewpoints on Nov. 6, 1971, according to a tape obtained by ABCNEWS.

    Throughout his presidential campaign, Kerry has denied that he threw away any of his medals during an anti-war protest in April 1971.

    […]

    Kerry told a much different story on Viewpoints. Asked about the anti-war veterans who threw their medals away, Kerry said “they decided to give them back to their country.”

    Kerry was asked if he gave back the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for combat duty as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. “Well, and above that, [I] gave back the others,” he said.

    The statement directly contradicts Kerry’s most recent claims on the disputed subject to the Los Angeles Times last Friday. “I never ever implied that I did it, ” Kerry told the newspaper, responding to the question of whether he threw away his medals in protest.

    In short: if Kerry can’t get this right, is it any wonder we are all unclear on his Iraq policy? Also, in terms of evaluating his decision-making capacities as a potential President, this episode does not inspire confidence.

    UPDATE: James Joyner has a lengthy post on this subject as well.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Kerry Medals Flap
    • The American Mind linked with Missing the Point
    This Ain’t Gonna Help

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:23 pm

    OK, one the one hand the issue of whether Kerry threw medals, ribbons, training manuals or three-toed sloths over the wall is not all that important. On the other, since Kerry has been repeatedly accused of changing is position with great ease and that he flip-flops, this situation is not going to help his image: 1971 Tape Adds to Debate Over Kerry’s Medal Protest

    The Kerry campaign Web site says it is “right-wing fiction” that he “threw away his medals during a Vietnam War protest.”

    Rather, the Web site says, “John Kerry threw away his ribbons and the medals of two veterans who could not attend the event.”

    But the issue is not so cut and dried. A television interview Mr. Kerry gave in November 1971 shows that Mr. Kerry himself fed the confusion from early on. The New York Times obtained a videotape of the interview late last week.

    The interview was shown on the Washington television station WRC, archived by President Richard M. Nixon’s communications office and held by the National Archives.

    On the program, an interviewer asked Mr. Kerry to explain what was happening in a photograph of a man hurling a medal, apparently during a protest. Mr. Kerry responded that the veterans had decided that the best way to “wake the country up” about the war was to “renounce the symbols which this country gives, which supposedly reinforces all the things that they have done, and that was the medals themselves.”

    “And so they decided to give them back to their country,” he added.

    Mr. Kerry said they had decided to do so as “a last resort.”

    When the interviewer asked, “How many did you give back, John?” he answered, “I gave back, I can’t remember, six, seven, eight, nine.”

    When the interviewer pointed out that Mr. Kerry had won the Bronze and Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts, Mr. Kerry added, “Well, and above that, I gave back my others.”

    However, on Good Morning America today he insisted that he only threw his ribbons over the wall, not his medals.

    The NYT piece continues along these lines:

    The protest came up last week, the 33rd anniversary of the ceremony, in articles about Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam protest days in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

    In The Los Angeles Times article, Mr. Kerry was quoted as saying that he never meant to imply that the two medals he had discarded belonged to him. He said they belonged to two men who could not attend the ceremony.

    “I never ever implied that I did it,” Mr. Kerry is quoted as saying, adding, “You know what? Medals and ribbons, there’s almost no difference in distinction, fundamentally. They’re symbols of the same thing. They are what they are.”

    Early on it looked like the issue of honesty was going to be key in this election, and I think it still will be, so this brouhaha over medals could very much matter. Further, I think that clarity is going to matter as well, as in the ability to clearly articulate one’s positions, and the capacity to present moral clarity on key issues. Kerry is having a hard time on that score at this point in time.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Kerry Medals Flap
    • CALIFORNIA YANKEE linked with There He Goes Again
    Presumptions

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

    Limbaugh seems to think that that usage of the term “presumptive nominee” in regards to Kerry means that there is still some doubt as to whether the Democratic National Convention will nominate Kerry. I would point out that the usage of the modifier “presumptive” when describing Kerry is simply a linguist nod to the fact that Kerry has not been formally nominated, not some hint that he might not actually be crowned the Party’s candidate. It is utterly normal for the press, at this stage, to use the term “presumptive nominee” to describe a candidate who has won the primary phase, but who has not yet been formally selected by party convention. it certainly doesn’t mean that there is any doubt about his official nomination.

    Now, I am not sure if Limbaugh simply thinks that the term “presumptive” is funny, or if he really thinks that Kerry might not be nominated-I have heard several comments that suiggest the latter. Regardless, I will state that Kerry will have to shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die (or some similar activity) for him to lose the Party’s nomination.

    And to any who think that this is possible: there isn’t going to be any serious Draft Hillary movement, let alone a successful one, that will take over the convention. It ain’t gonna happen.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    • Tim Worstall linked with Premptive and Prospective Candidates
    • Tim Worstall linked with Presumptive and Prospective Candidates
    Jen Causes Flashbacks

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:48 pm

    Jen reminds me of why I am so happy we no longer live in an apartment. I hate sharing walls with people…

    In addition to the first five years of our marriage, we recently spent about two and a half months living in an apartment while our house was finished. During that period of time I was certain that Child Protective Services was going to come knocking at any moment, since my then two-year-old would cry as though he was being beaten with an iron rod just for being sent to his room. I know the neighbors heard that.

    We did duplexes for a while as well, including a year with some kid whom I was sure was going to burn the place down at any moment. Not to mention the dog they had who would chew up my newspaper and the lady didn’t have the $1.50 to replace my Sunday paper, but used her food stamps to buy snacks to made amends.

    Yes, thank the Lord for single family dwellings!

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    The “Irish Three” Cleared of Aiding the FARC

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:36 pm

    Cleared Irishmen to Be Expelled from Colombia

    Three Irishmen cleared today of training Farc guerillas are to be thrown out of Colombia.

    Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley were found guilty in a court in the Colombian capital, Bogota, of travelling on false passports but were found not guilty of training Marxist Farc rebels.

    The men, who were arrested in August 2001, are to be expelled from Colombia.

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    Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attack on Oil Terminal

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:24 pm

    Al Qaeda Statement Claims Iraq Boat Attack

    A statement apparently from top al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility Monday for a suicide boat attack on Iraq’s Basra oil terminal at the weekend and vowed more attacks on coalition targets.

    […]

    Zarqawi is widely believed to be in Iraq. Washington suspects suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ites in Baghdad and Kerbala were masterminded by Zarqawi to try to spark civil war there.

    It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the statement posted on the Web site, which has previously carried statements attributed to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

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    Lack of Trackback

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 am

    For about a week now I have not been receiving Trackback pings from MT blogs linking to me. Another blogger noted they had noticed a similar problem. Indeed, I think that the only Trackbacks I have received of late have been from folks using Kevin Alyward’s manual Trackback pinger.

    Has anyone else had this problem?

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    Real Cultural Integration Problems

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:32 am

    Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad and the Rule of Islam

    The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.

    In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families’ new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

    They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the “Magnificent 19″ and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe.

    It is unclear to me exactly how much this should be taken seriously and how much of it is no more serious that white supremacists in the US who spew similar bilge, but it does strike me that those who think integrating Latin American immigrants into US culture should thank their lucky stars that there is substantial cultural affinity between those individuals and US culture.

    Clearly, given recent arrests in Britain of al Qaeda-links individuals actively involved in terrorist plots this is a rather serious problem. The only issue that I say requires a measure of calm before proclaiming the end of Europe as we know it is the degree to which there is widespread desire against Muslims in Europe for an Islamic European state.

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    Politics is a Funny Business

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:54 am

    Sometimes it is funny how what looks like a liability can turn into a strength (and vice versa):
    Politics of Patriot Act Turn Right for Bush

    Only months ago, Democrats were targeting the controversial USA Patriot Act as an ideal issue to use in their campaign against President Bush, assailing the law as an intrusion on civil rights. But in a turnabout, the act has suddenly emerged as a cornerstone of Bush’s reelection campaign, while Democratic rival Sen. John F. Kerry and others have toned down their criticism.

    I have noticed how the administration has been very clever using the “wall” imagery to get their point across in regards to the Patriot Act-it is a simple and evocative description. And regardless of the complexities of the issue beyond simply FBI-CIA interchanges, it is an effective piece of political communication.

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    New Blog, Not New Blogger

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:48 am

    Rosemary Esmay, once dubbed The Queen of All Evil (which stuck) has busted out of Dean’s World
    and now has her own realm-go pay it a visit.

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    Sunday, April 25, 2004
    On Red States, Blue States and Political Extremism

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:40 pm

    Kieran Healy and Matthew Yglesias both have doubts about the currently popular thesis that we, i.e., the US, “are more polarized than ever” (both via Robert Tagorda who links to his own, similar, views on the question).

    I have to stand in agreement with Kieran, Matthew and Robert: the issue of polarization in the US context is well overblown by the press. This is partially because it makes a good story, and partially because, as Kieran notes:

    the chattering classes — at least their representatives in the media — have become more polarized over time

    And this clearly contributes to the atmosphere of polarization. Indeed, the presentation of political news is often confrontational in nature (e.g., Crossfire and its descendants, or even on news-talk shows like MTP or Hardball there are often either probing interviews and/or panels of commentators from multiple points of view. Further, talk radio hosts tend to be quite partisan (and I mean that in the most general of senses-even sportstalk guys have to have a clear point of view). Who wants to listen to someone who calmly sees all sides for three hours? That tends to be less compelling, and therefore less entertaining. We like to keep score in the United States, so is it any wonder that we like our political discussions to have competitive presentations?

    Indeed, one can put bloggers into this gaggle ogf pundits who often are idelogically driven, and often far too confrontational.

    Beyond the “infotainment” aspect of news amplifying the idea of polarization, if one looks at the actual policy debates of the day, it is hard to find radical, deep, and violently divisive issue that divide the Red and Blue states (which, btw, aren’t uniformly either color). Rather we have two moderate, catch-all parties which agree on the basics of our system, both political and economic and which have policy goals that aren’t on the political extremes. If one thinks of major legislation passed in the last decade or so, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, NAFTA, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, or No Child Left Behind, where is the radical divide? Even if one looks at more controversial legislation such as the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, the USA Patriot Act of 2004, or even the Bush tax cuts, where are the major ideological divides, that if not healed, will cause great rupture?

    There is probably only one issue that is truly polarizing: abortion. Beyond that the issues of secular approaches to life versus more religiously-minded ones do help explain some of the Blue v. Red divide, but even then it isn’t like it is something people about to come to blows over.

    Mostly the press likes this thesis, and they further like to commission polls that help confirm the thesis. It is also the case that partisans of either side who are angry at the other, and who therefore cannot understand how anyone could vote for that guy (these days that means Democrats who aren’t over Florida and are mad at Bush for Iraq-a few years ago that meant Republicans enraged over a President they thought was an irresponsible liar), are also enamored with the polarization idea. Indeed, I have seen otherwise intelligent, well-educated and analytical people appeal to the polarization thesis because of their own frustration with the current administration. I also think that since a lot of people who feel that way are in the mainstream press, that they, too, find solace in that thesis.

    Regardless, even if it is the case that partisan identification is up (which it it), that doesn’t mean that we are entering an era of extremism (indeed, when considered in terms of the vast ideological spectrum present in the world, we have very little true political extremism-yes, we have our David Dukes and our Louis Farrakhan’s, but they are on the fringe, not in the mainstream of American political life).

    In short, Kevin Drum needn’t get too worried about the future of moderation in American politics. Just because people identify more with the parties doesn’t mean that politics and policy, per se, are going to get more extreme. Indeed, the institutions of the federal government (and those in the state governments) tend to make it difficult to utterly avoid compromise. Yes, there are examples of either ideological obstructionism (like the Democrats in the Senate and the Bush Appeals Court nominees) and of ideological bullying (actions by whomever it is that is in charge of the House-so by the Reps for the last ten years, by the Dems before that), but really those are more the exceptions than the norms-again, go back to the list of legislation above and tell me where the true ideological extremism is (and if you pick the Patriot Act, please provide concrete evidence, not hysteria-and I would point out that it passed with large bipartisan support, so really isn’t a good example of polarization).

    Of course, perhaps I take the increase in partisan identification, and therefore more “polarization” less seriously than some, as I have never fully accepted the idea that most people who say they are “moderates” and therefore “independents” are truly as nonpartisan as they say they are. I contend that most people who call themselves “independent” tend to actually vote predominantly for Dems or Reps. I have commented on such here and here (among other places). That requires a more thorough discussion for another day.

    Really, I have never accepted the idea that we need a strong pool of “moderates” to help keep the system in balance (although I must admit that it does have an appealing Aristotlean aspect to it), but rather as long as we don’t have two truly extreme parties, which we don’t, then partisan competition is good and healthy and that our Madisonian institutions will force compromise out of that competition, whether the parties like it or not.

    Indeed, I would challenge die-hard partisans to tell me what legislation that has passed in decades (if ever) that they found wholly satisfactory. My guess is that one can’t, because since all legislation is, by definition, the child of compromise, that it tends to leave the philosophically committed unsatisfied. This is, however, evidence of the lack of serious polarization in US politics. Even with the polarizing Presidents that we have had in both Clinton and Bush.

    OK, I’m done for now.

    BTW, James Joyner also has a lengthy post on this topic.

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    Draft Thoughts

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

    I have to admit that while I was listening to the draft coverage on ESPN Radio yesterday, that the juxtaposition of the Pat Tillman tribute and Eli Manning’s refusal to play for San Diego created a rather stark comparison. While I suppose that I can see why Manning would prefer to play for the Giants rather than the Chargers, the issue of which football team one would get paid millions and millions of dollars to play for versus quitting the NFL and becoming an Army Ranger killed in the line of duty fighting the War on Terror makes the former issue seem a tad on the trivial side, to put it mildly.

    And to jump wholly to the sports side of the equation, I am not sure I see how playing for the Chargers would be sooo horrible that Manning would have been willing to sit out an entire season (assuming he would have actually done so). They have a good running back and a top notch coach, so it isn’t like it was the Bengals under Dave Shula. Not to mention that he has now ratcheted up the pressure on himself enormously.

    And to wholly digress to sports: I am not sure I get the Dallas-Buffalo trade yesterday (from either team). Likely Buffalo reached for Losen and Dallas passed on an RB who would have been a steal. And Jackson has to be bummed-at Dallas he likely would have been the started, and at St. Louis he will be a back-up/special teams guy.

    Hoepfully Julius Jones ends up being good and Buffalo chunks the season so that their #1 pick next season is a good one.

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    Dirt: A Sign of Aging

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:56 am

    There are various milestones in life that indicate that one is getting older. For example, the first time you get socks for Christmas and instead of sayings “Eww, socks! What kind of Christmas present is socks?” you say “Cool. I need some socks.” Another is when music that was popular in high school is made into muzack, or when you realize that your students weren’t even in elementary school when the Wall fell in Berlin (but I digress…).

    Yesterday’s epiphany of age was dirt. Yes, dirt. Not as in “the dirt nap"-I have a ways to go for that one, but as in, “Gee, this yard needs some good dirt.” Yes, I have reached the stage in my life when I am going to actually buy, yes buy dirt: dirt for the planters and dirt for the grass.

    I think that that is an official sign of middle age, but I haven’t checked Google yet so as to be certain.

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    Saturday, April 24, 2004
    Can We Say “No Sense of Humor"?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:22 pm

    Coors Official’s Kerry Quip Draws Fire

    Democrats are furious about a statement by Republicans saying that comparing one of their candidates to presidential candidate John Kerry would be worse than comparing someone to the Ku Klux Klan.

    The dispute started when The New York Times inadvertently published a photo of Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors above a story about a KKK member who murdered a black sharecropper. The Times published a correction Saturday.

    Cinamon Watson, spokeswoman for Coors, said the error was “so outrageous it’s kind of funny. It could have been worse. Pete could have been identified as John Kerry.”

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    Toasty Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:12 am

    For those interested in getting their Toasty fix, rest assured that the Toast-O-MeterTM will be returning-however it won’t be this morning. Sometime over the next several days a re-vamped T-O-M will be posted.

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    Kerry, Iraq and the UN

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    The fact that the UN is helping in the Iraqi transition presents a problem, and perhaps an opportunity, for Kerry. On the one hand, the UN is clearly involved (even if on a small sale) in Iraq, which undermines Kerry’s argument about the administration as well as his own vague proposal that if he is President he will “go to the UN” about Iraq. So now Kerry has the following options: 1) ignore UN involvement or 2) downplay the current involvement as inadequate. My guess is that he will choose option #2 and basically say “I will do more than Bush with the UN". If that is all he does, he will further undermine himself on what is already an overly vague policy position. If he is smart he will do what he has as yet not done and actually articulate what he means by “going to the UN” and present an actual, substantive policy proposal. However, the problem he faces is that it is rather difficult to actually define what he would do, what the UN would do in return, and how the international community would, in turn, be more useful in Iraq because he will have to construct hypothetical scenarios that cannot be demonstrated to be true in advance. In other words, he will have to resort to the “they will like me better than they like Bush, and therefore will be more responsive” argument, which isn’t all that persuasive. For while it is possible, perhaps even likely, that many foreign leaders will like Kerry more than they like Bush, the logical problem here is demonstrating that an increase in personal affinity translates in substantial help in Iraq. As such he has a serious problem in terms of presenting himself as a viable alternative to Bush on this policy area that is vital to campaign.

    I will fully allow that the current UN role is quite small and that Kerry would certainly pursue a larger one. However, my point is that since there is now at least some UN involvement that the President and his aides can point to, it ups the political ante for Kerry, who is now placed in the position of having to either reinforce the fact that he really doesn’t know what “going to the UN” means, or he will have to actually flesh out the proposal. Regardless of one’s evaluation of the current UN role, it is clear that in terms of campaign politics that Kerry has to make a move or he will suffer some damage in public perception over his ability to handle the Iraq situation. His current position has the air of some guy at the office on Monday morning saying that if he had been the coach, the team would’ve won on Sunday afternoon, because “I would’ve been more aggressive in the play-calling” or somesuch. In other words, Kerry’s argument to date is that he is smarter and more persuasive than Bush, ergo he will get what he wants and needs. While diehard Democrats likely accept that as obvious, I would question whether it is equally as clear to swing voters in battleground states. Such is Kerry’s challenge.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with Transitions
    Disturbing

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    There are less than two months before the hand-over and we seem not to know to whom power will be handed? This is not comforting.

    U.S., U.N. Seek New Leaders For Iraq

    The United States and the top U.N. envoy to Iraq have decided to exclude the majority of the Iraqi politicians the U.S.-led coalition has relied on over the past year when they select an Iraqi government to assume power on June 30, U.S. and U.N. officials said yesterday.

    The latest shift in policy comes as the U.S.-led coalition has to resolve some contentious and long-standing issues before the transfer takes place. Earlier this week, the coalition moved to allow former Baath Party members and military officers to return to government jobs.

    At the top of the list of those likely to be jettisoned is Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician who for years was a favorite of the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Cheney, and who was once expected to assume a powerful role after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials acknowledged.

    The whole situation illustrates why setting this date before knowing the who, how and what of the transfer, was a foolish policy move.

    And this has the potential of spawning more opposition to the US via Chalabi’s group:

    Chalabi is part of a wider problem, however. Polls indicate that most of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council have little public support nine months after they were appointed. The lack of popular backing is the main reason the United States and United Nations are seeking a new body to govern Iraq before national elections are held in January 2005, U.S. and U.N. officials said.

    U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is in charge of picking the new government in consultation with the U.S.-led coalition, made clear yesterday that the council should disband. “They have said twice, not once, in official documents they signed, that our term will end on the 30th of June,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” to be aired Sunday.

    “All opinion polls, and a lot are taken in Iraq, say that people want something different” than expansion of the council because they fear council members “will clone themselves. And why do you want to have that?” Brahimi asked.

    This is, however, legitimate:

    All council members will then be free to test their political appeal in the January elections to see how they would fare without U.S. support, U.S. officials added.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with Transitions
    Friday, April 23, 2004
    Krauthammer on Kerry’s Iraq “Policy”

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:52 pm

    Charles Krauthammer appears to share my incredulity at Kerry’s alleged “policy” on Iraq:

    “If I’m president,” John Kerry said, “I will not only personally go to the U.N., I will go to other capitals.” For Kerry, showing up at Kofi Annan’s doorstep and sweeping through allied capitals is no rhetorical flourish, no strategic sideshow. It is the essence of his Iraq plan: “Within weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the U.N. and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turn over a proud new chapter in America’s relationship with the world.”

    This is an Iraq policy? Never has a more serious question received a more feckless answer. Going back to the U.N.: What does that mean?

    Indeed.

    He goes on to note that really going to the UN means going to the Security Council, and going to the Security Council means France:

    What does Kerry think France will do for us? Perhaps he sees himself and Teresa descending on Paris like Jack and Jackie in Camelot days. Does he really believe that if he grovels before Jacques Chirac in well-accented French, France will join us in a war that it has opposed from the beginning, that is now going badly, and that has moved Iraq out of the French sphere of influence and into the American?

    The idea is so absurd that when Tim Russert interviewed Kerry and quoted Democratic foreign policy adviser Ivo Daalder as saying that handing political and military responsibility to the United Nations and other countries is not realistic, Kerry simply dodged the question. There was nothing to say.

    All of this leads to political problems for Kerry, which may help explain why Bush is up in the polls despite the problems in Iraq:

    Americans are a serious people, war is a serious business, and what John Kerry is offering is simply not serious. Americans may be unsure whether Bush has a plan for success in Iraq. But they sure as hell know that going to U.N. headquarters, visiting foreign capitals and promising lots of jaw-jaw is no plan at all.

    Indeed: if Kerry had a clear vision for Iraq, it is likely he could make political gains under the current circumstances, yet he really offers nothing on this subject.

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    Fun with Headlines

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:21 pm

    Brock Sides at Signifying Nothing notes an ambiguous CNN headline and provides amusing commentary.

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    No Surprises Here

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:50 pm

    Kerry Promotes Abortion Rights at Rally

    No surprise from a Cardinal:

    When asked in general about “unambiguously pro-abortion” Catholic politicians, Arinze said such a politician “is not fit” to receive Communion. “If they should not receive, then they should not be given,” he said.

    And no surprises from the candidate:

    “I believe that in the year 2004 we deserve a president who understands that a stronger America is where women’s rights are just that, rights, not political weapons to be used by politicians of this nation,” Kerry said during a rally he had scheduled with women’s rights groups.

    “More than 30 years after Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land, it has never been more at risk than it is today,” Kerry said. “We are going to have a change in leadership in this country to protect the right of choice.”

    Certainly mothers need protection from those pesky fetuses than randomly attack them in the middle of the night…

    I am not Catholic, but this kind of reasoning continues to amaze me:

    Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, USA, said statements such as Arinze’s “debase the political campaign” and would isolate the church from its Americans members, most of whom she said support abortion rights.

    No, it just means that many American Catholics are distancing themselves from the Church, not the other way around.

    “Do they really want to tell Senators Kennedy, Mikulski, Leahy and 70 other members of the U.S. Congress that they can’t receive Communion?” Kissling asked. “Because they can’t just tell this to Senator Kerry.”

    My guess is: yes-if the Cardnal actually wants to see the Church’s positions uphelld, then it seems to me that they would want those individuals denied Communion.

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    Pictures of Our Honored Dead

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:40 am

    The NYT reports on the The New York Times > National > Pentagon Ban on Pictures of Dead Troops and the temporary lifting thereof due to a Freedom of Information Act request:

    The Pentagon’s ban on making images of dead soldiers’ homecomings at military bases public was briefly relaxed yesterday, as hundreds of photographs of flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base were released on the Internet by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy.

    The Web site, the Memory Hole (www.thememoryhole.org), had filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover base in Delaware, the destination for most of the bodies. The Pentagon yesterday labeled the Air Force Air Mobility Command’s decision to grant the request a mistake, but news organizations quickly used a selection of the 361 images taken by Defense Department photographers.

    The release of the photographs came one day after a contractor working for the Pentagon fired a woman who had taken photographs of coffins being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait. Her husband, a co-worker, was also fired after the pictures appeared in The Seattle Times on Sunday. The contractor, Maytag Aircraft, said the woman, Tami Silicio of Seattle, and her husband, David Landry, had “violated Department of Defense and company policies.”

    I have not spent a lot of time pondering this issue, but I will confess that the administration’s policy has always left me feeling uncomfortable-I see no general reason why a ban on these images should be in place. Indeed, I suppose I tend to feel that way whenever “ban” “government” and “information” are in the same sentence, unless a true national security issue is at stake. However, I will also confess that I never got overly excited about the policy because I question whether the press would handle free access to these images responsibly. The tendency in the press to make combat situations into a tally sheet is often a shallow and callous enterprise. Still, given the choice, I prefer the potential irresponsibility of the press to the control of information by the government.

    James Joyner has a thoughtful post on the subject, which captures my view of the subject fairly well:

    War is an awful thing. People die, are maimed, or left emotionally scared for life. While we shouldn’t fetishize the deaths of our soldiers and lose sight of the big picture, we certainly shouldn’t forget the sacrifices being made. And if the public thinks the price being paid for the objectives we’re after in Iraq is too high, that’s their call to make.

    Further, Joe Gandleman and Kevin Drum (both via OTB) have lengthy and worthwhile posts on the subject.

    And btw, it appears the Memory Hole was unprepared for the traffic it would get, as it appears impossible (at the time of this posting) to get onto their site.

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Isn't this enough?
    Senator Dolittle

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:10 am

    From the Boston Globe: Seeking new focus, Kerry hits White House record

    At two points, Kerry drew on the live props around him. During one attack on Bush, a creature that appeared to be a dolphin bobbed in the bay. ‘’There he is over there,” Kerry said. ‘’He says, ‘Help, help, help.’ ” And when a gull began cackling noisily overhead, he said: ‘’The bird is affirming what I’ve said. If you want a translation, it’s, ‘George Bush, make it happen.’ “

    But can he chat with a chimp?

    Hat tip: Betsy Newmark

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    Thursday, April 22, 2004
    Minor, Yet Amusing

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 pm

    Kerry Says His ‘Family’ Owns SUV, Not He

    Kerry thought for a second when asked whether his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had a Suburban at their Ketchum, Idaho, home. Kerry said he owns and drives a Dodge 600 and recently bought a Chrysler 300M. He said his wife owns the Chevrolet SUV.

    “The family has it. I don’t have it,” he said.

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    Flirting with Self-Parody

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:40 pm

    Ok, I think that Senator Kerry deserves credit for serving in Viet Nam and I have noted on several occasions that it would be wise for his opponents to lay off his record. However, it is really getting beyond self-parody the way he has to mention Viet Nam at every turn. For example: Kerry Sees a Little Vietnam in Louisiana Coastline

    Standing at the bow of a 25-foot power craft called “Fishing Magician” inspecting coastal erosion in southern Louisiana reminded Kerry of his days as commander of a Navy “swift” boat 35 years ago.

    “I looked out at the shoreline and I commented that parts of it looked a lot like the rivers and coastline that I went through in Vietnam,” the Massachusetts senator said.

    He told about 100 supporters sweltering in the heat on the banks of the Mississippi that he had spent a lot of time “in a habitat that looked a little like this” as a young Naval officer. He said the 50-foot gunboat he commanded was built “right here in Louisiana.”

    He needs some new material, methinks.

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    Kerry’s Iraq Problem

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 am

    Jeff Jacoby’s column in Boston Globe notes that while Senator Kerry has exceptionally harsh words for the President’s conduct of foreign policy, he really doesn’t offer a substantial alternative. This fits into my position, as noted earlier in the week, where I noted that Kerry’s policy position on Iraq is overly simplistic, if not nigh nonexistent.

    Jacoby notes the following quote from Kerry:

    “George Bush has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of this country.”

    Now, while Jacoby chides Kerry for not letting politics stop at the water’s edge, I would argue that the President’s foreign policy actions are wholly fair game. Indeed, it seems to me that in a presidential election it is requisite for a challenger to distinguish himself from the incumbent in all areas of policy, most especially foreign policy.

    However, the issue is: if Kerry believes that Bush has been such as utter failure in this vital area, one would think that the response would be an extremely well thought-out alternative. Instead,, Jacoby rightly notes:

    No matter how the question is put, Kerry’s answers on Iraq always boil down to a single recipe: Shrink the US role in Iraq and defer to the United Nations instead. That’s it. That is the sum and substance of his thinking about Iraq. He doesn’t relate it to the war on terrorism, to the future of liberty in the Middle East, to America’s national interests. He repeatedly declares Bush a failure for not kowtowing to the UN and vows that in a Kerry administration, the UN will be given the commanding role it deserves.

    I ask you: is this really a sufficient response to what Kerry himself calls ” the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of this country"?

    Hat tip: Occam’s Toothbrush

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    Tragedy in North Korea

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

    Trains Explode in North Korea

    As many as 3,000 people were killed or injured Thursday when two trains carrying oil and liquefied petroleum gas collided and exploded in a North Korean train station near the Chinese border, South Korean media reported.

    […]

    The accident resembled a disaster in Iran on Feb. 18, when runaway train cars carrying fuel and industrial chemicals derailed in the town Neyshabur, setting off explosions that destroyed five villages. At least 200 people were killed.

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    Oil for Food Scandal = Potential Political Problems for Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    I will confess to not following the UN oil-for-food scandal all that closely, although the story does appear to be about to break. If it is as bad as some are suggesting (including a story on NPR this morning), then this could be bad political news for Senator Kerry, who has been plugging the “UN solution” to Iraq, indeed for foreign policy problems writ large, for some time now. Clearly a major scandal concerning the UN will damage that approach rather considerably.

    Some info here via InstaP.

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    Picking on the Headline

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:57 am

    I have already made known that I think that the Kerry war-record business is a non-story, so this post isn’t about Kerry.

    Just note this headline: Kerry Highly Praised in Medical Records

    And then, the lead paragraph:

    John Kerry has responded to critics of his service in the Vietnam War with documents showing high praise from his supervisors, but he has not released his medical records from his time in the Navy.

    See any problems? Indeed, the main reason I looked at the story was because I was wondering how he had been “praised” in “medical records"-what, like “he has a fantastic heart!” or “what a pulse rate!”

    And, for the record, there is a excerpt from his comanding officer offering praise-in the appropriate place, his service record.

    Of course, ya gotta love McAullife:

    “Simply put, Kerry has a proud record of sacrifice and service whereas Bush has a record of cashed-in connections and evasion,” McAuliffe said in a statement Wednesday.

    Nice way to elevate the debate and focus on the issues, Terry.

    UPDATE: As a reader notes, the AP/Yahoo! has corrected the error, as the headline now reads: Kerry Highly Praised in Military Records. And yes, it did originally say “Kerry Highly Praised in Medical Records” (that was a direct cut-and-paste via my “Post to MT” bookmarklet, and not a re-type of the headline).

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    Russian Spam

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:49 am

    For some strange reason, almost all of the spam I receive in my main poliblogger e-mail account is in Russian.

    Meanwhile almost all of the spam in my toast@poliblogger account is of the “I am the nephew of the ousted Grand Sultan of TikiTikiRemshaw and have $14 googelplex that I would like to deposit in your account.”

    Most Odd

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    Wednesday, April 21, 2004
    I Thought Comics Were Supposed to be, Well, Funny

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 pm

    Several in the Blogosphere including Jim Treacher (here and here), Kevin Alyward and Eric Lindholm have noted the new plot twist, if you can call it that, in the latest Doonesbury strip. Trudeau can be (or at least used to be) funny, even when he was doing commentary (and even when I didn’t agree with him). But please, I don’t look to comic strips for poignancy. I certainly don’t need comic to inform me that people are injured, maimed and killed in war.

    Although with Doonesbury I at least I expect politics. One of my favorite, and usually basically non-political strips, Get Fuzzy has gotten into the act as well- coincidentally also with a “lost leg” storyline. Personally, I prefer that the comics be, well, funny.

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    Speaking of Ads…

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:28 pm

    Bush/Cheney has a new one, available on their web site, that is entitled “Double Speak” and think has the potential to be quite effective with those swing voters in battleground states where the President needs to define Kerry and to define him as irresolute.

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    Happy Blogoversary

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:23 pm

    Robert Tagorda’s Priorities & Frivolities is a year old today.

    Congrats to what has become one of my daily reads (indeed, sometimes multiple times a day, as such is the way of the Blogosphere: once a day is often not enough).

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    Kerry’s New Commercial

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:53 pm

    Kerry Ads Highlight Priorities

    SCRIPT: Kerry: As president I’ll set a few clear national priorities for America. First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I’ll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And third, we’ll invest in education and health care. My priorities are jobs and health care. My commitment is to defend this country. I’m John Kerry and I approved this message because together we can build a stronger America.”

    Not to be overly critical, as one can only do so much in a 30 second spot, but this is supposed to help him in battleground states?

    The tax incentive thing will resonate in some states, but every candidate says he will keep the country safe and secure, and every candidate talks at least vaguely about education and health care.

    If one combines this rather tepid message with the fact that Kerry’s personality is a negative for him at this point, then like I said earlier, Kerry appears to be in trouble.

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    Why Kerry Won’t Resign the Senate

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:46 pm

    To answer a question from a reader over at VodkaPundit: Kerry isn’t going to leave the Senate early because if he does, the Republican Governor, Mitt Romney would get to replace Kerry in the short term with a Republican. Not only would this help the GOP in the short-term, but it would allow for that Senator to establish him-or-herself in the public mind of Massachusetts voters in advance of the special election that would be held to fill the rest of Kerry’s term. If Romney appointed a popular Republican, it is possible that the seat could go Republican for the foreseeable future-while Mass is considered a Democratic State, it has elected Republican governors in recent years. For example, former Governor William Weld (who ran against Kerry in 1996) might be a good candidate for Romney to appoint.

    Further, Kerry’s term runs through 2008. Why risk that security? I don’t expect him to step down.

    In short: it is too early to be touting a Democrat to take over for Kerry in ‘08 and if he resigned now Republican would get the seat.

    Indeed, can anyone think of a way in which stepping down would help Kerry? It certainly didn’t do Bob Dole any favors in 1996.

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    Al Gore II?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:24 pm

    For Democrats, It’s Still ‘Anybody But Bush’

    Focus groups have found him cold, and a ponderous, meandering speaking style on the campaign trail often leaves his crowds flat.

    “On the affability scale … it’s almost Al Gore Two,” pollster John Zogby said, referring to the 2000 Democratic nominee whose stilted personal style was seen as a liability against Bush.

    “That election was Al Gore’s to lose and he just never bonded with voters - that has to be the great shadow that overhangs John Kerry,” Zogby said.

    But Democrats and some analysts dismissed the concerns, saying the huge issues facing voters this year trump personality politics and Kerry has more than seven months to build bridges.

    Despite the dismissal of the “Democrats and some analysts” one would think that this situation would be a great concern to the Kerry camp-given that Gore was running as essentially the incumbent in a prosperous economy. Now Bush has the incumbency advantage (far more so than a sitting Veep, for that matter) and he outscores Kerry on the big issue of the day: terrorism.

    Kerry has an up-hill battle on his hands.

    UPDATE: This post is part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

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    So Much for Oily Deals

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:33 pm

    From WaPo: No Saudi Oil ‘Deal,’ Woodward Says

    The suggestion that the Saudi government and the Bush administration struck a deal to lower U.S. gasoline prices before the 2004 election seemed like one of the more explosive allegations made by Bob Woodward in his new book and media blitz.

    But Woodward explained yesterday that he never said there was any secret deal. And he never said the Saudis’ plans were explicitly linked to an effort to reelect Bush.

    Specifically:

    But on CNN’s “Larry King Live” last night, Woodward explained that he never suggested that there was any covert deal.

    As CNN reports: “The charge that Saudi Arabia made a secret pact with President Bush to lower gasoline prices in time to help him in the November presidential election was denied Monday by the White House, the Saudi ambassador to the United States - and even by journalist Bob Woodward, who raised the specter of such a quid pro quo in a book released Monday.

    “‘I don’t say there’s a secret deal or any collaboration on this,’ Woodward told CNN’s ‘Larry King Live’ Monday. ‘What I say in the book is that the Saudis . . . hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That’s what I say.’

    “The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who appeared on the program with Woodward, said his characterization of Saudi policy was ‘accurate.’”

    The WaPo piece has the quotes from the 60 Minutes interview, which spawned the mini-controversy, and the the transcript from the Larry King Live appearance.

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    Kerry Releases Records

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:13 am

    Kerry Campaign Posts Navy Records Online.

    Hopefully this will put to rest all of this treasure-hunting in 30-plus-year-old military records. And, quite frankly, those who are looking for a way to impugn Kerry’s war record by over-analyzing his Purple Hearts should just give it a rest. It is a petty exercise and hardly constitutes an argument for why Kerry shouldn’t be President.

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    Tuesday, April 20, 2004
    Woes of Modernity

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:15 pm

    The power goes out for 2 minutes and you then spend 15 minutes resetting all the clocks, VCRs, and misc appliances.

    And I would like to meet the Y2K-obsessed dweeb who designed my microwave-which won’t work until the freakin’ date is entered (and with, of course, all four digits for the year).

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    Take the Tagorda Challenge

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:20 pm

    Robert Tagorda has a request:

    Here’s what I genuinely want to know: has a liberal (or, for that matter, disillusioned conservative) blogger made the case for the Kerry plan? If so, please notify me. I want to figure out whether I truly understand his positions and whether they’re better than those of the administration.

    I, for one, hope that Robert finds what he’s after, as I would like to read such writings as well. Indeed, I would like to see a description of Kerry’s plan that goes beyond 1) it won’t be headed by Bush and 2) we will get more international help if Kerry is President. If one looks at the Kerry web site, it is hard to argue that the listed position paper says much more than: “Kerry will get more international help” and “Kerry will be better at Iraq policy than Bush has been” (I always love formulations like this: “Launch a Diplomatic Strategy that will Work"-as we all know that policy-makers normally launch policies that won’t work on purpose). Indeed, the four points on the Kerry Plan are: 1) He will better inform the American people, 2) He will send more troops, if needed, 3) He will be better than Bush at diplomacy, 4) He will use international help to guarantee stability and elections in Iraq, and 5) He will convince NATO to help out. Does this really constitute a clear vision on what is arguably the most significant policy issue of this election? This reminds me of 2002, when the Democratic Party’s strategy was essentially to say “we will do better than the Republicans, so elect us” sans a clear vision-and I think that that is the main reason Bush was the first President in forever to gain seats in both Houses of Congress in a mid-term election.

    As I have noted before, I find it extremely unlikely that a Kerry presidency will be better at getting broader international help than has a Bush administration. Ask yourself: which NATO country is currently chomping at the bit to help but can’t bring themselves to do so because they simply don’t trust Bush? Further: what exactly will the UN actually be able to do in the current situation?

    Indeed, as Robert notes:

    If Kerry is president in 2005, that means the old president was defeated by bad news from Iraq. What signal will that election loss send to other foreign leaders?

    At any rate: take the Tagorda Challenge and show him someone who is defending the Kerry position (and not just slamming the Bush Doctrine) or, take the Taylor Challenge and tell me what Kerry’s Iraq policy is (aside from “I’ll do better than Bush").

    UPDATE: This is my entry in today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

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    Incumbency has Advantages

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:57 am

    In TV Coverage, Kerry Runs a Deficit

    When President Bush delivered a routine stump speech to a group of New Mexico homeowners on March 26, CNN and Fox News each carried his appearance for 35 minutes, and MSNBC for 33 minutes.

    When John Kerry gave what was billed as a major address on national security at George Washington University on March 17, he was knocked off the screen by a large explosion in Baghdad. CNN and Fox each dropped Kerry (who had been reduced to small box) after three minutes, and MSNBC never picked him up. But as the Iraq coverage continued, all three networks carried Vice President Cheney in California attacking Kerry as weak on national security - Fox for 28 minutes, MSNBC for 23 and CNN for 13.

    In the daily battle for airtime, Bush has drawn more than three times as much live cable coverage as his Democratic challenger, yet another example of the advantages of incumbenc

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    Poll Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

    Poll: Bush support holds despite Iraq, 9/11 hearings

    President Bush has maintained his lead over Democrat John Kerry in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll despite two weeks dominated by a deteriorating security situation in Iraq and criticism of his administration’s handling of the terrorism threat before the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush ahead 50% to 44% among likely voters, a bit wider than the 4-point lead he held in early April.

    While it is still far too early to say that these numbers mean much about November, but they do say something about now. It is interesting that given the rather intense criticism that the administration has experienced in the last several months that the numbers are where they are.

    I do think this bespeaks of the uphill battle that faces Kerry. One would expect Kerry to be leading BUsh in the short-term given the aforementioned criticism and the fact that Kerry remains something of an unknown, which would allow voters to project onto him whatever they wish.

    Additional numbers from the story:

    The president’s job-approval rating was steady at 52%.

    […]

    A Zogby poll taken over the weekend showed Kerry ahead, 47% to 44%, virtually unchanged from its findings in early April.

    And this is especially interesting, given the 911 Commission coverage, the brouhaha over Clarke’s testimony/book, and especially the increased violence in Iraq:

    The survey illustrates Bush’s strong edge over Kerry when it comes to national security. By 2-to-1, voters say only Bush, not Kerry, would do a good job in handling terrorism. By nearly as much, 40% to 26%, they say only Bush would do a good job in handling the situation in Iraq. Bush’s approval rating on handling terrorism is a muscular 60%.

    The economy continues to be a weakness for the President, however:

    By 36% to 30%, those surveyed say only Kerry would do a good job in handling the economy. A 52% majority disapprove of the job Bush is doing on the economy.

    Asked which issue was most important in determining their vote, 39% of likely voters say the economy, 28% terrorism and 22% Iraq.

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    By What Measure?

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:48 am

    Rantisi Killing Boosts Hamas’ Popularity

    Hamas has become more secretive and strapped for cash, but also more popular as a result of Israel’s attempt to crush the group, including the assassination of two leaders in a month.

    1) The event just happened, so I am not sure we know the full effects yet, 2) if they are “strapped for cash” doesn’t that beg the question of how popular they are, and 3) by what measure does the reporter assess this new found popularity?

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Popular Terrorists
    Monday, April 19, 2004
    PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:55 pm

    This is from yesterday’s Birmingham News: more tales from Alabama:

    My Whiskey Rebellion

    There is some profoundly symbolical and intensely disturbing about the fact that the Alabama State Legislature has the time and energy not only to pass a resolution declaring a state spirit, but further the gumption needed to override the Governor’s veto of that resolution.

    I rarely write out of pure frustration, but the State Legislature is constantly luring me in that direction, and this latest example of legislative myopia has raised my hackles. Now, my ire derives not from the fact that Legislature is celebrating an alcoholic beverage, or even that it is endorsing a commercial product-two of the more prominent objections to this resolution. No, my discontentedness stems from the fact that the Legislature hasn’t had time to adequately deal with more important measure, such as the various accountability measures proposed by the Governor, not to mention the structure problems of the state’s fiscal health.

    Time to deal with pressing matters of need in the state? Not so much. Time to address the clear message sent by the voters last year by the defeat of Amendment One? Nope. Time to vote multiple times on the question of the Official State Whiskey? Sure, plenty of time for that.

    No wonder most of the citizens of this state treat the State Legislature as a thing from another world.

    Indeed, given that some of the favorite imagery in anti-Montgomery TV commercials includes the swilling of adult beverages by cigar smoking politicians, this all fits right in. I suppose the pattern can be completed by adopting an Official State Cigar.

    The part that is especially galling is that our legislators seem unaware of the way they are viewed, nor do they appear to care. And more disturbing than that is the fact that the citizens of our state largely ignore the legislature as a sideshow act.

    Now, on the one hand, this is the type of rank silliness one expects from legislative bodies. It’s the kind of thing that gets resolutions passed in the U.S. Congress declaring “National Marina Day” (August 9, 2003) or “National Inventors Day” (February 11, 2003). For that matter, constituent promotion is an expected outcome of legislative democracy, and had the official spirit vote occurred in the context of an otherwise productive legislative session, I suspect my reaction would have been less intense. However, given that it unclear how we, as a state, are going to respond to the looming budget crisis, and given that the legislature has passed on even debating such issues as altering the Legislative Immunity Clause in the constitution, and a consideration to move the state’s presidential primary out of obscurity in June to a more relevant date, among other issues, one begins to wonder if the State Legislature really cares much about the actual problems of the state.

    There is a vicious catch-22 going on here. First, the citizens are largely jaded about the efficacy of the government, so they pay it less attention than it deserves. Second, when the Legislature, or state government generally, does something newsworthy it is typically along the lines of this whiskey resolution or about the various ways that state institutions either do not function properly, or waste funds. As a result citizens become less and less engaged in the process, and as that happens legislators become even less accountable.

    We suffer under an unwieldy, archaic constitution, face continual budget crises, and rank towards the bottom of all meaningful education rankings It would seem that if the legislature has time to debate official state spirits, and then have the time needed to override a gubernatorial veto, then they might, just might, have time for more pressing needs as well. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Look for band-aid to treat the gaping wounds in our budget, and a handful of stopgap measures that simply kick the state’s problems down the road.

    The voters in our state have to wake and recognize that the power to change this nonsense actually belongs to us. We are the collective boss of state government. The problem is that it is difficult to initiate the collective action needed to get the legislature’s attention-and the only way to do that is start firing people. New blood is clearly needed in Montgomery across the board.

    It is a cliché, but it is true: we expect more from the coaches of the various sports programs at our universities than we do from the legislature. Lose in football and basketball, lose your job. Do nothing in the legislature, keep your job. There is something radically wrong about this juxtaposition.

    I will say this for the people’s representatives in Montgomery: they did manage to acquire some publicity for the state. During the “Weekend Update” segment of the April 11th episode of Saturday Night Live, Alabama’s new spirit was the subject of a joke. Which, not coincidentally, is what the state legislature is acting like these days.

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    Kondiments for the Kampaign

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:48 pm

    Sean Hackbarth has the latest House of Kethcup for your reading pleasure.

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    More on Foreign Leaders and Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:19 pm

    More from the Kerry interview on MTP:

    RUSSERT: Specifically, which foreign leaders have you met with who told you that you should beat George Bush?

    SEN. KERRY: Tim, first of all, that is an inaccurate assessment of how I might or where I might be able to meet or talk to a foreign leader, number one.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you have talked to foreign leaders who told you…

    SEN. KERRY: Number-Tim, what I said is true. I mean, you can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader. There are plenty of places to meet people without traveling abroad. Number two, I’m under no obligation-I would be stupid if I were to sit here and start saying, “Well, so-and-so told me this,” because they have dealings with this administration. This administration doesn’t talk about its private conversations, and nor will I. I invite you, I invite The Washington Times editorial, go to European, go to foreign capitals, travel in the world. Talk to any American businessman who has been abroad, talk to any of our colleagues who’ve traveled abroad, and the conversations they’ve had. Never has the United States of America been held in as low a regard internationally-and polls have shown this-as we are today. We’re not trusted and this administration is not liked.

    MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by your statement, you met with foreign leaders who told you…

    SEN. KERRY: I stand by my statement.

    Again, he stands by the statement by saying he won’t say who he is talking about. And you have to love the restaurant line.

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    Ouch

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

    Writes Joe Klein of Time in his latest column:

    Kerry’s may be the most sclerotic presidential campaign since Bob Dole’s.

    The stodginess is compounded by the Senator’s public performances. In an effort to seem positive, he has removed the “Bring It On” red meat from his stump speech and replaced it with Spam. It is not uncommon to see audiences leaving his fund-raising events in droves while he is still speaking.

    And lest ye are unfamiliar with Klein, he is no Bush booster, to put it mildly.

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    April the 19th

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:50 am

    Kathy Kinsley reminded me in this post that today is a rather significant date.

    She specifically notes that today is the ninth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.

    It is also the following:

  • The Branch Davidian stand-off came to its catastrophic end on this date in 1993.
  • The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba ended in failure on 4/19/61.
  • Alleged electoral fraud on April 19, 1970 led to the formation of the now-demobilized Colombian guerrilla group, the M-19 (Movement of April the 19th).

    More events on this date here.

    And tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of Columbine and is also Hitler’s birthday.

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    More Nuance?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:20 am

    Via this NYT story, Kerry Backs Off Statements on Vietnam War, we have the following from Kerry’s MTP interview.:

    Senator John Kerry on Sunday distanced himself from contentious statements he made three decades ago after returning from the Vietnam War, saying his long-ago use of the word “atrocities” to describe his and others’ actions was inappropriate and “a little bit excessive.”

    “If you wanted to ask me, `Have you ever made mistakes in your life?’ sure,” Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an hourlong interview on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger.”

    OK, so he’s backing off his statements, right?

    Well, perhaps not:

    “The words were honest,” Mr. Kerry said Sunday, “but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top.”

    So, which is it: did troops commit atrocities and break the laws of war or not?

    What is he backing off of? His delivery?

    As usual, it is difficult to figure out what the Senator’s position is. I am more than willing to give him something of a pass on things he said over 30 years ago-indeed, I have written very little about about the things he said then-but I think he does have to explain whether he holds the same positions now or not. He made some rather dramatic accusations at the time, and he does have to explain himself, I would argue-especially since he said, at the time, that he himself had engaged in acts that could be defined as war crimes.

    Indeed, the following from the MTP Transcript for April 18 is rather interesting, given the way that Kerry does not directly answer Russert’s questions.

    First, there is videotape of Kerry on MTP in 1971, with some rather dramatic accusations:

    (Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, April 18, 1971):

    MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

    (End videotape)

    Then comes the interchange between Kerry and Russert. Note the rather direct question (indeed, statement) by Russert and note Kerry’s attempt at humor, but more importantly the fact that he never answers the question:

    MR. RUSSERT: You committed atrocities.

    SEN. KERRY: Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me. You know, I
    thought a lot, for a long time, about that period of time, the things we said, and I think the word is a bad word. I think it’s an inappropriate word. I mean, if you wanted to ask me have you ever made mistakes in your life, sure. I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger. It was honest, but it was in anger, it was a little bit excessive.

    MR. RUSSERT: You used the word “war criminals.”

    SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don’t like it when I hear it today. I don’t like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn’t talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier-I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I’m not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way.

    So “atrocities” and “war criminals” are honest, but just over the top. Pardon?

    It continues:

    MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the winter soldiers meeting and you said that people had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, and in hindsight was your testimony…

    SEN. KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

    MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

    SEN. KERRY: A lot of those stories have been documented. Have some been discredited? Sure, they have, Tim. The problem is that’s not where the focus should have been. And, you know, when you’re angry about something and you’re young, you know, you’re perfectly capable of not-I mean, if I had the kind of experience and time behind me that I have today, I’d have framed some of that differently. Needless to say, I’m proud that I stood up. I don’t want anybody to think twice about it. I’m proud that I took the position that I took to oppose it. I think we saved lives, and I’m proud that I stood up at a time when it was important to stand up, but I’m not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times.

    He essentially wants to have it both ways: yes, I was right in 1971, but I am right now to say that I was too angry in 1971. Indeed he seems to be saying that the words “war crime” and “atrocity” simply shouldn’t be used, even though he believes that war crimes and atrocities wer committed,

    This kind of inability to stake out clear ground on issues, let alone his own past, is going to be a major problem for Kerry. He knows that being perceived as overly nuanced, a flip-flopper, a waffler, etc.., is one of his key weaknesses (or, at least, you’d think he would) and yet he seems incapable of overcoming his tendency to speak in the grammar of non-commitment.

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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #8
    • Fringe linked with Nuanced Kerry
    Getting the Message Out

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:51 am

    A commenter at OTB notes something that is easily forgotten when trying to determine what the vast majority of Iraqis think and want in the face of the current violence, and that is that they likely are remaining more passive than the coalition might like, but they have reason to do so: 1991. When we left, and they rose up, Saddam quashed them with violence and malice. Saddam may be gone, but those currently fomenting violence in Iraq are cut from the same cloth, and if we leave prematurely-something many in Iraq likely fear-then these insurgents will be the rulers of Iraq, and they won’t treat gently with those who aided us.

    James’ main post, which generated the above-referenced comment is worth reading as well. It derives from a William Raspberry column about what the President should have said last week. I’m with James in expressing some frustration with the fact that these are things that the President has said, often repeatedly, but many in the commentariat continue to act as if he hasn’t said any of it. However, it is clear that, for whatever reason, that the message has not fully penetrated the public consciousness, which is ultimately the President’s responsibility.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Getting the Message Out
    That Might be Tricky

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:03 am

    Kerry: Bush needs to give U.N. “real authority” in Iraq

    Does the following actually qualify as a policy?

    Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that if elected he would commit additional U.S. troops if necessary to stabilize the violence-torn nation, but also would offer the United Nations a more substantial role in an attempt to induce more countries to contribute forces and financial support.

    I continue to fail to see how just asking more nicely, or giving the UN a greater role (which it is rather uncler how much they want one, or, more importantly, what they would do with one) would “induce” greater international cooperation. This strikes me as patently incorrect. It is clear that the powers who don’t want to be involved now will not want to be involved in the future just because of a UN imprimatur.

    While one can argue that Bush isn’t making his case about his policies, I think it is difficult to assert that Kerry is making any kind of case at all for his alleged policy. In short it seems that is solution continues to simply be internationalization, but aside from the idea that giving the UN more power is a magic solution, and the idea that foreign leaders will like him better than they like Bush, he hasn’t spelled out anything that approaches realistic.

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    Sunday, April 18, 2004
    A Few Questions

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:52 pm

    1) If man is so smart, why didn’t he learn a long time ago to like the easily-grown weeds and learn to detest the difficult to grow plants?

    2) If man indeed is a being who evolved from lower forms, why didn’t natural selection kill off the nice-plant lovers, leaving the folks with the weed aesthetic as the dominant form of homo sapien? Surely the guys out working in the yard die sooner than those who don’t. Just the increased chances of being bitten by a snake or being impaled on a garden implement has to give weedo sapien a leg up on shuerberyo sapien.

    3) If dog is really man’s best friend, why can’t they kill the weeds and leave the good plants alone?

    (can you guess what I did this afternoon?)

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    Sending the Wrong Message

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:40 pm

    Prime Minister Orders Spanish Pullout from Iraq

    Spain’s new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sunday he had given orders for Spain’s 1,300 troops in Iraq (news - web sites) to be brought home as soon as possible.

    The announcement, made in a televised speech, came just one day after Zapatero was sworn in after the Socialists’ upset victory in March 14 general elections.

    Although I will concede that he is doing what he said he would when he was a candidate

    While I don’t quite take the “this is same as Chamberlain” line, I do think think it sends to wrong signal at a critical juncture in the conflict with global terrorist.

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    • Insults Unpunished linked with The New Europe
    Blog Ads for Campaigns

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:07 pm

    Here’s a WaPo piece on something we al, no doubt, noticed months ago: Some Candidates Turn To Blogs to Place Ads.

    The bigs get mentioned (Kos, Atrios, Talking Points Memo, LGF, InstaP and Right Wing News), as does the Kos brouhaha over the four slain American contract workers.

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    Hamas

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:47 am

    I must confess that I have a hard time criticizing Israel for adopting a policy of targeting and taking out the leaders of an organization whose stated policy goals are the elimination of Israel. Certainly it would be hypocritical of the US to do anything but accept this policy move by the Israelis, given our own policies towards al Qaeda, for example.

    There can be no doubt that the assassination of Rantisi will result in a likely short-term escalation, or, at least, a retaliation by Hamas. However, it isn’t like there is going to be a negotiated solution with Hamas. From the perspective of either Hamas itself, or the Israeli government, I am not sure how the relationship can be defined as anything but war.

    Indeed, from Hamas’ own web site we find the following from their statement of purpose:

    [Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: “Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.”

    […]

    There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.

    One has to admit, that leaves little room for a peaceful solution.

    Those outside of Palestine who decry the attack, and the view of the conflict as war, will point to the fact that Hamas has engaged in social policy in Gaza, as noted in this CNN story: Hamas: A study in contrast. All well and good: Hamas has built schools. Not getting into issues of curriculum for the moment, and whether or not said school help to create militants for the future, it is noteworthy that the building of schools hardly balances off the practice of suicide bombings. The Nazis had school and Stalin built hospitals. I don’t think either fact produced sufficient karma, shall we say, to balance off their other murderous endeavors. If Hamas wants to aid the social welfare of Palestinians, all well and good-then do so and stop the madness of sending their members across the border with bombs strapped to them so that they can kill unsuspecting civilians at bus stops and pizza parlors.

    More on Hamas:

  • MSNBC had the following story on a rally by Rantisi on April 16th: Hamas leader: Bush is enemy of God, Islam.
  • The BBC has the following profile of the group from 2000.
  • Here’s the Hamas profile from the Naval Postgraduate School.
  • Hamas’ web site: HAMAS - HAMASONLINE - Islamic Resistance Movement - HAMAS.

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    Saturday, April 17, 2004
    No Doubt

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:01 pm

    Bush Adviser Regrets ‘Mission Accomplished’ Banner

    It does go to show that you never know how things will play out. At the time the Democrats were all calling foul because they thought the images would make great commercials for Bush.

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    Ya Gotta Luv the Disgruntled

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:00 pm

    I Don’t Want a Cookie, Mom, Can I Just See the Box?
    Biscuit makers Huntley & Palmers sold thousands of tins of treats featuring a copy of an early 20th century illustration of a genteel picnic - without realizing that a disgruntled employee had hidden sexually explicit drawings in the scene.

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    That Didn’t Take Long

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:56 pm

    Hamas Leader Killed in Israeli Strike

    An Israeli missile strike killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi as he rode in his car Saturday evening, hospital officials said. Rantisi’s son Mohammed and a bodyguard were also killed in the attack.

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    Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:25 am

    I’m heading back to AlaPSA, and so no blogging. And again, no Toast-O-Meter this week.

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    Friday, April 16, 2004
    I’m Tired Already…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

    And it isn’t from the conference…

    I can already tell where we are going with this: New Book Says Bush Asked for Iraq War Plan in 2001, i.e., the new Woodward book. The pro-Bush types won’t see the alarm in the idea that Bush wanted an updated Iraq invasion plan, and the anti-Bush types will scream that here’s more proof that the President was obsessed with Iraq to the exclusion of doing what was necessary about al Qaeda.

    Plus, there will be plenty of Cheney and CIA bashing to boot.

    I can hardly wait…

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    Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:21 am

    No blogging until perhaps this evening and limited blogging tomorrow. I am abut to head out to the 2004 Meeting of the Alabama Political Science Association, being held at Auburn this year.

    Also: no Toast-O-Meter this week.

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    Iraqi Nuclear-Related Material in European Scrap Yards?!?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 am

    From WaPo: Iraqi Nuclear Gear Found in Europe

    Large amounts of nuclear-related equipment, some of it contaminated, and a small number of missile engines have been smuggled out of Iraq for recycling in European scrap yards, according to the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and other U.N. diplomats.

    Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the U.N. Security Council in a letter that U.N. satellite photos have detected “the extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings” from sites that had been subject to U.N. monitoring before the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

    […]

    Evidence of the illicit import of nuclear-related material surfaced in January after a small quantity of “yellowcake” uranium oxide was discovered in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam’s harbor. The company that purchased the shipment, Jewometaal, detected radioactive material in the container and informed the Dutch government, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the company told the news agency that a Jordanian scrap dealer who sent the shipment believed the yellowcake came from Iraq.

    Rather interesting.

    Several things come to mind:

    1) Why hasn’t this gotten more press?

    2) How could whole buildings be smuggled out with out someone in the coalition noticing?

    3) If this much volume has been smuggled out, has anything else been moved out?

    4) Doesn’t this suggest WMD programs?

    5) If the IEAE knew about the sites, was there anything there that had violated the UN resolutions?

    Hat tip: Dean Esmay.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Nucular-Related Equipment
    Moronic Radio

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

    Mindless Dreck over at Asymmetrical Information notes a lovely quote by Donald Trump on the Stern show this morning and whilst exercising this morning I saw and heard Imus make the statement that “Sharon, Rumsfeld and al-Sadr” should all be put before a “firing squad.” I guess he has been reading St. Petersburg Democratic Club’s ads.

    Yeesh.

    What are they putting in the warer in NYC these days?

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    Inane Blogging Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

    From Robert Tagorda via Pejman, which I traced back to Long story; short pier, comes the following challenge:

    1. Grab the nearest book.
    2. Open the book to page 23.
    3. Find the fifth sentence.
    4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

    Well, the nearest book to where I am sitting is a manuscript I am reviewing, and the fifth sentence reads:

    “Compared to the three primary cases of coalition, these are less developed, less influential, and more episodic.”

    Exciting, yes?

    The nearest actually published book in the Bible, which produces:

    “Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Labanm “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country.”

    That would be Genesis 30:35.

    Just slightly farther away are a ton of books on Colombian political violence, which may have resulted in a more entertaining sentence.

    At any rate: take the challenge!

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    • Ipse Dixit linked with Time Waster
    • Maybe I Think Too Much linked with The newest meme
    More on Gorelick and the Wall

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 am

    Robert Tagorda has an excellent post on Gorelick over at Priorities & Frivolities. I had meant to note it yesterday, but wasn’t at the computer much at all yesterday evening.

    At any rate, he notes the following testament that Gorelick gave to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 10/25/95:

    The resulting overlap in the concerns and activities of the intelligence and law enforcement communities has prompted some people to suggest that we should simply merge the two communities in an effort to achieve greater efficiency in the fight against international crime. We believe this would be a serious mistake. There are ample reasons, grounded in history and constitutional principles, to maintain a clear demarcation between the missions and authorities of the two communities. Nevertheless, given the increasing threat that international crime poses to our national security and domestic tranquility, we clearly must develop new methods to improve the coordination and operation between the two communities so that each is able to perform its functions as efficiently and effectively as possible, consistent with the Constitution and existing statutes and Executive Orders. This is one of the central challenges we in law enforcement and in the intelligence community face today.

    As Robert noted in a comment to one of my posts yesterday, while Gorelick did not create “The Wall", she does bear a great deal of responsibility in strengthening it, or, as I heard on TV several times this morning made it “higher and thicker".

    Clearly this wall made it difficult to connect those now infamous dots. Those seeking to understand our counter-terrorism failures have to look long and hard at the Wall. Further, those who are certain that the USA Patriot Act is nothing less than the greatest threat to US civil liberties ever devised should note that if the Patriot Act is allowed to wholly expire, parts of the Wall get put back into place.

    Also, I would note, that those who think that the Bush administration could have done something dramatic and effective as a result of the 8/6/01 PDB should consider the current criticisms of the Patriot Act and consider the hue and cry that would have emerged had Bush proposed anything remotely like it pre-911.

    And, I agree with Robert-a key issue here is less the idea of blaming Gorelick as it is why the press, and indeed, the 911 Commission itself, is not more intensely dealing with this issue, which is a clear example of established policy that hampered domestic counter-terrorism. This is a far more concrete area for investigation than speculating about how some piece of data should have been interpreted pre-911.

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    Thursday, April 15, 2004
    Hindsight Bias

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:02 pm

    Megan McArdle has an excellent post on Hindsight Bias from a couple days ago.

    The concept is defined as follows:

    Robert Schiller has an excellent quote on the subject in his book, Irrational Exuberance:
    The reason for overconfidence may also have to do with hindsight bias, a tendency to think that one would have known actual events were coming before they happened, had one been present then or had reason to pay attention. Hindsight bias encourages a view of the world as more predictable than it really is.
    Investors who succumb to hindsight bias, or managers who manage by it-or voters who vote on it-get significantly worse outcomes than those who fight it; it leaves them prone to making mistakes, because they put too great a faith in their powers of judgement.

    This leads to the following fair question and assessment:

    You’re George Bush in August 2001. Tell me, specifically, what you would have done based on that memo, that would have a reasonable chance of apprehending the hijackers. “Put the government on alert” is glaringly insufficient. The memo says that Al Qaeda may want to hijack an airplane to secure the release of militants, or that it may aim to make some sort of attack in Washington. Given that you do not know which of these, if either, is true, nor when, where, or how the attack will come; given that the “chatter” to which opponents of Mr Bush like to refer has more often not presaged an attack (as we have seen with the numerous “Orange Alerts” and so forth); and given that any measures you take will be expensive and anger some subset of the population, what do you do? If your answers include, with astonishing foresight, such unprecedented things as strip searching passengers on domestic flights or ordering pilots not to open cockpit doors even after hijackers have begun killing passengers, please explain which of the tens of thousands of domestic flights taking off in the United States each day you plan to target; where you will get the extra personnel to do so; how you will respond when the ACLU and the airlines get a preliminary injunction against you for flagrantly violating passengers’ civil rights; how you plan to sell the massive delays to the millions of angry passengers; what you are going to do about the inevitable Democratic charges of racial profiling; and how long you plan to keep this up, given that you have no idea whether an attack is due this week, this year, or at all? You must also include a section explaining what you are going to do about the North Korea expert shouting in your ear that you really need to pay attention to this intelligence saying that crazy Cousin Kim may have nukes.

    In short, unless you’re the kind of genius who manages your own small affairs with 20/20 foresight, this sort of blame game strikes me as pure partisan grandstanding. And if we cannot remove the taint of partisanship from the 9/11 commission, at least we can expect better of ourselves, and our commentariat, than to crassly exploit those tragic events for electoral advantage. Some things are just more important than scoring a win for the team.

    Indeed.

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    “The Wall”

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:44 pm

    Two issues about “The Wall” worth noting:

  • “Ashcroft, at Tuesday’s hearing, conceded under questioning by Commissioner Slade Gorton, a former Republican senator from Washington state, that his own deputy attorney general, Larry Thompson, had renewed the terms of the Gorelick memo in August 2001.”
  • “Gorelick told CNN yesterday that she will not resign. “The wall was a creature of statute. It’s existed since the mid-1980s,” she said.”

    It just seems fair to note that 1) the Bush administration did not seek to change the guidlelines, and that 2) Gorelick is correct that she is not the creator of the basic rules in question.

    Source: WaPo

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    This Would Certainly Hamper Policy Formulation

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:38 pm

    Al Qaeda Unchecked for Years, Panel Says

    U.S. intelligence services failed to recognize the emergence of the al Qaeda terrorist network until more than a decade after it was founded in 1988, playing down a tide of reports that documented the danger posed by the group, according to findings released yesterday by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    The CIA’s Counterterrorist Center never developed a plan to deal with the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as weapons despite growing evidence during the 1990s that terrorist groups had attempted or were planning such plots, the commission’s staff also found.

    CIA Director George J. Tenet acknowledged yesterday that he did not brief President Bush, FBI leaders or Cabinet members after he was informed in late August 2001 of the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, who would later be charged as a conspirator in the terror attacks. The briefing for Tenet was titled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.”

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    Hmm

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:42 am

    Really, I don’t normally look to corporations, let alone fast food joints, for my lifetyle advice…

    McDonald’s Launches Anti-Obesity Campaign

    McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest fast-food company, on Thursday launched an anti-obesity education campaign that it said would promote the importance of exercise and a balanced lifestyle.

    Translation: don’t blame us if you’re fat.

    Can you “please don’t sue us"? I bet you can.

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    An Interesting Juxtaposition

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:31 am

    Kerry to Intensify Advertising Effort

    and

    Bush Camp Scales Back Advertising

    I am not prepared to assign meaning at this point, however.

    From the Kerry piece comes the bottom line, however:

    “A lot of people don’t really know who I am,” Kerry told party donors Thursday at a breakfast fund raiser in New York.

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    Tax Day Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    No, the lackof blogging today isn’t because I am still doing my taxes-indeed, they were done a while back. Rather, the lack of electricty at my house this morning made blogging difficult, not to mention caused me to run a tad late.

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    Wednesday, April 14, 2004
    Kerry Needs a New Iraq Policy

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 pm

    King of Fools has quotes from Kerry, Kofi Anan and Bush on Iraq. As he notes, the contrast is rather stark.

    What especially stuck me is that Kerry states that what we need is “full partnership with the U.N.” while Kofi Anan states that there is little chance that the UN will be sending a large team to Iraq in the near future due to the violence. As James Joyner noted the other day, that “U” often stands for useless, unless we are talking about things like humanitarian aid or as a mediating body. However, I have a hard time seeing the UN being all that helpful as a “full partner” in Iraq. And Kofi seems to agree with me. That would seem to put Kerry’s vaunted alternative Iraq policy into something of a quandary. Indeed, I have always thought this idea that a new president could ask nicer than Bush and get all this international help to be a farcical position, and now it is clear that it won’t be happening any time soon even if there is a new President, so Senator Kerry needs to formulate a new plan pronto.

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    Avoiding Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:06 pm

    Bryan of Arguing with Gashlycrumbs has decided that his third post after eschewing politics for while should be the rather bland topic of religion and, more specifically, the utterly noncontroversial film recently producer by that guy from the Mad Max flicks.

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    Drum on the Gorelick Revelation

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:09 pm

    Not surprisingly, Kevin Drum ain’t impressed with Ashcroft’s revelation about the Gorelick memo:

    The fact that Ashcroft was so pleased with himself makes it obvious that he declassified this memo for the sole purpose of embarrassing Gorelick, an action that continues a Bush administration pattern of casually declassifying anything that helps their political cause but refusing to declassify anything that might hurt them.

    Now, I will agree that the way Ashcroft noted the memo was clearly a “gotcha” aimed at Gorelick, and, further, that the administration engages in the politics of advantage in regards to some, if not many, of its decisions to release information. As such that just proves that the administration is populated by politicians, not unlike, well, all administrations. Still, I am not going to say that they Bush administration does everything simply in a quest for Truth.

    However, Kevin’s response, to some degree like Matthew Yglesias’ which I blogged on earlier today, vexes me, given that Gorelick’s memo is clearly quite relevant to the important to the 911 Commission’s work. It is clear that to understand 911 we have to understand how the FBI and CIA operated specifically on the issue of counter-terrorism. This memo is very much about the rules that bound the actions of those institutions and the culture of both pre-911. To pretend that the memo is just the Bush administration playing politics and therefore to ignore the significance of its contents, is to say that one really doesn’t want to understand why 911 happened, and how to prevent such attacks in the future, but rather one simply hopes that the commission damages the Bush administration.

    The Gorelick memo is whole lot more important than how much time Bush spent in the Alabama Air National Guard, for example.

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    The Gorelick Memo

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:50 pm

    NRO has the Gorelick memo here in PDF format.

    I have read over it and it is clear that this type of approach made “connecting the dots” rather difficult.

    Clearly pre-911 we simply were nowhere near a war footing and it took the horrific events of that day to change mindsets.

    I really do think that that those were righteously indignant about the PDB ought, for consistency’s sake, be outraged about this as well.

    And, I would note, I am not pointing a finger at Gorelick. I am noting that it is clearly the case that in out desire not to taint criminal investigations that we hampered ourselves in the areas that would have helped us figure out 911 prior to the attacks. To simply blame to Bush administration is to miss the broader picture as a result of partisan myopia.

    I will comment more fully on the document later.

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    TAM on the Blame Game

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:43 pm

    Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind has a very nice post on the 911 commission that is worth a read

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    A Bipartisan Fashion Comment

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:31 pm

    Since in my prior post I gave Matthew Yglesias a hard time, I will say that I agree with him about the tie.

    The President clearly needed a haircut and a diffierent tie.

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    Remembering the Reason for the Commission

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:30 pm

    Matthew Yglesias responds to those (which I would count myself, I suppose) who are somewhat incredulous that while the Blogosphere and the press went ga-ga over the PDB, there isn’t a commensurate interest in the Gorelick memo/the whole “wall” bit:

    One of the difficulties I think a lot of people on the right have in grasping what’s going on at the 9/11 Commission is that Bill Clinton isn’t running for president. I have no interest - not even a partisan interest - in denying that Clinton and his appointees messed up in a variety of ways. Not even a partisan interest, let me say again, because Bill Clinton isn’t running for president. My interest as a patriotic American is purely in bringing the facts to light so we can make changes for the better. My partisan interest is, especially, in bringing to light facts that reflect poorly on George W. Bush and his appointees - the various ways in which they disimproved on the inadequate Clinton-era set-up.

    So, again, Bill Clinton not running for president.

    The emphasis is his, by the way.

    Now, I agree that there are many on the right who have had (and still have) an unhealthy fixation concerning President Clinton. And, yes, some are interested in simply finding a way to blame Clinton. This is, of course, not the point of the commission, nor should it be. However, if indeed, as Matthew states, the goal here is to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, the it strikes me that the Gorelick memo and any and all policies that made it difficult for the FBI and CIA to communicate on issues of anti-terror policy, especially potential domestic attacks. However, what Matthew seems to be saying, is that since Bush is up for re-election, then having the panel and commentators behave in a partisan manner is acceptable. I do understand that part of his point is that since Bush is up to re-hired or fired that his behavior in office is more significance in the short term than was Clinton’s. However, again, if the goal is find out what went wrong, why and therefore what to do about it, it seems that the eight years of the Clinton administration are rather vital to the work of the commission, and that an over-focus on the eight months of the Bush administration simply because he is running for President means that adequate information isn’t be gathered and that analysis could therefore end up overly focusing on the too small a slice of time and policy.

    Yes, the information gleaned by this commission will have potentially dramatic effects on Bush’s re-election, and rightfully so. However, the purpose of the commission is not to help us figure out whether Bush should be re-elected or not; its purpose is to tell us why we didn’t learn about the planes flying into the WTC until after they had hit. As such, to weight the analysis, commentary and focus to the Bush administration just because he is running for re-election and Clinton isn’t is to allow partisan filters to dominate a process that really ought to be nonpartisan.

    Further, I am not sure that is has been demonstrated that the Bush administraton “disimproved on the inadequate Clinton-era set-up"-indeed, to establish the degree to which the Bush administration may have doen thing worse than the Clinton folks requires a thoroughly examination of both administrations.

    UPDATE: This post is parked in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    I Just Find the Headline Amusing

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:10 pm

    Chubby, Barefoot Man Outruns Police

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    Intra-Governmental Communications

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:09 pm

    Tenet: U.S. is 5 years from proper intelligence

    The CIA, FBI and the State and Defense departments all kept databases, but “none were interoperable or broadly accessible.”

    “Most profoundly, we lacked a government-wide capability to integrate foreign and domestic knowledge, data, operations and analysis. Warning is not good enough without the structure to put it into action,” Tenet said.

    Tenet said that intelligence officials were not able to turn their knowledge of the threat into an “effective defense of the country.”

    “Doing so would have complicated the terrorist calculation of the difficulties in succeeding in a vast open society, that in effect, was unprotected on September 11th,” Tenet said.

    We knew this over a year ago, but it is worth noting again. Since the only way to thwart an ongoing operation in the US to gather the right information and then analyze it correctly,. it is clear that the federal government was woefully incapable of doing what needed to be done.

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    Gorelick III/"The Wall”

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

    Intelligence Sharing: Rule Created Legal ‘Wall’ to Sharing Information

    The wall, which has since been demolished by a special appeals court ruling, was part of a body of law that was little known to the public. It involved secret testimony and decisions by a special federal court that ruled on the requests of government investigators to install wiretaps or other listening devices on people suspected of being involved in espionage. The 1978 law that created the court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, set a lower threshold for counterintelligence agents to obtain permission for secret surveillance of espionage suspects than was required for investigators in criminal cases.

    To prevent criminal investigators from using the intelligence act to seek warrants, officials and courts gradually created a rule keeping the two spheres largely separate. It was known in the government as the wall.

    And if you want a 911 connection:

    Confusion over how to interpret the wall also figured in the dispute of why the F.B.I. refused the request of its agent Colleen Rowley to seek a court authorization to explore the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested in August 2001 on immigration violations. Inspection of the computer would have disclosed information showing that Islamic extremists were taking flight lessons in the United States.

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    Gorelick II

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:43 pm

    For Members of Panel, Past Work Becomes an Issue in the Present

    When her turn came at the hearing Tuesday morning to question Ms. Reno and Louis J. Freeh, who was director of the F.B.I. when Ms. Gorelick was in the Justice Department, she disqualified herself.

    “Because I worked closely with Director Freeh and Attorney General Reno, I’ve decided not to participate in this questioning at all,” Ms. Gorelick said. “As my colleagues know, the vast preponderance of our work, including with regard to the Department of Justice, focuses on the period of 1998 forward, and I have been and will continue to be a full participant in that work.”

    In the same vein, when she questioned Mr. Ashcroft, she did not mention his testimony about her memorandum. And at the end of the day, she declined to comment to reporters about Mr. Ashcroft’s statement.

    […]

    In an interview in January, Ms. Gorelick, who has been questioned formally by the commission staff about her time in the Justice Department, said potential conflicts and recusals were the price the commission had to pay for having members and staff assistants with extensive experience in national security.

    On the one hand, I suppose the recusal makes some sense, but on the other isn’t her knowledge of those persons and events part of the reason she is on the commission?

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    The Power of Personality

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:36 pm

    You don’t say: Kerry Needs to Warm Up to Win Votes

    Democrat John Kerry “doesn’t warm anybody up,” while President Bush is seen as likable and strong, according to focus groups of undecided union voters conducted for the AFL-CIO.

    […]

    Though very early in the race, the focus groups highlight the work facing organized labor as it tries to energize and mobilize voters for Kerry.

    Results show that Kerry’s reputation for aloofness remains a hurdle for the presumptive Democratic nominee — even among his party’s core constituencies. And despite the acidity labor leaders direct toward Bush and his policies, the president still appeals to a segment of union members, namely the Reagan Democrats.

    Bush was viewed as a likable and strong, “with a nice family and good moral values,” according to a memo detailing the findings of undecided and independent union voters. The Associated Press obtained the memo from a union official who attended briefings on the findings.

    Indeed, I noted the likeability issue almost a month ago.

    And, in all seriousness, I think this is going to be a major issue when the two candidates go head-to-head, in the late summer and in the Fall. Yes, there are a lot of Democrats who dislike, if not hate, Bush. However, they aren’t the voters who will decide the election: it is the 8-12% of the population that could go either way.who will. And personality matters. It was one of Clinton’s most powerful weapons and remember how Gore shot himself in the foot by sighing through the first debate against Bush.

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    Gorelick

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:03 am

    Captain’s Quarters has an excellent run-down of the Gorelick situation.

    I am wondering when a) the press is going to catch on to this story, as it is an important one if the goal here is to figure out what went wrong pre-911, and b) when the memo in question hits the press and if it received the same kind of scrutiny that the PDB did.

    We shall see.

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    Grooming Critiques

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:57 am

    I wasn’t the only one who noticed the need for a haircut.

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    More on the Press Conference

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:45 am

    James Joyner a press conference round-up.

    And, I agree with Robert Prather

    If he held more of these press conferences he would be better at them.

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    Tuesday, April 13, 2004
    Bush Statement

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:49 pm

    My initial reactions to the Bush statement:

  • It was rather low-key, but I suppose that is appropriate for the topic.
  • The stuff on the current struggle in Iraq seemed overly cursory.
  • I would have liked to have seen a better fleshed-out version of the “what a free Iraq will do” section of the speech.
  • I liked the part in which he linked a variety of terrorist acts together.
  • He did a good job outlining the acomplishment of the admnistration in the WoT. Something that the administration is going to have to hammer home over the next 203 days.
  • Good line: “There is no safe alternative to resolute action.”
  • He’s right: if we fail in Iraq, our enemies would rejoice. Our weakness would breed more threats to our soil.
  • He has gotten better at this kind of presentation.
  • He needs a haircut (ok, that’s my nitpick for the moment).

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    And Another Thing…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:36 pm

    What is Jaimie Gorelick doing on this commission, given that she served in the Reno Justice Department? Especially given the revelation that she was authoring memos on FBI-CIA comunication?

    The attorney general sounded almost contemptuous as he spoke of a “legal wall” put into effect in 1995 to separate criminal investigators from intelligence agents in an effort to safeguard individual rights.

    Far from protecting individual rights, Mr. Ashcroft asserted, the wall has been an obstacle to protecting the American people.

    Referring to the 1995 document that constructed the figurative wall, Mr. Ashcroft went on to say, “Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission.”

    Mr. Ashcroft was a referring to Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic member of the independent, bipartisan, 10-member commission, who was deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

    Regardless of one’s position on either administration, or of the proceedings, it strikes me as odd that she is on the Commission, as she is part of that which she is supposed to be investigating.

    Source: Ashcroft Faults Clinton Era at 9/11 Panel (NYT).

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    911 Commission

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:16 pm

    Two things are exceedingly clear to me at this point. If the purpose of this commission was to actually find information, then

    1) All of the testimony should have been in private in a more congenial setting than a hearing-with the culmination of the commission’s work being an extensive annotated report.

    and

    2) The commissioners should not be appearing on TV chat shows. I find it remarkable that immediately after hearing testimony, without any time to think about what they have heard, these folks are on Hardball or Larry King Live doing insta-analysis.

    This has truly become a side-show.

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    Tuitions for Iraqis? (Maybe via the UN)

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:39 pm

    It occurs to me that Senator Kerry has been more detailed in his discussion of college tuitions than in his discussions on Iraq or the WoT in general. Or, at least, so it seems.

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    More on the Debate Meme

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:27 pm

    Jay Redding joins in the meme of the day, which is all Bryan’s fault.

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    Ashcroft Before the Commission

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:13 pm

    Ashcroft is currently making his opening statement before the 911 Commission and his indentification of what he calls “The Wall” before law enforcement and intelligence is precisely where the main problems in domestic counter-terrorism were pre-911. If one is looking to explain why the dots weren’t connected, this is place to look-not in the lack of a magical interpretatin of the August 6, 2001 PDB.

    The issues in question, which aren’t new, underscore what I mean, at least in significant part, in the law enforcement paradigm v. the war paradigm tension that I have discussed before.

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    Seeking the Reasonable

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:22 pm

    I think that the Rooftop Report misses my point on the contents and styles of some bloggers:

    Steven Taylor has given up reading Kos, Atrios, and Little Green Footballs due to their heavily slanted coverage. Strangely he has not said anything about Instapundit, A Small Victory, or Outside the Beltway. I personally read and like all six of them, but to say that the later three don’t present slanted coverage would be ridiculous. Just sounds like he has tired of reading thoughts from the left.

    I don’t object to “slant” (although I would prefer the term “point of view” in this case). My problem with the site listed (and the same problem I have with Ted Rall and Ann Coulter) is that rhetoric tends to be overheated (to put it mildly) and rather than arguing a position, or even trying to be reasonable about the opposition or another point of view, these sites and authors tend (by no means will I say always), live in the land of vituperation, rants and ideological blinders. I have too little time in the day to fool with that.

    I partake of a wide array of media ideologically speaking. But tend to shy away from authors and publications that are extremist (which is a relative term) or overly vitriolic. If I stopped reading sites with a point of view, I would be limited to Wizbang Tech-a fine site, but decidedly apolitical (unless you count its position on BlogSpot).

    And it isn’t just about the left side of the spectrum. I am not a fan of the Free Republic and NewsMax lets its ideological POV sway its coverage of the news far too much for my tastes.

    Really, what I want is intelligence, rational dialog. I don’t like rants, screeds or emotion-based diatribes. While I can see the occasional need to vent some stream, if that is your style, then I have little use for you.

    The reason I can sympathize, to a degree, with Bryan’s position, is that it does seem with some partisans that it is impossible to engage in reasonable dialog. We all get too caught in our “side” on occasion—treating politics like sports and rooting for our team. If you have a point of view, make your case. You don’t have to call names or curse. I like to think of myself as reasonable, and therefore amenable to a reasoned argument. If you just want to yell at me or to yell at the opposition, then what’s the point? We all can get passionate about what we believe, but passion need not result in insult.

    And, I am not saying that I never say partisan thing-clearly I do. I try, however, to avoid being mean-spirited and hopefully I accomplish that. Above all else, I try to be reasonable in my presentation, although certainly I often play in SarcasmLandia.

    Things that drive me nuts in the BlogoSphere-both on blogs and in comments:

  • The usage of insulting terms to describe those you disagree with: i.e., Repugs, Hitllary/Hitlery, Dims, etc. Not only is it rude, the flinging of unnecessary insults is hardly persuasive argumentation.
  • Really any and all Hitler comparison, save when used to describe mass murderers, turns me off. As does the casual use of the term “fascist” (or “Communist” for that matter).
  • Ranting in general is usually annoying.
  • The usage of “colorful metaphors” (e.g., “double dumb-ass on you”) tends not to be helpful.

    James Joyner comments on this meme as well as does Paul guest-blogging at WizBang! (the non-tech one) and Dean Esmay. Indeed, Dean does a fair job of encapsulating the problem:

    Oh and one more thing: you know there really is a difference between making a joke along the lines of, “Bush’s strategery are edumacated” and “that evil murdering bastard led us into a phony war to make his friends rich.” Or between, “Kerry’s a haughty French-looking geek who talks too much about Vietnam” and “Kerry murdered his wife’s first husband so he could inherit her money.”

    There’s also a difference between reacting to bad news and saying, “maybe we should change our strategy in how we conduct the war effort” and “our leaders are a failure who are ruining everything!”

    If you can’t tell the difference, there’s something wrong with you.

    Indeed.

    (UPDATE: This post is my entry is today’s OTB Beltway Traffic Jam,.)

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    Free College for Everyone!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:59 am

    Kerry Touts College Tax Credit Plan

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Tuesday touted his plans to help students pay for college as he warned that “a promise broken” by President Bush had denied higher education to thousands of Americans.

    First: snarky comment brought on by too much grading, and fueled by student whining: perhaps not enough students are being denied access to higher education.

    Second: serious comments. First, are they being denied access to the college of their choice, or to a college education-that’s a big difference:

    “People have actually been denied access to the college of their choice,” Kerry said.

    I don’t think that there is a right to attend college, let alone a right to attend the college of your choice. I applied to Harvard for grad school back in 1990 and they didn’t take me: were my rights violated? And even had I been admitted, I might still have gone to Texas because of cost. What’s so unfair about that?

    And how is this:

    The Massachusetts senator met with students and officials at the University of Rhode Island to hear tales of their struggle with tuition costs that have soared in recent years. He said he would offer a $4,000 tuition tax credit and would pay for college for those who agreed to public service as part of his effort to broaden access to higher education.

    going to fix this:

    One student, Heather Briggum, said she hopes to get an advanced degree but is facing debt approaching $40,000.

    I will say that I am not, per se, against the idea of trading service for vouchers or some such to help people attend college. Of course we have a program that does that right now: it is called military service. I wonder as to the efficaciousness of a civilian version of such a program in the sense that the tax payer would be getting sufficient value out the service to warrant the program.

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    There’s Politics, and Then There’s Political Nonsense

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:25 am

    Bryan of Arguing With Signposts is giving up politics for seven months. Why? He appears to have read too much Daily Kos. Now, I am unlikely to give up politics for any length of time (I think they would fire me around here if I did). However, I did stop reading Kos, Atrios and Little Green Footballs (to name a few) for the reasons cited by Bryan. While we (humans, not just bloggers) are all partisans, some are, shall we say, more partisan than others. I must confess that on occassion I tire entirely of the ranting and emotion that pervades US political discourse and long for reasonable argument. Sometimes I get it, often I do not.

    Kos is getting under Dean Esmay’s skin as well.

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    According to Kerry, Misery Loves Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:45 am

    Prof. Bainbridge points to this NYT piece, Reviving the ‘Misery Index’-Apparently, It Loves Company that has more details than the one I posted on the same topic this weekend.

    Ya gotta love it:

    Though it has been cited in practically every national (and many local) elections for more than a generation, this misery index was apparently not good-or, perhaps, complicated-enough for the Kerry camp. So they collected seven data points (median family income, college tuition, health-care costs, gas prices, bankruptcy rates, homeownership rate and private-sector job growth) to make their own index. All but one of these indicators-home ownership-have fallen over the past three years.

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    Monday, April 12, 2004
    Say it Ain’t So!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:43 pm

    Small coffee brewers try to redefine fair trade

    Fair-trade coffee - beans purchased from small farmers outside the US at well above the slumping market price - is hot in the java world: The amount of fair-trade coffee sold in the US nearly doubled last year.

    But as the movement has expanded in recent years to include such brands as Starbucks, Green Mountain, Procter & Gamble, and Dunkin’ Donuts, dissension is percolating among some smaller roasters. They claim that the large firms, which buy only a small percentage of fair-trade beans, are turning it into a marketing ploy rather than an effort to help farmers.

    I’m shocked! Shocked!

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    A Test for the 911 Commission

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:35 pm

    In large measure the way the Commission treats Freeh (in terms of questios asked) we should be able to take some measure of the degree to which the 911 commissioners really are looking for answers versus simply trying to assign blame. Clearly the situation with the FBI was a major problem vis-a-vis terrorism.

    Even so, I think Freeh is The New York Times > largely correct here:

    Former FBI Director Louis Freeh defends the bureau’s efforts to combat terrorism before the 2001 attacks but says the government was not then ready to commit the resources necessary to fight a war against al-Qaida.

    Freeh, in an opinion piece published in Monday’s editions of The Wall Street Journal, said that “short of total war'’ the FBI did what it could given the budget and manpower it had to work with at the time.

    And the pre- v. post-911 mentality is quite evident here:

    The FBI’s counterterrorism budget also reflected those pre-Sept. 11 priorities, Freeh said. For example, he said the FBI asked for 1,895 special agents, analysts and linguists in budget requests for fiscal years 2000 through 2002.

    “We got 76 people for those critical years,'’ Freeh said.

    In the weeks after Sept. 11, Congress hurriedly approved money for 823 counterterrorism positions and the numbers have steadily climbed since then.

    “The al-Qaida threat was the same on Sept. 10 and Sept. 12,'’ Freeh said. “Nothing focuses a government quicker than a war.'’

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    The Most Basic Point/Looking for Reasonable Dialog

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:51 pm

    My main problem, starting mostly with the Clarke testimony and following up through this weekend with the PDB debate is that critics expect that the administration should have have picked up on clues and drawn conclusions regarding that which would become 911 when the previous administration didn’t either (And, please, don’t play the Millennium attack card, as that represents a specific, actionable date-comparing that to vague warnings is a true apples-to-oranges comparison). In other words, it Bush’s response to the August 6, 2001 PDB enraged you, then if you are going to be consistent, you need to send some rage in the direction of the previous administration, so to speak. I agree that there were substantial failures under the watch of both administrations regarding terrorism. Although, as I have noted, I am not surprised at the government’s failure, as some seem to be. To pretend that the problem of terrorism, or that the 911 planning, started in January of 2001 is ludicrious.

    But to reiterate: if the criticism of Bush is that he should have figured out the al Qaeda plot, then then I want to know why Clinton isn’t equally culpable. If the criticism are truly more than a simply partisan attack, explain to me why Clinton isn’t getting his share of attack.

    As I have stated before, I subscribe to the idea that it took a massive event, like 911, to alter the mentalities of both the public, but also the vast majority of public officials, to think differently about the threat of terrorism. I am not saying that that fact is a good thing, nor am I arguing that I am glad that that is case. Nonetheless, I see it as a fact. It is clear that, with a few exceptions, terrorism was not on the front-burner in American politics or security policy. Indeed, the focus for national security threats was focused primarily on “rogue nations” (hence, the discussion of missile defense). The evidence is clear: if either party has been intensely interested in al Qaeda specifically, or terrorism in general, it would have been an issue in 2000 presidential campaign. Yet, it wasn’t.

    To argue that Bush dropped the ball assumes that Clinton actually handed one off.

    Mostly I judge the last two presidents vis-a-vis anti-terrorism policy based on how they responded to actual attacks. In this regard, President Clinton’s record is woeful (e.g., the lack of responses to the 1993 WTC bombing, the Khobar Towers attack, the Cole attack and so forth). On the other hand, I have been largely (although by no means perfectly) pleased with President Bush’s response to 911. And I fully understand that many disagree with me on this point.

    However, what I would like to see in the public discourse:

    1) I would like to see Kerry tell us what he plans to do about terrorism, aside from saying he is going to acquire more foreign help-which is far too vague for my tastes.

    and

    2) I would like to see logically consistent critiques across administrations on the issue of anti-terror policy.

    Ok, my early afternoon pipe dream is over and I have a textbook to review…

    UPDATE: This is my entry in OTB’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    A Year of Wizbanging

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:19 pm

    Congrats to Kevin Alyward for One Year Of Wizbang!.

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    Campaign Finance Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:06 pm

    This is why, even if the 527s can help equalize the overall amount of money raised and spent, that Bush has the advantage since he controls more money within his campaign than does Kerry: Liberal Group Ads May Muddy Kerry Message

    Liberal interest groups are running television ads meant to hurt President Bush and, in effect, help Democratic rival John Kerry. But some media strategists say such efforts could backfire by muddying Kerry’s message of the moment with the electorate.

    This has long been the case with “soft money” issue advocacy ads.

    Of course, I think that they should be allowed to coordinate, so what do I know?

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    • VodkaPundit linked with Spend Wisely
    No Surprise, I Suppose

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:02 pm

    U.S. Commanders Express Disappointment with Iraqi Forces, Request More Troops

    Top U.S. military commanders expressed disappointment Monday with the performance of Iraqi security forces in countering an intensifying insurgency and said they were requesting thousands of additional U.S. forces to meet the threat.

    I find neither the request for more troops nor problems with the new Iraqi security forces to be much of a surprise, especially given the current situation.

    Further, I continue to find the June 30th deadline overly arbitary and I still wonder if it can be pulled off (or if it should be, for that matter).

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    Where the Real Problems Are

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:51 pm

    Quite frankly, the real problem in terms of anti-terror policy is clearly less in the area of the interpretati of PDB’s, but rather in domestic intelligence gathering-as this NYT piece notes: The New York Times > Washington > Disclosures Put F.B.I.’s Actions Under Scrutiny

    investigations were stymied by miscommunication, dead ends, bureaucratic and legal obstacles and unclear priorities, officials say. And it is still unclear what the bureau’s response was to a classified White House memo in July 2001, which officials said directed all 56 field offices to increase surveillance of suspected terrorists.

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    More PDB Responses

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:54 am

    In re: the PDB, Oliver Willis states:

    So, they knew hijackings were possible - yet seemingly issued no major alert to the airlines or the public. Whereas with the millenium threat, we all knew that something was up. Let’s see how this plays out.

    The first thing that comes to mind is that every time we go from Yellow to Orange on the Homeland Security Threat Level, what is the response? Basically the criticism is that the warnings are too vague and lack any actual specific threat. So, we are to believe that a vague piece of intel that al Qaeda might want to hijack planes supposedly was going to be treated with care and thoughtfulness by the public? More likely the reaction would have been “tell us something we can use” and/or panic and less people flying, which would have damaged the airlines, and Bush would’ve been blamed for being a scaremonger. Really, these counterfactual critiques are sillier the more one thinks about it.

    Further, if we recall last Christmas when flights from Europe were cancelled the whole affair was treated with skepticism-as if the administration was overreacting and basing its actions on overly vague information. And that was post-911, when the idea of terrorist using airplanes in nefarious ways had been burned into our brains.

    The second thing is that the millennium threats contained very specific information, not the least of which was a date to work with. From Richard Clarke on down I have found the comparison of a potential threat on a specific date: New Year’s Eve 1999 versus a non-time-specific threat to be a rather poor one. The difference between one day (and even days around a specific date) are far more actionable than “it could be anytime.”

    Third, it was known that “hijackings were possible” prior to the August 6, 2001 PDB. And as James Joyner points out, Senator Bob Graham noted in an interview in 2002, that the hijacking speculation was three years old at the time it was put in that memo.

    Graham added that threats of hijacking in an August 6 memo to President Bush were based on very old intelligence that the committee had seen earlier. “The particular report that was in the President’s Daily Briefing that day was about three years old,” Graham said. “It was not a contemporary piece of information.”

    So, really, the alleged “gotcha!” that this PDB is supposed to provide is a phantom.

    Hat Tip: The Moderate Voice (where you will find a ton of PDB-related quotes).

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    Sunday, April 11, 2004
    If Only They Had Acted on the PDB

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 pm

    Indeed.

    Hat Tip: Robert Prather.

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    Governments are Made of People!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:13 pm

    Chris Lawrence expounds on my post on ideology from earlier today and makes well encapsualtes at least part of what I am getting at:

    Governments are comprised of people, and people are inherently flawed: they make mistakes, they aren’t omniscient, and they tend to make decisions consistent with their own personal interests. Aggregating a bunch of fallible people in a government, while reducing the possibility that one person’s mistake won’t matter, doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

    On the downside his posts also reminds me that I have two textbook reviews I need to do in the next week and a half-including one due in a couple of days. UGH.

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    The New “Misery Index”

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 pm

    Back in the 1970s, the “Misery Index” combined inflation (what’s that? ask the younger readers in the audience) and unemployment (which, despite much grousing, is actually below historical averages these days). Jimmy Carter was damaged by the ol’ Misery Index (plus there were the terrible interest rate numbers (double-digits and everything!). So, it seems that Senator Kerry wishes to revive the Misery Index and tag it on President Bush. No, not the original one-on that score Bush actually does quite well (check it out here). Instead the Kerry camp haS devised a devastating new “Misery Index":

    John Kerry broadened his economic assault on President Bush by releasing a “Misery Index” that suggests a combination of soaring college and health care costs and stagnant incomes have battered working families during Bush’s three years in office.

    First off, as important as these things are, I don’t think this stacks to the hypwe of a “Misery Index.” Second, the President has precious little power over college tuitions. Third, radical health care reform is rather unlikley (see: Clinton, Hillary-1993). So, even assuming that said “misery” is acute, what will a Kerry administration do about it?

    Quit honestly this has a certain “grasping at straws” feel to it.

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    Whaddya Know: The PDB was Nothing New

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:03 pm

    James Joyner has found a May 2002 story in which Senator Bob Graham corroborates what Rice said in her testimony.

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    The Drumbeat Gets Old

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:12 pm

    I find the following from Kevin Drum rather ironic:

    Treating 9/11 as just another way to hammer his political opponents was an act of unsurpassed callowness, the response of a man who is congenitally unable to view anything except in terms of smallminded partisan advantage. Instead of using 9/11 as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to unite the nation, George Bush viewed it as a way to pick up a few seats in the House. It is this, more than any other single thing, that I most hold against him.

    I have found Kevin to be one of the more readable, and reasonable, of the major liberal bloggers, although I have found his criticism of the President increasingly shrill, especially since the whole National Guard brouhaha and continuing into the Rice tesimony and PDB business. Indeed, the post I quote above is a good example-why is it not possible that Bush is doing what he thinks is right vis-a-vis 911? It is wholly fair for Drum to disagree with Bush’s approach, but where is the evidence that Bush’s response has been “small-minded partisan[ship]"?-indeed, how should we identify such a response?

    And given that once the shock had worn off that there was a philosophical divide in the country over how to define the war on terror, and, therefore, how to execute it.

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    LinkFest

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:52 pm

    If you are looking for lots o’ linkage, Backcountry Conservative has it.

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    Connect the Dots or Stop the Dots at their Source?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:46 pm

    James Joyner notes the Damned if You Do/Damned if You Don’t Syndrome that faces the administration, and really counter-terrorism policy writ large. The post reminds me of aRich Lowry column from about two weeks or so ago, in which he started the piece by stating

    It seems one of the least plausible criticisms of a president who’s often portrayed as one of the world’s greatest warmongers since Caesar Augustus - that George Bush has been too weak on the War on Terror.

    Indeed.

    Really, all of this discussion has re-inforced the idea that we have to act pre-emptively, and take the war to the terrorist and those states which sponsor terror, as we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the hopes of both disrupting the terrorist as well as drawing them into fight there, rather than here. This type of activity really creates the best opportunity for stopping attacks in the US. It is quite difficult to stop terrorists once they are in place, as if they are willing to die in their act of terror, they are rather difficult to deter. The best strategy is, therefore, to try and root them out of their training bases abroad, put pressure of varying types on governments who might aid them, and to help foster secular, non-radical governments in places like Iraq. Sitting back and hoping that better bureaucracies, or smarter politicians will “connect the dots” next time strikes me as a poor strategy-indeed, one doomed to fail.

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    A Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:17 pm

    If the goal here (which I am not sure that it should be) is to assign blame, then could someone tell me whether the 1993 WTC attack, the attack on the Khobar Towers, the attacks on the African embassies and the attack on the Cole or the controversial PDB equals more of a red flag, and therefore what administration is therefore the one that could be more fairly seen to have dropped the ball?

    Ok, that is actually two questions.

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    All PDB All the Time

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

    James Joyner has a PDB Roundup for anyone who needs even more reaction to this document.

    And, I concur with his assessment of the 911 Commission:

    These things invariably become finger-pointing, ass covering exercises despite the theoretical objective of discovering what went wrong so as to fix the process. Theyre never very helpful, which is doubly true during a presidential election year. And theyre downright unhelpful when theres a war on.

    He also notes a quote from Jeff Jarvis that is worth repeating:

    I’m no Bushie but I’m sick of the attempt to find an enemy within when the enemy is clearly without.

    Even Josh Marshall (via Jarvis) notes

    I think it’s fair to say there’s nothing thermonuclear, shall we say, in the August 6th Presidential Daily Brief released this afternoon by the White House. But Condi Rice’s claim that the information contained in it was primarily of an historical nature seems at least to leave out some key points.

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    An Ideological Divide?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 am

    While clearly much (most?) of the wrangling over the PDB is partisan in nature, much of the debate may also be ideological. Part of what defines a conservative in the political vernacular of the United States is skepticism about government, while liberals tend to think that given the right people and information that practically any problem can be solved by government. Clearly the argument that is emerging concerning the PDB is that if we had just had smarter, more insightful individuals in government (the White House in specific), then they would have figured out what the Bush administration missed (e.g., Kevin Drum’s query about what kinds of questions were asked by the President upon reading the PDB, etc.).

    Do we really think that Al Gore would have prevented these attacks? Certainly that seems to be the subtext of these criticisms.

    Of course, a key problem with such an argument is that the planning for 911 took place during the Clinton administration, as did numerous attacks on US interests by al Qaeda. However, said brain trust apparently wasn’t very good at dealing with this intelligence either. A notable exception would be New Year’s Eve 1999-but there at least a specific date made the interdiction of attacks easier. Prior to the moment that the planes hit the WTC, what made 911 a day different than any other day?

    However, one’s view of government clearly colors how one interprets these events. As a conservative (and as a student of government, here and abroad), I am highly skeptical of the ability of governments to successfully execute policy. Hence, I am unsurprised by governmental failures. I am not saying that policy can never be successful-it can. However, it rarely is an efficient process, and the more complex the undertaking, the more likely failure is to happen. At a minimum I know full well that government is not very good at processing information. If one wants an excellent illustration of this, just look at the federal budget-how it is compiled, how it is evaluated and whether anyone on the planet, let alone those who actually vote on the thing and implement it, have read all of it. However, it would seem that from the liberal point of view the problem isn’t government and its complexity, but rather the people who occupy government at a given moment. Now, I am not saying that that doesn’t matter-it does. But, I do not think, and believe that empirical evidence backs my position, that government becomes more efficient and efficacious just because one set of persons occupy positions of power. Part of the problem with the partisan criticisms that are flying about at the moment is that they ignore the fact that 1) the civil servants involved, i.e., the vast majority of persons in this equation, are careerists and so in that regard not that much changed from Clinton to Bush, and 2) many of the upper-level policy actors (the CIA Director, the FBI Director, Clarke, etc.) had not changed from Bush to Clinton-and if the objection is that the Bushies didn’t listen to Clarke and Tenet, one has to acknowledge that the Clintonistas didn’t either. In short: to pretend as if the failure that occurred (and there clearly was a failure) is limited to the Bush administration is to simply be viewing the world through the eyes of partisanship alone.

    And no, I am not arguing that government always fails. Although I would note that that tends to be the default position. I am not an anti-government libertarian, but I am highly skeptical about the ability of governments to do what they set out to do. Hence, I am not surprised wen governments fail. Liberals in the US context tend to be more optimistic about the abilities of government, and hence are more shocked when it fails. And, as noted, that failure is usually attributed not to systemic problems of governing huge numbers of people, but, rather, to those who are doing the governing. Hence, the fault must lie with Bush and Rice must be a “moron", etc. (And further, if Kerry were President we would have 10 million jobs and other countries would be magically willing to send more troops to Iraq).

    Could it be, that as I argued earlier in the week, that government is a lumbering beast with multiple parts that are characterized more my lack of communication and inertia than by rapid data processing and alacrity of action? We are talking here about millions of pieces of information, being handled by thousands of persons, operating in hundreds of offices and locations across the country and around the world. While “connecting the dots” sounds like a child’s game, it is far from such.

    The sad thing is: security is one of the things that government does relatively well.

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    A Happy and Blessed Easter to You All

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:59 am

    May you all have a Blessed Easter.

    1 Corinthians 15:1-11

    1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
    3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[1] : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter,[2] and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
    9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

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    Saturday, April 10, 2004
    Don’t Forget the Fatwah

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:32 pm

    And, it is worth noting, the idea that bin Laden would want to attack America was hardly news in 2001. Don’t forget the 1998 Fatwah that he issued, which included the following:

    The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies-civilians and military-is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God, “and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,” and “fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.”

    Source: Osama bin Ladin’s Fatwah

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Weekend Briefing 4/11/04
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Weekend Briefing 4/11/04
    A PDB-Realted Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 pm

    If the PDB had a less provocative (especially in retrospect) title, i.e., “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” would the critics be as able to interpret the contents as they have?

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with PDB Roundup
    More PDB Reaction

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:09 pm

    Not surprisingly, Kevin Drum sees the PDB as potentially giving serious clues to the NYT attacks.

    He is also not impressed with the content, style, length or writing level of the document itself. I am not sure what he was expecting.

    In a second post he wonders

    Even giving them every benefit of the doubt, don’t you think they could have connected these dots beforehand? They were afraid of an al-Qaeda air attack in Genoa and an al-Qaeda airplane hijacking in America. Doesn’t it make sense to put the two together and wonder if Osama might also be contemplating air attacks in America?

    Just something to think about. It makes me wonder what kind of questions Bush asked when the PDB was presented to him and what kind of actions he authorized. Maybe the commission will ask about that when he and Dick meet with them.

    To which I would state: let’s try to be rational, non-partisan and realistic here for a moment: prior to 911 the idea of hijacing did not conjure flying plane loads of passengers into buildings, it conjured someone wanted to go somewhere, or maybe wanting to steal the plane. There is no way a reasonable, fair-minded person could expect the President (andy President) to have read that PDB prior to 911, even with other pieces of information, and starting asking “Hey! You think they might want to fly some planes into the WTC and Pentagon?”

    Again, all of these interpretations are coming about with the benefit if hindsight.

    And if we are going to try and assign blame, let’s be equal opportunity: it isn’t like some of this information doesn’t date back to the prior administration.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with XRLQ does the PDB
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    PDB Dissent

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:44 pm

    C. W. Fisher sees the PDB differently than I do. He notes:

    But what about the part where it says the FBI had detected “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”

    The problem is: that isn’t any actionable information. So while the critics of the administration may think they have found a smoking gun, the question remains: what would they have done with the information in the PDB aside from letting the FBI continue their surveillance?

    Note the following from the PDB itself:

    We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

    And, from the memo, it would seem that there was ongoing information gathering:

    Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

    The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks
    with explosives.

    Rice said:

    It [the PDB] did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

    And, if you read the PDB, that is an accurate characterization. There is discussion of a possible attempt to free the “Blind Shayk” in 1998 (that would be historical), which is the closest thing to a specific threat mentioned. There is vague reference to possible attacks with explosives, or other planning, but where is the actionable intelligence? Certainly not in this briefing. Further, as already noted, the memo states that the FBI was still investigating. What is it about this memo that is supposed to have stirred specific action?

    This stuff only looks remarkable because 911 happened. Pre-attack it was likely one of dozens, if not hundreds, of potential problems that US law enforcement and intelligence were worried about.

    The whole situation is analogous to the death threats any President receives-they are numerous and they usually amount to nothing. However, once an attempt has been made it is easy to go back and look at those threats to understand which one was the “real” one-and then to wring hands over the fact that the threat wasn’t properly assessed. And I agree that there were real mistakes made prior to 911, but there is nothing in this document that screams “they are going to hijack planes and fly them into the WTC and Pentagon.” Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes working together couldn’t have deduced that from this document.

    Again, murder mysteries are easy to figure out once you’ve read the end of the book.

    Hat tip: Byan at Arguing with signposts.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with PDB Roundup
    PDB Released

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:59 pm

    Well, it reads like Condi said it would-a summary of historical data lacking actionable information.

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with As predicted ...
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    Pre- v. Post-911 Mentalities

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:44 pm

    Will Collier of VodkaPundit notes a piece from NRO that illustrates something about pre-and post-911 mentalities that I have been meaning to note:

    The al Qaeda attack plan exploited our preconceptions, particularly our knowledge of what a hijacking was. Before 9/11, hijacking was largely a form of theater… The way for innocents to get out of the situation alive was to relax, let the scene play out, and hope that if there is a rescue attempt, that none of the bad guys has a bomb. In short, cooperate, don’t escalate. Don’t be a hero.

    I think that some of the 20/20hindsight crowd are underestimating how all of us have shifted our thinking post-911 on this issue and many others. Any assessment of what should have been done pre-911 should be considered in that light.

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    The Toast is Back! It’s the 4/10 Edition of the Toast-O-Meter

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:12 pm

    -Toast: It’s not Just for Breakfast Anymore!-

    The Toast-o-meter: A Weekly News Round-Up and Handicapping of the Race for to be the next President of the United States.

    The Toast-O-Meter comes to you Fortified with linkage and Enhanced with bloggage.

    Even though the Official General Election CampaignTM doesn’t start until after the conventions, it’s clearly two-slicer time: Bush v. Kerry to see who can reduce the other to toast in the next 200ish days.

    If you come across a news story, commentary or blog entry that you think would be good for the Toast-O-Meter, please submit it to: toast@poliblogger.com

    Feeling the Heat?

    Each week the candidates will have had one of three kinds of weeks:

  • Dough is on the Rise (this candidate had s good week)
  • Heat’s Off This Week (the candidate had a neutral week)
  • The heat is on (the candidate had a bad week)

    Slicing up this Week’s (Totally Insignificant) Contests

    The Colorado Caucuses will be held this Tuesday-although the real fun in Colotado won’t be until state primaries are held.

    A week from today we have the North Carolina and Virgin Island contests.


    Slice2Slice


    Who will be toasted first? Will Kerry turn the President into Texas Toast? Or will the President make French Toast out of Kerry?

    The candidates remain locked in a statistical tie. And while politicos, news junkies and PoliGeeksTM are rabidly focused on campaign-related events, most folks are likely more worried about Opening Day, the Springing of Spring or the latest recurrence of toenail fungus. Hence, the numbers aren’t all that useful

    Both the candidates are feeling some heat. Kerry seemed to do better whilst on vacation than when he is on the campaign trail, which isn’t the way candidates tend to like things to be. Meanwhile Bush has been dealing with the politics of the 911 Commission and, more significantly, the outbreak of fighting in Iraq.

  • Scott Elliot at Election Projection has the run-down of the polls and the Electoral College possibilities. And, as always, Dave Wissing of the Hedgehog Report has a round-up of the national polling.
  • Further, Dave has numbers in Florida that will make Bush smile.
  • Megan McArdle weighs in on the differences between Kerry and Bush (and also posts a picture of her dog).


    BREWING ISSUES

  • Condi Rice’s testimony has been a obvious issue. On that subject we have the following:
  • Not surprinsingly, Kevin Drum opines that Dr. Rice “doesn’t come out of it looking very good”.

  • Pejman provides a lengthy commentary on Ben Veniste-Rice interchange.
  • Sneakeasy’s Joint has an “around the blogroll” round-up on the Rice testimony.
  • And, it is worth noting, that former blogger and frequent PoliBlog visitor, Professor John Lemon, Ph.D. thinks that Dr. Rice is “sexy” when she testifies (indeed, he calls her “Condi".
  • Speaking of the hearings, Megan McArdle discusses the usefulness of the 911 commission. (Hint: she ain’t none too impressed).

  • The fighitng in Iraq is a major development that will shape the long-term patterns of the elections perhaps more than any other factor.
  • Aside from Fallujah, the issue of Moktada al-Sadr is a key issue in Iraq. Robert Tagorda has two excellent posts on that subject: here and here.
  • Not surpisingly, jobs remain an issue: Bush proposes job-training overhaul while Kerry Sprinkles Jobs Message With Attacks on Iraq Policy.
  • Gas prices remain an issue, and Steve Verdon has a lengthy commentary on the subject.

    George W. Bush (The Heat’s On)

  • You don’t say: Iraq looms large for Bush election campaign.
  • Kennedy Likens Bush to Nixon ‘Credibility Gap’.

  • What a surprise! Media mogul Murdoch backs Bush in US election.

  • James Joyner responds to Matthew Yglesias on why some members of the administration have left in the last several years.
  • Matthew Yglesias is of the opinion that we responded incorrectly in Fallujah.
  • Professor Bainbridge ain’t none too impressed with Bush’s Iraq Policy. The word “feckless” emerges in the discourse.

    John F. Kerry (The Heat’s On)

  • Kerry vows tax cuts, a balanced budget.

  • MoveOn Staffer Moves on to Kerry Campaign.

  • Robert Tagorda ponder’s Kerry’s goals for Iraq.
  • Sean Hackbarth has the latest House of Ketchup over at the American Mind.
  • Venomous Kateponders why some folks from Kerry’s past don’t like him very much.

    VICE-LOAF

    Kerry

  • Reports the NYT: Poll Picks McCain as Kerry’s Vice President.
  • Sebelius still not interested in vice presidential run.

    The Moldy Loaf

  • Here’s a schocker: Kucinich rails against Bush’s Iraq policies.
  • Sharpton May Lose Federal Campaign Funds.


    Other Loaves


  • Nader Calls for Bush to Be Impeached

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    Pre-Cole Attempts

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:51 pm

    One very interesting story from the post mentioned below is this piece from CNN: Yemeni sources cite at least 3 failed plots prior to Cole bombing

    At least three plots against American targets in Yemen failed in the past year before last month’s suicide bombing of the USS Cole, Yemeni sources close to the investigation said Saturday.

    The three attacks are detailed as follows:

    In the first week of November 1999, Yemeni authorities foiled plans to blow up a convoy of U.S. military personnel heading to Yemen’s National Center for the Removal of Land Mines hours before the operation was to be carried out, the sources said. Yemeni security forces discovered the explosives - planted about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) away from the hotel where the Americans were staying - and defused them, sources said.

    […]

    […]

    When that attempt fell apart, the sources said the suspects made plans to attack the Royal Hotel, near the port in Aden, where most of the American servicemen were staying. It wasn’t immediately clear when that operation was to be carried out, and no details were available on why it failed.

    An attack similar to the one carried out on the Cole was aborted in January when the attackers realized their boat had been overloaded with explosives and was not seaworthy, the sources said. The U.S. television network ABC, citing intelligence sources, has reported that the target of that attack was the USS The Sullivans, a destroyer that refueled in Yemen on Jan. 3.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Weekend Briefing 4/11/04
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Weekend Briefing 4/11/04
    Responding to Terrorism: The Case of the Cole

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:46 pm

    The Galvin Option has a well-research, link and and quote-filled run-down of the US response to the Cole bombing. It is worth a read. At best it show how governmental inertia makes decisive action difficult as I blogged earlier this week, and at its worst it makes the Clinton administration look remarkably ineffective on the question of terrorism, and hence places Mr. Clarke’s assertions about terrorism policy in the Clinton administration in a rather bad light.

    Hat tip: HobbsOnline.

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    I Thought He Wanted Spending Caps?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:01 am

    I hate to be the one to break it to him, but if he is going to adopt the mantle of fiscal champion, cuts will have to be made. You can’t simultaneously promise to get the deficit under control and also promise to spend on everything. Kerry Warns of Drastic Bush Budget Cuts

    Touring a struggling job-training site, Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) on Friday sought to refocus the presidential race on pocketbook issues, warning of “almost criminal” cuts in bedrock training and education programs.

    Further, the hyperbole on the economy is getting old. While there are clearly plenty of people out of work who want jobs, they are hardly the vast majority of the population-indeed, they are a distinct minority.

    “This is pretty simple. The workplace of the United States of America is as stressed as I don’t think I’ve seen it stressed at any time,” Kerry said. “That’s almost criminal. It’s not criminal, but I want to underscore how unbelievable it is.”

    And which is it? Either Bush is a reckless spender or he is vicious slasher?

    Kerry accused Bush of slashing $1 billion from job-training programs. “You shouldn’t be abandoned and struggling the way you are today,” he said.

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    Friday, April 9, 2004
    Rice Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:34 pm

    The CSM has a great round-up of assessments of Rice’s testimony from major newspapers with links to various stories.

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    More on Ben Veniste

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:41 pm

    Professor Bainbridge has two excellent posts on the Condi v. Ben Veniste encounter yesterday. The first has the transcript and discusses Chris Matthews’ treatment of the interchange (I concur with Bainbridge: Matthews seemed to miss the point) and the second post has an interesting discussion of compound questions during questioning.

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    New Poll Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

    Bush, Kerry Fail to Make Gains

    Bush was backed by 45 percent of voters and Kerry by 44 percent in the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Independent candidate Ralph Nader had 6 percent support. The numbers are essentially unchanged from AP-Ipsos polls taken in early and mid-March.

    […]

    The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults, including 758 registered voters, was taken April 5-7. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly larger for registered voters.

    A few observations:

    -It is not just a registered voter poll, let alone a likely voter poll, which always makes me question the numbers.

    -Bush has been under steady attack and the situation in Iraq has worsened this week.

    -Kerry has been largely silent of late (although he has been on the trail this week).

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    • Priorities & Frivolities linked with At Large
    More on 911 Families

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:55 am

    Bryan of Arguing with signposts notes this NYT piece, Same Room, Different Views for Relatives of 9/11 Victims, which actually notes that indeed, the 911 families are not a monolithic group. For example:

    But John Owens of Mineola, N.Y., whose brother, Peter, died in the World Trade Center, and April Gallop of Woodbridge, Va., an executive assistant for the Army who was injured at the Pentagon, might as well have been watching from Venus and Mars.

    Three hours of long questions and longer answers could not have struck them more differently. Mr. Owens nodded his head in agreement and several times applauded, while Ms. Gallop shook her head disapprovingly and often appeared skeptical.

    “I came here to show support for President Bush,” Mr. Owens said.

    and

    “She is someone who can be trusted,” said Ernest Strada, the mayor of Westbury, N.Y., for the last 23 years, as he left the hearing room. His son, Thomas, was killed at the trade center.

    “She answered candidly,” Mr. Strada said. “She didn’t try to dodge the questions. She serves our country well. She serves the administration well.”

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    • King of Fools linked with Supplemental Reading
    Thursday, April 8, 2004
    Who Knew?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 pm

    “Leadership also requires that we ask the right questions and that we put forward the right policies for our country,"-Senator John Kerry (4/8/04)

    Source: Kerry says Bush should ask for international help as violence surges in Iraq

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    Ben Veniste

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:31 pm

    Ben Veniste seemed to me to be more interested in building a case, as in a court of law (specifically by the use of “yes” and “no” questioning), than he was in fact finding. Given that the goal of the commission is supposedly informational, not the building of a case for or against someone, this struck me as a rather over-the-top confrontation approach.

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    • Sneakeasy’s Joint linked with Opinions on the Grilling of Rice
    • Sneakeasy’s Joint linked with Opinions on the Grilling of Rice
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    A Clear Lesson of 911

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:56 pm

    Really, if there is a lesson is all of this testimony, and of the events of 911 itself, it is that to get the government moving in a dramatic fashion it takes a singluar, likely tragic, event.

    As Robert Tagorda notes:

    First, as Richard Clarke himself observed, “when you recommend an air defense system for Washington before there has been a 9/11, people tend to think you’re nuts.” In other words, it was hard to move the security and intelligence bureaucracies back then. Rice would have needed to invest significant time and resources to follow up on questionably “actionable” information.

    George Will made the point on Hannity’s radio show this afternoon that one of the most significant characteristics is the prevalence of inertia. He described it as a “muddled mess,” a “blunt instrument” and a “river of fudge.”

    Quite so.

    Are we really to believe that what happened vis-a-vis terrorism (such as the invasion of Afghanistan) could have been mobilized without the events of 911? It strikes me as a logical stretch.

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    “911 Families”

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:30 pm

    As a matter of analytical clarity, I find the identification of a relatively small number of individuals as being referred to as the “families of 911 victims.” It started with the Bush campaign’s 911 ads and hit full strength when Clarke “apologized to the victims’ families” and today with the reportage that “victims’ families” where in attendance.

    Given that the actual number of persons who qualify as belonging to the group properly defined as member of victims’ families likely numbers in the 10,000+ range, the idea that any one subset of that number has the right to be considered by the press as a representative group is simply incorrect at best, and disingenuous at worst.

    UPDATE: This post is today’s entry in the Beltway Traffic Jam

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    More on Rice’s Testimony

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

    Here’s the CSM’s take on Rice’s testimony:

    In a moment of high political theater even by Washington standards, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice offered the most vigorous defense yet of the Bush administration’s understanding of the terrorist threat in the months leading up to 9/11 - an appearance that may blunt some of the criticism leveled by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, even while ensuring that the controversy continues to dominate the national spotlight in the short term.

    The whole piece is of interest, including the observations of several national security experts.

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    Sheer Genius

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:19 pm

    From the March 8, 2004 issue of Newsweek comes this quote that I meant to blog at the time I first read it:

    “There are times when I see some comely young lady I would love to have as a house pet. But my wife won’t let me, dammit. And I bought her a gun. That shows you how smart I am.” New Hampshire state Rep. Richard Kennedy,at a public hearing on gay-marriage legislation, in a remark unrelated to the bill

    You know his wife loved reading that one in the press….

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    Rice Testimony Linkage

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:03 pm

    I have missed the testimony, having been in class all day. However, James Joyner has a link round-up of newstories, while Jay of Accidental Verbosity did some simu-blogging, and Jeff Jarvis makes a few comments as well.

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    Moved

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:43 pm

    I meant to mention this a while back (and I still need to update my link), but Iowa law Professor Tung Yin’s blog, The Yin Blog, has moved to new Typepad-driven digs.

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    The Power of Book Reviews?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:07 am

    I have to agree with James Joyner: anyone who bases their opinion of anyone based on a single review of a book in an academic journal simply doesn’t understand the academic world.

    However, this is what Ogged does by making this statement :

    Will someone please admit it? Condoleezza Rice is a moron. She’s in way over her head and it shows. But at least now we understand the vaunted intellectual connection between her and Mr. Bush.

    Truly: one does not become provost of Stanford University or accomplish all that Dr. Rice has if one is a moron. Further, morons rather rarely gets books published by Princeton University Press.

    Kevin Drum summarizes the review in this way:

    It turns out that it was met with immediate skepticism from at least one scholar of Czechoslovakian history who seemed to think that she, um, had an unfortunate tendency to formulate opinions without regard for the actual facts on the ground.

    Again, there isn’t a book, article, paper, or presentation in academia that isn’t met by someone else in the academy with “immediate skepticism.”

    Seriously: one can dislike Rice, think that she is a poor National Security Advisor or criticize her positions, but it is rather inaccurate (to put it mildly) to try and generalize anything from one book review.

    It is like reading one negative movie review and damning not only the movie itself, but the director’s entire body of work-only far, far worse.

    There is probably no enterprise that is more critical than academics. It is a world in which part of the way some people prove they are expert is to tear down others who claim expertise in the same area of study. It can be rather petty. And the fact that a historian was reviewing a political science text simply ratchets that fact upwards quite a bit.

    Really, this particular mode of attack on Dr. Rice is, to put it in a word, laughable.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Assessing Condi Rice
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    Budget Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:00 am

    I remain skeptical: Kerry Says He Would Limit Federal Spending as President

    Senator John Kerry said today that if he is elected president, no one in his administration will be allowed to propose new programs without the means to pay for it, and he said he would impose spending caps across the board except in the areas of security, education, health care and Social Security.

    Of course, security, health care and Social Security are the lion’s share of the budget. And, of course, there’s the fact that approximately 2/3rds of the budget is classified as “Mandatory Spending” (such as SS, medicare, medicaid-indeed all welfare programs, and interest on the debt) and many of the increases in those areas are already set in law.

    Really, the only way Kerry can fulfill these promises is to raises taxes and not introduce any new big programs.

    Further, the President can’t “impose” spending caps. Yes, he can tell his staff not to suggest new programs, but that hardly qualifies as a cap.

    I would love to see the federal budget shrink and I don’t like the deficit, but these suggestions are flights of fantasy, and a sitting Senator should know better.

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    Wednesday, April 7, 2004
    Conference Paper Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:23 pm

    Chris Lawrence hates lit reviews. I must admit, I don’t mind them all that much. Further, I don’t do the kind of quant analysis he does. Maybe its time to write a paper…. ;)

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    The Best Use of Resources?

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:18 pm

    Setting aside, for a moment, the issue of whether or not this is even something the government should be dealing with, I have to ask: is this the best use of limited resources? Administration wages war on pornography

    Lam Nguyen’s job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other “computer forensic specialists” like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department’s operation to rid the world of porn.

    In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO’s long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

    Department officials say they will send “ripples” through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.

    Further, I have to ask: even if they take these people to court, what are the odds that the Justice Department will win? Also, given the market forces involved here, is there really any likelihood of success (in terms of actually curtailing the porn industry)?

    I must admit, I have to wonder as to the efficacy of this policy.

    Hat tip: Outside the Beltway.

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with A technology parable ...
    Fads I Will Pass On

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:19 pm

    I’ll pass, thanks.

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    Things I Don’t Get

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:46 pm

    NASCAR on the radio.

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    The Mountain Springwater Candidate

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:42 pm

    Beer Magnate Peter Coors to Run for U.S. Senate

    Brewing magnate Peter Coors will run for the Republican nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said on Wednesday.

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    • riting on the wall linked with coors in
    More Evidence That Our Drug Laws Are Screwed Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:38 pm

    Pasco: Group wants painkiller case thrown out

    Paey, 45, of Hudson, had written fraudulent prescriptions for the painkillers Percocet and Lortab. He has been using a wheelchair and in chronic pain since the mid 1980s, when he was injured in a car accident. Paey subsequently.

    […]

    Because he obtained more than 28 grams of the painkillers, he became eligible for a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for each count of trafficking. His sentencing is set for April 16. After Paey was first arrested in March 1997, prosecutors offered him house arrest and probation. He turned down the offer. Paey’s first trial resulted in a mistrial, but he was convicted later. That conviction was thrown out due to improper statements by attorneys during the trial. He was then offered a five-year sentence, which he turned down.

    […]

    The jury found that Paey forged the prescriptions of Dr. Steven Nurkiewicz, his doctor in New Jersey. Because Paey could not find a doctor to treat him, Nurkiewicz continued to write prescriptions and treat Paey after he moved to Florida in 1994.

    Now, I am not defending forging prescriptions, but I have a hard time accepting the idea that the individual in question harmed society to the point that he deserves 25 years in prision. Ceratinly if the goal here is to truly affect the consumption of narcotics in the society, I have a hard time seeing how this helps.

    Hat tip for the story: Mark A. R. Kleiman

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    Capping Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:10 pm

    From a speech today, Kerry said:

    “When I say a cap on spending, I mean it,” Kerry said in a speech at Georgetown University. “We will have to make real choices and that includes priorities of my own.”

    To which I say: 1) the Democratic Party doesn’t have a good record on spending caps, 2) the Republican Party doesn’t have a good record on spending caps, and 3) Congress has a lousy record on spending caps.

    From these facts I have to take a skeptical view of the Senator Kerry’s ability as President to enact such caps. I find it further unlikely that such caps could be enacted given Kerry’s policy goals vis-a-vis health care policy.

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    Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:49 am

    Light-to-no blogging until this afternoon.

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    Tuesday, April 6, 2004
    OK, Where’s the Firestorm?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:32 pm

    From the Congressional Record (to find it yourself, go here and make Dodd Byrd your serch string).

    Said Christopher Dood (D-CT) on the floor of the US Senate to Robert Byrd (D-WV) on the occasion of his 17,000th vote:

    It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. Robert C. Byrd, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. [!!!-Ed.] He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation’s 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country. Certainly today that is not any less true.

    OK, where’s the media firestorm? Where’re are the calls for his head? Where’s all the talk about racism and the significance of the past? The “being nice to an old man” defense didn’t work for Lott (nor should it have), so where’s the outrage on this one? Now, I would agree that Lott had a record that made his Thurmond pronouncement more problematic, but Dodd deserves some serious public criticism here.

    Quite frankly, the double-standard rears its ugly head again.

    Anyone wondering why Byrd shouldn’t be priased, especially in the context of the Civil War, go here.

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    Heavy Fighting Near Fallujah

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:41 pm

    12 Marines, 66 Iraqis Killed in Battles

    Reports from the city of Ramadi, near Fallujah, said dozens of Iraqis attacked a Marine position near the governor’s palace, a senior defense official said from Washington. “A significant number” of Marines were killed, and initial reports indicate it may be up to a dozen, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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    Speaking of Caffeine…

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:46 pm

    From the : Jittery? Peevish? Can’t Sleep? What Are You Drinking?

    Two weeks later, I got a call from Adam’s girlfriend saying that he was worse than ever. When I saw him, he looked haggard and anxious, and I was convinced that I had missed something important the first time around. Did he have an undiagnosed medical disease? Covert substance abuse? Exposure to an environmental toxin?

    In painstaking detail, we reviewed his medical and psychiatric history, but nothing stood out. Exasperated, I asked him to tell me what he did from the moment he got out of bed until he went to sleep: activities, diet, everything. Then I got it.

    After the habitual two cups of Starbucks coffee, Adam set to work. So far, so good. But as the academic pressure mounted, he had to work longer hours, and that meant more coffee — a lot more coffee than he had ever consumed in his life. In fact, for six weeks, he had been drinking up to 10 cups of Starbucks coffee daily.

    That is a lot of caffeine, considering that each large cup contains on average about 375 milligrams, according to a 2003 study of caffeinated coffee published in The Journal of Analytical Toxicology. With 10 cups a day, Adam was turbocharged with nearly four grams of caffeine.

    So Adam was not just nervous about his academic work; he was also suffering from caffeine intoxication.

    How, you might wonder, could such a ubiquitous substance be toxic? With an average of one to three cups of coffee a day, most people get 100 to 300 milligrams of caffeine. With chronic exposure, though, people become accustomed to the stimulant effects of caffeine. In contrast, a sudden increase in caffeine consumption can easily produce caffeine intoxication.

    In general, more than 1.5 grams of caffeine a day can cause the typical symptoms of caffeinism: anxiety, insomnia, irritability and palpitations.

    And for the scientifically minded out there:

    Caffeine is far and away the most widely used stimulant in the world. It is actually a member of a class of compounds called xanthines that includes theobromine, which is abundant in chocolate and theophylline, the major xanthine in tea.

    Caffeine works by blocking the calming and analgesic effects of the neurotransmitter adenosine in the brain. In moderate doses, caffeine enhances arousal and performance. At higher doses, caffeine blocks a majority of adenosine receptors and can produce anxiety and hypersensitivity to pain.

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    Ideas Matter

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:15 pm

    As Dennis Prager notes:

    Islamic terror is caused by Muslims, not, as Islamic and leftist apologists would have it, by the non-Muslims against whom it is directed. In our morally confused world, Spain, Israel and America are blamed for having their men, women and children blown up: What did these countries do to arouse such enmity among otherwise tolerant Arabs and Muslims?

    Palestinian terror provides the answer. About 25 percent of Palestinians are Christian, yet if there are any Palestinian Christian suicide bombers, I am unaware of them. Now why is that? Don’t Muslim and leftist apologists incessantly tell us that the reason for Palestinian terror is “Israeli occupation and oppression"? Why, then, are there no Palestinian Christian terrorists? Are Christian Palestinians less occupied?

    Setting aside theological deabtes for a moment, it is clearly true that different sets of beliefs and ideas, when put into practice, matter greatly.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Root Causes
    More Evidence of the Caffeinated Professoriate

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:09 pm

    The Buzz in Higher Education

    Which reminds me: time for some afternoon coffee…

    (Hat Tip: OTB)

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    Wow.

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:19 am

    Nader Fails to Make Oregon Ballot

    Most political observers had expected Nader would easily draw enough supporters at a Monday evening petition-signing rally intended to make Oregon the first state to qualify Nader for the 2004 ballot.

    But only 741 people showed up-far short of the 1,000 required by Oregon law.

    That is rather pathetic.

    But, don’t count Ralph out yet:

    Still, Nader said he would not abandon his quest to qualify for the Oregon ballot, but will try another option available under Oregon law collecting 15,000 signatures over a three-month period, rather than 1,000 signatures at a single gathering.

    And, of course, this shows how put upon third parties are. If the Powers That Be would stop holding them down, they’d have a chance and would be winning elections left and right! Because, obviously there is a great deal of teeming support for such parties, but the Man is keeping them down.

    All of that aside, there is interesting evidence of rational voting going on here:

    “There are times you make principled choices, heart choices,” said Jay Ward, conservation director for the Oregon Natural Resources Council, who voted for Nader for president in 1996 and 2000. “It’s time to be rational. This time the stakes are just too high to vote for Ralph Nader.”

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    Over the Top?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

    Recognizing that a lot of Democrats feel this way, one has to wonder as to the overall usefulness of this approach. Kennedy Accuses Bush of ‘Credibility Gap’

    Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), broadening his criticism of President Bush from foreign policy to domestic issues, accused Bush yesterday of having “created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon” on education, health and jobs, as well as the war in Iraq.

    “He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people,” Kennedy said at the Brookings Institution in a speech that was clearly aimed at challenging Bush’s credibility with voters, especially by comparing him with Nixon, who resigned as president in disgrace as a result of the Watergate scandal 30 years ago.

    It simply seems to me that such an onslaught is not likely to have the desired effect on swing voters. The only issue on which the Democrats themselves can make a credible argument on the veracity issue is the WMD business-everything else is more in the realm of a policy dispute rather than a “credibility” issue. I mean where has Bush been demonstrably untruthful on education, health policy or jobs? One can argue that one doesn’t like “No Child Left Behind” or the Medicare bill (ok, I suppose one could argue that the Bush administration wasn’t straight with cost estimates, but does that qualify for a “credibility gap” that rivals Nixon?).

    The politics of hyperbole, while nothing new, strike me as having a substantial potential boomerang effect-especially on jobs, where the news has been Bush-y of late.

    And really, on both “No Child Left Behind” and the Medicare reform, it is hard for Kennedy to legitimately argue that he didn’t at least get part of what he wanted out of that legislation. The real argument there isn’t about truth or lies, but about not getting exactly what one side wanted-which is the realm of policy wonk-ville and not something that is easily made into political hay.

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    Shocking!

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:49 am

    Study: Most Low-Carb Dieters Eat Too Many Carbs

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    Things You Hate to Hear on an Airplane

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:27 am

    “The skyway has collided with the airplane door, so we have to wait for the mechanics to come to certify that the plane is airworthy.”

    Luckily it only took an hour and I still made my connection in Atlanta. Although as I went from Concourse A to Concourse D as quickly as I could I felt both like old OJ (running through an airport) and new OJ (like I wanted to hurt someone).

    (I meant to blog this Sunday nigh/Monday morning, but I am still playing catch-up (no, not ketchup, that would be here) from the weekend).

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    Monday, April 5, 2004
    Sticking to the Deadline

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:10 pm

    Bush Says U.S. to Stick to June 30 Iraq Handover.

    I still wonder as to the wisdom of setting this deadline in the first place. Indeed, I think it was a mistake.

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    More Stuff I Like About Firefox and Friends

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:18 pm

    FIREFOX

  • I am hooked on the tabbed browsing-especiially since it loads in the backgound, so I can click on all the newly undated blogs on my blogroll and have them all loading at the same time. Be sure to get the Extension that makes new links open up in new tabs.
  • The Edit CSS Extension that displays your stylesheet in the left sidebar allows you to test css changes with immediate updates-very nice.
  • I have solved my right-click problem by setting up a toolbar link to a “Post to MT Weblog” bookmarklet, which is almost as good as the right-click tool. I don’t even miss it anymore.
  • The anti-pop-up function works remarkably well.

    THUNDERBIRD

  • I really like the little pop-up (like MS Messenger when a new person logs on) that tells me which account received mail, and how many letters (and further the fact that if all I got was junk, there’s no pop-up).
  • The junkmail filter is better than OE’s, but even after a couple of weeks of use, it still isn’t filtering as well as I hoped it might.

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    (ala)PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:53 am

    From yesterday’s Mobile Register:

    State not a player in primaries

    04/04/04
    By STEVEN TAYLOR
    Special to the Register

    Last month, a proposal was made to move our state’s presidential primary from June to the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary. The measure failed to reach the floor of the House for debate, because the proposal failed to garner the votes needed even to initiate a debate.

    Read the whole thing here.

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    I’m Back

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:39 am

    I am back from my conference (which went exceptionally well) and will be back to full blogging strength today.

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    Friday, April 2, 2004
    Updated Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:08 pm

    No internet in the room, just access in the business center.

    Hence, expect nothin’ round here until Sunday night or Monday.

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    • The Galvin Opinion linked with BLOGROLL ADDITIONS
    Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:04 am

    This weekend (including part of today and the travel to get there) I will be participating in the Political Recruitment and Democracy in Latin America at Wake Forest University.

    While I think I will have net access, expect light blogging.

    Also: no Toast-O-Meter this week (which seems only sporting, as it will give Kerry’s shoulder a chance to heal).

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    (ala)PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:00 am

    This appered in last Sunday’s (3/28/04) Birmingham News, but it never made it to the web and I kep foregetting to post it.

    Immunity Bill Could Enhance Legislature’s Image

    Steven L. Taylor

    It is clear that Alabama’s state legislature has an image problem. Certainly part of the message sent by voters last fall, when they resoundingly rejected Governor Bob Riley’s tax and accountability package, was that Alabamians, by and large, do not trust those who occupy the State House and Senate. Indeed, this is an ongoing theme in commercials each campaign season in which we are treated to images of whiskey-swilling, cigar-chomping good ole boys making backroom deals which, in turn, are used to make the phrase “Montgomery politician” an epithet.

    Such images and perceptions are problematic for the simple reason that the key to good public policy in any democratic government is the legislature. If we, as a voting population, have no respect for legislators, or if we throw up our hands in disgust and disengage from electoral politics, then we abandon the only means we have of dealing with issues such as state economic development and education, to name but two.

    Hence, it is remarkable that, given the opportunity, that the legislature seems unwilling to engage in what would essentially be a symbolic act to work to build a workable image in the public’s mind. The case in point: the recent attempt to alter the legislative immunity clause from the Alabama State Constitution.
    Section 56 of the Alabama State Constitution states: “Members of the legislature shall, in all cases, except treason, felony, violation of their oath of office, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house shall not be questioned in any other place.”
    The idea of legislative immunity is an old one intended to protect members of legislative bodies from being charged with crimes in association with their normal legislative duties, and have their specific genesis in protecting lawmakers from retribution based on what they say on the floor of the legislature during debate.

    The intent is clear: it is to stop the executive branch or local officials generically from using their power to disrupt legitimate legislative activities by detaining lawmakers or impeding them in any way from attending to their constitutionally appointed tasks. Further, the speech and debate portion is to shield legislators from facing criminal charges for criticizing members of the executive or judicial branches. In short, this clause, and clauses like it in other state constitutions, was designed to prevent the abuse of power by governmental officials who might wish to disrupt the sanctity of legislative debate.

    There can be no doubt that there is a need to codify protection of the speech of member of legislatures. They should be allowed to pursue the interests of their constituents unfettered by fears of lawsuits or other prosecutions because of what they say. Reasonable protections against law enforcement stopping legislators going to legislative sessions make sense as well, if only to protect against potential abuses of police power.

    The immunity question became an issue in our state as the result of a recent run-in with Montgomery Police by State Representative Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in early February in Montgomery. He was eventually escorted home due to the fact that he was a member of the state legislature.

    This event led to a bill being introduced by Representative Jay Love (R-Montgomery) that would amend the State Constitution to remove the immunity clause. Such a decision would have to go before the voters of Alabama. Further, it is likely that the proposal would include some protection in regards to actually legislative activities, as was the intent of the clause in the first place. The bill has left committee in the House of Representatives and but has basically been killed, as it was blocked from reaching the floor.

    The bill itself, and the amendment process it would spawn, is not, strictly speaking, required, as State Attorney General’s office issued an opinion this month that noted that the immunity clause does not grant protection from traffic arrests or other criminal activities, but rather protects legislators from civil arrest. Still, the case can be made that the amendment could be a useful symbolic step to clarify that legislature does not see itself as above the law.

    And, regardless of the attorney general’s opinion, it is clear that immunity clauses such as the one in our state constitution have caused problems across the country in a way that fosters a poor public image for politicians. For example, there was case in Virginia in 1996 in which a member of the Virginia legislature had a public indecency charge dismissed (he had been caught urinating in a public park) on the grounds of legislative immunity. Further, it is a commonplace story across the United States for speeding tickets to be dismissed, or never issued, on the same grounds.

    As such, the proposed legislation could have been a step in the right direction of a long march towards getting the citizens of Alabama to respect its legislature, and to become actively engaged with it. Instead, the legislature appears to be blind to the need to remake its own image.

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    Thursday, April 1, 2004
    Summerall in Need of Liver Transplant

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:13 pm

    Summerall faces liver transplant

    Famed broadcaster Pat Summerall was flown by air ambulance to Florida on Thursday night to await a liver transplant. Mr. Summerall was expected to undergo surgery this weekend at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where he will become one of the 20,000 people who receive potentially life-saving transplants in this country each year.

    The Southlake resident was hospitalized this week at Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Dallas, undergoing tests and awaiting the possibility of transplant surgery there. The former CBS and Fox Sports broadcaster, 73, and his wife, Cheri, were informed Thursday morning that a donor match had been found in Florida.

    “Pat is open about his past and accepts that his alcoholism is the reason he’s in the hospital today,” Ms. Summerall said. “Although this month marks his 12th year of sobriety, alcoholism is a progressive disease, and the damage to his liver reached the point where a transplant is the only option for survival.”

    Mr. Summerall qualified for a transplant through blood tests that rank potential recipients anonymously through a computerized system known as the MELD Model. His latest blood test number bumped him up the list for a transplant here and in Florida.

    Mr. Summerall is in line to become the latest of a string of celebrities to receive a headline-making transplant, including baseball legend Mickey Mantle, actor Larry Hagman and musician David Crosby.

    The complex MELD formula was implemented in 2002 by the Mayo Clinic to ensure that celebrity, age, race, gender and subjective medical evaluations do not distort the process of ranking those who most need a scarce, life-saving liver.

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    A Golf Fact

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:45 pm

    Nothing screws up a great tee shot like having to take your next shot.

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    More on Talk Radio

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:52 pm

    Joe Gandelman discusses the debut of AA and about talk radio in general.

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    I Hadn’t Thought of it in This Way

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

    Echoes of Somalia, but will U.S. react the same?

    When put in those terms it certainly raises the stakes of the event. The need for the appropriate response makes this situation a key test.

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    • The Politburo Diktat linked with Fallujsh Fifth Column
    • The Politburo Diktat linked with Fallujsh Fifth Column
    And This is Surprising Because?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

    Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn’t on Terrorism

    On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday” - but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.

    This hardly strikes me as damning. As James Joyner poitns out

    of course terrorism wasnt the main focus of Bush Administration foreign policy before 9/11. It wasnt the top focus of Clinton policy, either. Why would it have been? Essentially no one in the national security establishment, save people who were terrorism specialists, considered terrorism the top priority on September 10, 2001.

    Indeed, aside from Clarke, this was largely what the other testimony to the 911 panel has revealed.:

    But the players did not clash. Despite some sniping and testiness, the surprising theme was unity.

    Democrats and Republicans alike - past and present secretaries and deputy secretaries of state and defense - spoke little of Clinton vs. Bush and lots about Before vs. After.

    Really, the reason Clarke’s credibility has been so questioned is because he insists that the Clinton administration was radically more focused on the question than was the Bush administraion pre-911 and it is manifestly obvious that this isn’t true.

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    Air America

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

    Air America Radio’s web site is now up with a program line-up (yesterday it was a pretty bare-bones site).

    WaPo has a piece in today’s edition. And it summs up the O’Franken Factor as follows:

    A good radio show has strong pacing and a deft mixture of ideology, confrontation and humor. Franken’s “Factor” was meandering and discursive, almost NPR-like, sounding more like someone shooting the breeze at a dinner party than trying to persuade listeners. The “bumpers” between segments were soft and Muzak-like. With Franken speaking in a relatively low voice, the self-proclaimed “Zero Spin Zone” sometimes sounded like a zero energy zone.

    That well describes the portion I heard, which was, granted a limited slice.

    Gee, I am sorry I missed this:

    The bombast level quadrupled with a burst of rock music when Randi Rhodes, a brassy Brooklynite and longtime Florida radio host, took over at 3 p.m. She served up red meat by the slab.

    “We’re here because you’re smarter than George W. Bush,” Rhodes declared. “The Bush family is just like the Corleones. . . . Jeb fixed his brother’s election.” Within 15 minutes she had worked in the word “penis,” and after that “girls’ panties.”

    Rhodes defended the former attorney general’s response to terrorism, compared with her successor, John Ashcroft: “I know Janet Reno. . . . She’s more man than he is.”

    Seeming to embody liberal anger, Rhodes launched into an extraordinary diatribe about why the president continued to speak to a second-grade class after two planes hit the World Trade Center, and said he then flew to Nebraska because he was “scared . . . Republicans have been drinking this Kool-Aid for a really stinking long time.”

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    Stupid Things University Athletic Programs Do

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    As a neutral observer of U of Alabama football, this strikes me an absurd move (and a PR nightmare): Croom’s Name Removed From Award At Alabama

    Former Alabama player and assistant coach Sylvester Croom was told Wednesday that his name was taken off the “Commitment to Excellence Award” at the University of Alabama. His name was replaced with that of former player Bart Starr.

    […]

    UA Sports spokesman Larry White said Alabama coach Mike Shula is at sea on a cruise and unavailable for comment. He said there were some closed-door discussions about the decision weeks ago. They decided to remove Croom’s name because he took a job to coach at another Southeastern Conference School.

    Croom was in the running for the Alabama head coaching position when Shula was given the job.

    Heck, just looking as resumes I would’ve hired Croom over either Mike Price or Mike Shula. The athletic department at Bama has been something of a keystone cop operation most, if not all, of the time I have been in Alabama (since 1998).

    Here’s a local column on the story. And, indeed:

    “The coaches didn’t feel it was appropriate to have an award named after a coach in our league,” White said. “The staff talked about it. Ultimately, it’s Mike’s decision.”

    Is that a logical explanation? Was having a relatively obscure spring award at Alabama named after him really going to help Croom in recruiting or in any other way as the new head coach at Mississippi State?

    If it’s a recruiting thing, why didn’t Alabama change the Woodrow Lowe Most Improved Linebacker Award? That former Tide All-America did something some Tide extremists might consider more disloyal than Croom.

    Lowe joined the UAB staff as an assistant coach three years ago.

    Lovely:

    Croom didn’t find out that Alabama had taken his name off the Commitment to Excellence Award till a reporter for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger told him Tuesday after practice.

    He was visibly shaken. He told the Clarion-Ledger reporter he was “thoroughly disappointed” because the award “meant a lot to me.”

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Alabama Idiocy
    An Odd Promise

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:04 am

    DNC chairman tries to reassure CBC on Kerry=The Hill.com=

    Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has assured black lawmakers that the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) will not arrive unannounced or uninvited in black lawmaker’s districts.

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    Double Standards

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:59 am

    Can you imagine what the press response would be if a bunch if white ideological conservatives (or a bunch of evangelicals from the south) did this?

    Now, the market is the market, and so one presumes that either the stations were sold because the previous owners wanted to make a profit or the current owners thought that a programing change was in their interest. That is the right of station owners and managers, so I have no gripe in that regard. Still, one has to admit it is a rather hypocritical thing for an allegedly liberal set of broadcasters to do and you can be guaranteed that if it was a bunch of cons doing this, that there would an uproar in the press and in the liberal commentariat.

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