Monday, August 30, 2004

Iowa Republicans are changing the name of their party to 'Hezbollah'

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog
Republicans Change Name to 'Hezbollah'

Amy Sullivan reports in the Washington Monthly that the Iowa Republicans are changing the name of their party to 'Hezbollah':

The Washington Monthly: Guest: Amy Sullivan:

'God's Official Party'?....That's what the good souls in the G.O.P. are apparently calling themselves these days, according to Mike Crowley's report from a morning meeting of the Iowa Republican delegation in New York. Ah, humility...

A lovely translation by DeLong.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The demise of the Falluja Brigade and the rise of Zarqawi

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgency: In Western Iraq, Fundamentalists Hold U.S. at Bay
In Western Iraq, Fundamentalists Hold U.S. at Bay

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 28 - While American troops have been battling Islamic militants to an uncertain outcome in Najaf, the Shiite holy city, events in two Sunni Muslim cities that stand astride the crucial western approaches to Baghdad have moved significantly against American plans to build a secular democracy in Iraq.

Both of the cities, Falluja and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias, with American troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts on the desert's edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks. Even bombing raids appear to strengthen the fundamentalists, who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths.

American efforts to build a government structure around former Baath Party stalwarts - officials of Saddam Hussein's army, police force and bureaucracy who were willing to work with the United States - have collapsed. Instead, the former Hussein loyalists, under threat of beheadings, kidnappings and humiliation, have mostly resigned or defected to the fundamentalists, or been killed. Enforcers for the old government, including former Republican Guard officers, have put themselves in the service of fundamentalist clerics they once tortured at Abu Ghraib.

In the past three weeks, three former Hussein loyalists appointed to important posts in Falluja and Ramadi have been eliminated by the militants and their Baathist allies. The chief of a battalion of the American-trained Iraqi National Guard in Falluja was beheaded by the militants, prompting the disintegration of guard forces in the city. The Anbar governor was forced to resign after his three sons were kidnapped. The third official, the provincial police chief in Ramadi, was lured to his arrest by American marines after three assassination attempts led him to secretly defect to the rebel cause.

The national guard commander and the governor were both forced into humiliating confessions, denouncing themselves as "traitors" on videotapes that sell in the Falluja marketplace for 50 cents. The tapes show masked men ending the guard commander's halting monologue, toppling him to the ground, and sawing off his head, to the accompaniment of recorded Koranic chants ordaining death for those who "make war upon Allah." The governor is shown with a photograph of himself with an American officer, sobbing as he repents working with the "infidel Americans," then being rewarded with a weeping reunion with his sons.

In another taped sequence available in the Falluja market, a mustached man identifying himself as an Egyptian is shown kneeling in a flowered shirt, confessing that he "worked as a spy for the Americans," planting electronic "chips" used for setting targets in American bombing raids. The man says he was paid $150 for each chip laid, then he, too, is tackled to the ground by masked guards while a third masked man, a burly figure who proclaims himself a dispenser of Islamic justice, pulls a 12-inch knife from a scabbard, grabs the Egyptian by the scalp, and severs his head.

The situation across Anbar represents the latest reversal for the First Marine Expeditionary Force, which sought to assert control with a spring offensive in Falluja and Ramadi that incurred some of the heaviest American casualties of the war, and a far heavier toll, in the hundreds, among Falluja's resistance fighters and civilians. The offensive ended, mortifyingly for the marines, in a decision to pull back from both cities and entrust American hopes to the former Baathists.

The American rationale was that military victory would come only by flattening the two cities, and that the better course lay in handing important government positions to former loyalists of the ousted government, who would work, over time, to wrest control from the Islamic militants who had emerged from the shadows to build strongholds there. The culmination of that approach came with the recruitment of the so-called Falluja Brigade, led by a former Army general under Mr. Hussein, and composed of a motley assembly of former Iraqi soldiers and insurgents, who marched into the city in early May, wearing old Iraqi military uniforms, backed with American-supplied weapons and money.

But the Falluja Brigade is in tatters now, reduced to sharing tented checkpoints on roads into the city with the militants, its headquarters in Falluja abandoned, like the buildings assigned to the national guard. Men assigned to the brigade, and to the two guard battalions, have mostly fled, Iraqis in Falluja say, taking their families with them, and handing their weapons to the militants.

The militants' principal power center is a mosque in Falluja led by an Iraqi cleric, Abdullah al-Janabi, who has instituted a Taliban-like rule in the city, rounding up people suspected of theft and rape and sentencing them to publicly administered lashes, and, in some cases, beheading. But Mr. Janabi appears to have been working in alliance with an Islamic militant group, Unity and Holy War, that American intelligence has identified as the vehicle of Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist with links to Al Qaeda whom the Americans have blamed for many of the suicide bombings in Baghdad, which is just 35 miles from Falluja, and in other Iraqi cities.

The videotapes showing the killing of the guard commander, the humiliation of the governor, and the beheading of the Egyptian all display the black-and-yellow flag of the Zarqawi group as a backdrop, and the passages of the Koran chanted as an accompaniment to the killings are drawn from passages of the Muslim holy book that have accompanied some of the videotaped pronouncements by Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Iraqis who have watched the Falluja tapes say the Egyptian's executioner speaks in a cultured Arabic that is foreign, possibly Jordanian or Palestinian.

A Severe Blow in Falluja

Perhaps the harshest blow to the American position in Falluja came with the Aug. 13 execution of the national guard commander, Suleiman Mar'awi, a former officer in Mr. Hussein's army with family roots in Falluja. In the tape of his killing, he is seen in his camouflaged national guard uniform, with an Iraqi flag at his shoulder, confessing to his leadership of a plot to stage an uprising in the city on Aug. 20 that was to have been coordinated with an American offensive. For that purpose, he says, he recruited defectors among the militants' ranks and met frequently with Marine commanders outside the city to settle details of the attack.

American commanders in Baghdad acknowledged ruefully that Mr. Mar'awi had been killed, but they denied that there was any plan for an offensive. Still, Marine commanders at Camp Falluja, a sprawling base less than five miles east of the city, have been telling reporters for weeks that the city has become little more than a terrorist camp, providing a haven for Iraqi militants and for scores of non-Iraqi Arabs, many of them with ties to Al Qaeda, who have homed in on Falluja as the ideal base to conduct a holy war against the United States. Eventually, the Marine officers have said, American hopes of creating stability in Iraq will necessitate a new attack on the city, this time one that will not be halted before it can succeed.

Some of those officers have also acknowledged that Iraqi "scouts" working for the Americans, some disguised as militants, others working for the national guard and police, have been a source of intelligence on militant activities in Falluja, and on the location of bombing targets. The American command says it has carried out many bombing raids since the Marine pullback from the city in May, killing scores of militants. One such raid that was reported this week in a popular Baghdad newspaper, Al-Adala, said that 13 Yemenis had been killed in an air raid in Falluja as they prepared to carry out suicide bombing attacks in Baghdad, and that the Yemeni government was negotiating to bring the bodies home.

Among militants in Falluja, there has been one point of agreement with the Americans - that many of the bombing raids have hit militant safe houses, and with pinpoint accuracy. A clue as to how this has been possible is given in the tapes of the beheadings of Mr. Mar'awi, the national guard commander, and of the Egyptian, a man in his mid-30's who identifies himself on the tape as Muhammad Fawazi. Both men confess to having planted electronic homing "chips" for the Americans. As they speak, the tapes show a man wearing a red-checkered kaffiyeh headdress holding a rectangular device, colored green and encased in clear plastic, about the size of a matchbox....

... American commanders confess they have no answers in Anbar, and say their strategy is to curb the militants' ability to project their violence farther afield, especially in Baghdad. A recent meeting between Iraq's interim prime minister, Dr. Allawi, and a delegation of tribal sheiks from Falluja who have pledged fealty to Mr. Janabi is said to have reached a standstill accord, with Dr. Allawi promising not to sanction large-scale American attacks on the Anbar cities, and the sheiks conveying Mr. Janabi's pledge to halt militant attacks on the Americans...

I remember when snuff films were a rumor of extreme perversity. Now they sell for 50 cents in Iraqi markets. The march of progress.

In these cities the Sunni fundamentalists are popular. Removing these men would mean killing most of the inhabitants.

Ok George, what now?

The Fall of Robert Dole (from a Nixon Republican)

When Bob Dole Said No (
Bob Dole spent little time in combat. But as a result of the time he did spend, he lay on his back for years, recovering, and helping others to recover.

I spent a year in Vietnam and came home without a scratch. My brother served two tours in Vietnam, earned three Purple Hearts (and was hospitalized, and does draw disability -- weird yardsticks used to measure John Kerry's alleged shortfall), and yet spent far less time than I did in-country. Indeed, his first 'tour' lasted about 15 minutes, ending on the beach near Danang in the midst of the U.S. Marines' first amphibious assault in Vietnam.

Time in-country, how often a man was wounded, how much blood he shed when he was wounded -- it is hurtful that those who served in Vietnam are being split in so vile a fashion, and that the wounds of that war are reopened at the instigation of people who avoided serving at all. It is hurtful that a man of Bob Dole's stature should lend himself to the effort to dishonor a fellow American veteran in the service of politics at its cheapest.

There was a time when he would have refused. I know. I was there.

Bob Dole was a man of conscience. Until he Fell.

The Bush administration has this effect on good people. Colin Powell, of course, is exhibit A. Some men, such as O'Neill, save their souls. Most lose them. What is it about that man?

Maybe all those Christian Fundamentalists campaigning for Bush should reread their Apocrypha. Perhaps Clinton wasn't holding the place they assigned to him ..

Backstory to the latest scandal: | The new Pentagon papers | The new Pentagon papers
A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.

I missed this in March. It's important back story now that the 9/11 committee has delivered and the Feith/Franklin story is breaking.

The mainstream media needs to revisit this. How deep does the rot go?

The National Scream: 9/2/04 @ 9:58 pm ET - "Fuggedaboutit".

Boing Boing: Nationwide scream when W speaks at the RNC
On September 2nd, 2004, at approximately 10 pm, George W. Bush will appear on television screens nationwide. For some of our fellow citizens, this will be a moment of joy. But for most of us, it will be the low point of an incredibly exasperating week.

Until now, there have been only two options: miss the speech (either by screaming at the television or turning it off), or bottle up the frustration within us, causing irreparable psychological harm. The first option is unbecoming of citizens in a democracy. The second option is just terrible. But now, for the first time, we have a better way. At the moment we see the president on our television screens, we will rise. We will throw open our windows. And, as George W. Bush moves to the podium in New York City, we will send him a message about his bid for reelection: we will yell, 'fuggedaboudit!'

This will be a peaceful, non-disruptive protest. We will stop yelling before the president starts speaking. Our goal is not to drown him out, but to communicate. (And vent.)

The post omits the key factor -- the timezone of the speech. Maybe we could make this a neighborhood event. We need a more precise start time however. Maybe a counter running on a web site could coordinate everyone.

Inside scoop on the Rumsfeld/Feith/Israel spy scandal

The Agonist | thoughtful, global, timely
For months, I have been working with my colleagues Paul Glastris and Josh Marshall on a story for the Washington Monthly about US policy towards Iran. In particular, it involves a particular series of meetings involving officials from the office of the undersecretary of defense for Policy Doug Feith and Iranian dissidents. To that end, we have pursued and cultivated numerous sources with knowledge of those officials, those meetings, and more broadly, Feith's office's seeming attempts to forge a rogue US foreign policy to Iran out of the Pentagon.

As part of our reporting, I have come into possession of information that points to an official who is the most likely target of the FBI investigation into who allegedly passed intelligence on deliberations on US foreign policy to Iran to officials with the pro-Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, and to the Israelis, as alleged by the CBS report. That individual is Larry Franklin, a veteran DIA Iran analyst seconded to Feith's office.

First, this is an amazing story. The reason it's so interesting is because Feith/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld led a rogue intelligence op prior to the Iraq invasion. Lately, they've seemed to be doing the same with respect to Iran.

Now we discover that one of the actors deeply involved in that effort may be spy for Israel. (Or a double-triple-quardruple agent -- or nothing -- these spy guys seem to love bizarre games.)

I wonder how this will play in the middle east. Probably pretty much what they'd expect.

In terms of Israel, they're just doing their job. Congratulations are deserved. The Israelis and Iranians are two of the best intel orgs in the business. Maybe we could outsource our Intel to Israel and Iran.


On second thought, maybe we did outsource our decision making to Israel and Iran. Both Israel and Iran wanted the US to conquer Iraq -- each for their own reasons. Both appear to have substantially penetrated the Pentagon and Rumsfeld's organization; Iran via Chalabi and, if one believes the FBI, Israel via ? Franklin.

Rumsfeld shouldn't resign. He should remain in office forever, as a living reminder of the risks of arrogance, ignorance, and the perils of a Bush presidency.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Eliot Spitzer wins again

The New York Times > Business > Maker of Paxil to Release All Trial Results
In a settlement that the New York State attorney general said would transform the drug industry, GlaxoSmithKline agreed today to post on its Web site the results of all clinical trials involving its drugs.

'This settlement is transformational in that it will provide doctors and patients access to the clinical testing data necessary to make informed judgments,' the attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, said.

Spitzer has reformed an industry out of control, and righted a wrong that the medical establishment accepted far, far, too long.


John Ashcroft -> Eliot Spitzer.

Yet Another Rlfeport Supports Kerry's Account

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Navy Report Supports Kerry's Account
A Navy report filed five days after a disputed mission in Vietnam supports Senator John Kerry's version of the incident and contradicts critics who say he never came under enemy gunfire when he won two medals.

A weekly report from the Navy task force overseeing Mr. Kerry's Swift boat squadron reported that his group of boats was fired on in the March 13, 1969, mission. Some of Mr. Kerry's critics, including several men who were on other boats that day, say there was no enemy gunfire in the incident, for which Mr. Kerry won a Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart.

The March 18, 1969, report from Task Force 115, which was located by The Associated Press in a search of Navy archives, is the latest document to surface that supports Mr. Kerry's description of the event. Crew members on Mr. Kerry's boat and a Special Forces soldier Mr. Kerry pulled from the water that day insist there was enemy fire. The task force report twice mentions the incident and both times calls it 'an enemy-initiated firefight' that included automatic weapons fire and underwater mines.

Task Force 115 was commanded at the time by Roy Hoffmann, the founder of the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has been running advertisements challenging Mr. Kerry's account of the episode.

A member of the group, Larry Thurlow, said he stood by his assertion that there was no enemy fire that day. Mr. Thurlow, the commander of another boat who also won a Bronze Star, said task force commanders probably relied on the initial report of the incident. Mr. Thurlow says Mr. Kerry wrote that report.

The anti-Kerry group has not produced any official Navy documents supporting its claim.

The SVBT guys have about as much credibility now as George Bush himself. None.

US bounty hunter had contact with Rumsfeld's office

BBC NEWS | South Asia | US admits 'bounty hunter' contact
When Jonathan Idema, also known as Jack, first appeared in court in Kabul last month, he was asked to prove his claims to have had links with the US Department of Defense.

One name he mentioned was Heather Anderson, the Pentagon's Acting Director of Security, who answers to the chief official responsible for intelligence matters in the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary.

This is interesting. Anderson admits contact, but says she turned him down. In a normal administration I'd be inclined to believe her. In this administration, and especially when it involves Rumsfeld ....

Rumsfeld may have read too many Clancy novels.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

SVBT: O'Neill changes yet another story

The Agonist | thoughtful, global, timely
The chief critic of John Kerry's military record told President Nixon in 1971 that he had been in Cambodia in a swift boat during the Vietnam War -- a claim at odds with his recent statements that he was not.  

'I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border,' said John E. O'Neill in a conversation that was taped by the former president's secret recording system. The tape is stored at the National Archives in College Park, Md.

When interviewed recently O'Neill claims that when he said "in Cambodia" he meant "near Cambodia".

This guy is insane.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The "Christmas Eve" attack on Kerry is cheap and almost certainly wrong. By Fred Kaplan

Holiday in Cambodia - The "Christmas Eve" attack on Kerry is cheap and almost certainly wrong. By Fred Kaplan
... But one thing is for sure: Lt. Kerry did not spend that Christmas Eve just lying around, dreaming of sugarplums and roasted chestnuts. He had plenty of time to cover the 40 miles from the Cambodian border to the safety of Sa Dec (he did command a swift boat, after all). More to the point, the evidence indicates he did cover those 40 miles: He was near (or in?) Cambodia in the morning, in Sa Dec that night.

Rove may yet regret starting this fight. Now all we need is some former special ops guy to come out of the wilderness and say Kerry ferried him in.

Rove's fingerprints News | When Republicans attack
...Wayne Slater isn't surprised at all. Slater, the veteran Dallas Morning News reporter who coauthored 'Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,' said Tuesday that the Swift Boat Veterans attack was entirely predictable. Slater has watched Karl Rove work for nearly two decades, and he said the 'mark of Rove' in a campaign is always the same: Aim nasty attacks right at your opponent's strength, but keep your own fingerprints off them.

It happened in Texas in 1994, when Karl Rove ran Bush's campaign against Gov. Ann Richards. Richards' strength, Slater said, was her reputation for tolerance and inclusiveness. Then somebody started rumors in conservative East Texas, whispers suggesting that Richards and some of her staff members were gay. Bush didn't make the accusation himself, of course, but one day a state senator serving as Bush's East Texas campaign chairman -- a politician who had worked previously with Rove -- told a newspaper reporter that Richards' appointment of 'avowed homosexuals' might be a liability in her campaign for reelection. The rumors, suddenly on the record -- at least sort of -- become newspaper stories, and Bush won the race.

Six years later, with Bush and Rove facing a must-win Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, somebody started suggesting that Sen. John McCain's experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam had left him mentally unstable. Again, it was an attack on the opponent's strength -- in McCain's case, his role as a war hero -- and again, Bush and Rove disavowed any involvement in the attacks. When McCain challenged Bush in a Republican debate, Bush said: ' John, I believe that you served our country nobly.'

Of course, that's almost exactly what Bush has said about John Kerry, even as a group with close ties to Rove and the Bush-Cheney campaign runs an advertisement making the opposite point. When Larry King asked Bush about the Swift Boat Veterans' ad earlier this month, Bush said that he believes Kerry performed 'honorable service' in Vietnam.

Slater said that Kerry has learned a lesson from the losses suffered by Ann Richards and John McCain. 'You do not ignore the attacks,' Slater said. 'Richards never responded, and with McCain the response was too muted and too late. The lesson here is that you should respond immediately and try to tag the Bush administration or the Bush campaign as the responsible party.'

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > TV Watch: On Cable, a Fog of Words About Kerry's War Record

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > TV Watch: On Cable, a Fog of Words About Kerry's War Record
That kind of air-kiss coverage is typical of cable news, where the premium is on speed and spirited banter rather than painstaking accuracy. But it has grown into a lazy habit: anchors do not referee - they act as if their reportage is fair and accurate as long as they have two opposing spokesmen on any issue.

Fox is behaving as expected, but CNN is little better.

Rove understands cable TV.

This NYT piece rips cable TV right and left.

Too bad I don't terminate cable service -- never had it. I even got rid of our antennas -- we can't even get broadcast TV. No great loss.

More Bush coordination with SBVT

The Agonist | thoughtful, global, timely: "Benjamin Ginsberg's acknowledgment marks the second time in days that an individual associated with the Bush-Cheney campaign has been connected to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which Kerry accuses of being a front for the Republican incumbent's re-election effort.

The Bush campaign and the veterans' group say there is no coordination."
Nope, no coordination at all. Merely a great deal of integration.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Abu Ghraib report attacks 'chaos'

BBC NEWS | Americas | Abu Ghraib report attacks 'chaos'

I heard a discussion of this report on NPR. One number stuck in my head: 75:1. That was the ratio of Abu Ghraib prisoners to military police.

At Guantanomo Bay the ratio was 1:1. Without mortars. With an apparently more disciplined set of detainees.

The military police who served at Abu Ghraib under those conditions, and who did not abuse prisoners, deserve medals.

Those who spoke out against the abuse deserve medals and promotions. (Though Bush will give them neither.)

Rumsfeld deserves a rotation at Abu Ghraib.

Back to Iraq 3.0: Inside the Imam Ali Shrine

Back to Iraq 3.0: Inside the Imam Ali Shrine
Inside, we were greeted warmly. The Mahdi know how to work the media, and they know the world press generally likes the scrappy underdog — especially if they don’t actively try to kill you like the Sunni insurgents do. And to give Moqtada credit, he does try to discourage kidnappings and he’s been helpful in getting two of my friends released. There were no weapons in sight, and I don’t think — anymore — that there are any in the Shrine proper. But I did watch mortars being fired from just beneath and outside the eastern wall of the Shrine. The mortar teams were right up against the wall, allowing them quickly leave the mortar outside and dash inside to become unarmed pilgrims again.

And this is pissing off a lot of the people who live around the Shrine. The Mahdi aren’t particularly accurate in their firings, and they’re dropping live rounds in a densely populated area. Houses and cars are being blown up. People are dying, and the residents of Najaf are blaming Moqtada.

“There is no food, no water,” said Akil Ramahi, 32, in the streets before we entered the old city. “Death is better than this.”

“One man did all this,” he continued. “If Saddam had been here, he would have gotten rid of Moqtada al-Sadr in one day. I accuse Moqtada al-Sadr of destroying the market—” he was referring to a bombed-out market—”Not the Americans.”

To be fair, more common was the “pox on both houses” sentiment, but interestingly, the Mahdis are about as popular as the Americans, which is to say not very popular at all.

This blog has the most convincing reporting I've read on the shrine battles.

What Bush's donors got in return

John Kerry for President - Rapid Response Center

Bush is a gangster with integrity. If you help him, he helps you. He provides great return on investment, like any good member of "The Family".

Of course most Americans aren't a member of his "Family".

Monday, August 23, 2004

Then and now: changes in the swift boat stories ...

The Washington Monthly -
Roy Hoffman, today: "John Kerry has not been honest."
Roy Hoffman, 2003: "I am not going to say anything negative about him — he's a good man."

Adrian Lonsdale, today: "He lacks the capacity to lead."
Adrian Lonsdale, 1996: "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

George Elliot, today: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
George Elliot, 1996: "The fact that he chased an armed enemy down is something not to be looked down upon, but it was an act of courage."

Larry Thurlow, today: "...there was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at any of the five boats operating on the river that day."
Larry Thurlow's Bronze Star citation, 1969: "...all units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks."

Dr. Louis Letson, today: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."
Medical records, 1968: "Dr. Letson's name does not appear on any of the medical records for Mr. Kerry. Under 'person administering treatment' for the injury, the form is signed by a medic, J. C. Carreon, who died several years ago."

Grant Hibbard, today: "He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate."
Hibbard's evaluation of Kerry, 1968: "Mr. Hibbard gave Mr. Kerry the highest rating of 'one of the top few' in three categories—initiative, cooperation and personal behavior. He gave Mr. Kerry the second-best rating, 'above the majority,' in military bearing."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

My Kerry Volunteer page ...

:: John Kerry for President - Volunteer Center ::

I'm number 760,000 or so on the volunteer list. One gets points for fundrainsing, recruiting etc. That's a long list.

When you volunteer you get a "web page". To put it mildly, there's not much opportunity for customization. You get to select what political pablum is displayed as one's "personal message". There are few attempts to profile the volunteers, but they're pretty dull. One question asked me to list which of Kerry's policies attracted me. The policy of "I'm not George Bush" was not on the list.

Kerry Attacks: His Internet Ad

Tell George Bush: Stop the Smear - Get Back to the Issues

A great ad -- one that drafts McCain (however unwillingly!) into the middle of this battle. It's taken from the McCain-Bush primary battles, when McCain attacks Bush for an earlier cowardly Bush ploy.

We need a lot more of these.

Click on the link, watch the video.

Ivins on Thucydides

Star-Telegram | 08/22/2004 | Molly Ivins | Thucydides had it right
o think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just another attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand the question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action; fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man. … Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."

The quote is from Thucydides, an early historian, writing about the day in 415 B.C. when Athens sent its glorious fleet off to destruction in Sicily.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Garrison Keillor: What Democrats Believe Books | Prairie fire
I don't know any common people personally, though I do know people living on a narrow financial ledge who work terrifically hard to keep from falling off. Young writers, artists, musicians, for sure, but also office workers trying to pay off college loans, own a car, lead a decent life with some music and fun in it, and not to drown in credit card debt. For them, the middle-class life -- the house, the kids, the leisure -- is not so attainable as it was for their folks. You can't swing it on $12.50 an hour. This is a great country for people who earn a quarter-million a year or more, and the others are getting gypped. Democrats were put on earth to speak up for them. We believe in the energy and inventiveness and wild ambition of the young, the marginal, the outsider, the dispossessed -- that's where the genius and soul of this country resides, and we should not crush it underfoot.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Rove , Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans. Goering Lives.

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad

Now we begin to understand where the swift boat fraud is coming from. Kerry's biography portrayed some of them to as incompetent leaders and war criminals. They responded with a frantic barrage of accusations, amplified and encouraged by Bush money and right wing adulation. The more the money, the more the power, the more their memories changed.

There are links to the successful attacks on Dukakis, Clinton, McCain and others. This strategy works, and it works well. The masses can be swayed. Goering perfected these techniques 70 years ago, Rove is merely refining the master's work.

Leo Strauss, idol of the neocons, preached the power of stories to guide the masses. I wonder how he'd feel about how his acolytes are applying these techniques.

Kerry and Edwards need to fight hard, very hard. They have to attack Rove and Bush at every turn, and constantly expose their techniques.

At least the media is beginning to awaken.
The New York Times
August 20, 2004
Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad

After weeks of taking fire over veterans' accusations that he had lied about his Vietnam service record to win medals and build a political career, Senator John Kerry shot back yesterday, calling those statements categorically false and branding the people behind them tools of the Bush campaign.

His decision to take on the group directly was a measure of how the group that calls itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has advanced its cause in a book, in a television advertisement and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit Mr. Kerry's war record, a pillar of his campaign.

How the group came into existence is a story of how veterans with longstanding anger about Mr. Kerry's antiwar statements in the early 1970's allied themselves with Texas Republicans...

... A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove.

... the group's television commercial was produced by the same team that made the devastating ad mocking Michael S. Dukakis in an oversized tank helmet when he and Mr. Bush's father faced off in the 1988 presidential election.

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.

Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry "unfit" had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year.

In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, "I am not going to say anything negative about him." He added, "He's a good man."

In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: "It took guts, and I admire that."

George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage." At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats."

"Senator Kerry was no exception," Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

Those comments echoed the official record. In an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as "not exceeded" in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and "one of the top few" - the second-highest distinction - in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry "unsurpassed," "beyond reproach" and "the acknowledged leader in his peer group."

... It all began last winter, as Mr. Kerry was wrapping up the Democratic nomination. Mr. Lonsdale received a call at his Massachusetts home from his old commander in Vietnam, Mr. Hoffmann, asking if he had seen the new biography of the man who would be president.

Mr. Hoffmann had commanded the Swift boats during the war from a base in Cam Ranh Bay and advocated a search-and-destroy campaign against the Vietcong - the kind of tactic Mr. Kerry criticized when he was a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971. Shortly after leaving the Navy in 1978, he [Hoffman] was issued a letter of censure for exercising undue influence on cases in the military justice system.

Both Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Lonsdale had publicly lauded Mr. Kerry in the past. But the book, Mr. Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," while it burnished Mr. Kerry's reputation, portrayed the two men as reckless leaders whose military approach had led to the deaths of countless sailors and innocent civilians. Several Swift boat veterans compared Mr. Hoffmann to the bloodthirsty colonel in the film "Apocalypse Now" - the one who loves the smell of Napalm in the morning.

... Mr. Hoffmann's phone calls led them to Texas and to John E. O'Neill, who at one point commanded the same Swift boat in Vietnam, and whose mission against him dated to 1971, when he had been recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show."

... About 10 veterans met in Ms. Spaeth's office in Dallas in April to share outrage and plot their campaign against Mr. Kerry, she and others said. Mr. Lonsdale, who did not attend, said the meeting had been planned as "an indoctrination session."

What might have been loose impressions about Mr. Kerry began to harden.

"That was an awakening experience," Ms. Spaeth said. "Not just for me, but for many of them who had not heard each other's stories."

The group decided to hire a private investigator to investigate Mr. Brinkley's account of the war - to find "some neutral way of actually questioning people involved in these incidents,'' Mr. O'Neill said.

But the investigator's questions did not seem neutral to some.

Patrick Runyon, who served on a mission with Mr. Kerry, said he initially thought the caller was from a pro-Kerry group, and happily gave a statement about the night Mr. Kerry won his first Purple Heart. The investigator said he would send it to him by e-mail for his signature. Mr. Runyon said the edited version was stripped of all references to enemy combat, making it look like just another night in the Mekong Delta.

"It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," he said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."

... The book outlining the veterans' charges, "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against Kerry," has also come under fire. It is published by Regnery, a conservative company that has published numerous books critical of Democrats, and written by Mr. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, who was identified on the book jacket as a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of many books and articles. But Mr. Corsi also acknowledged that he has been a contributor of anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments to a right-wing Web site. He said he regretted those comments.

The group also offers the account of William L. Schachte Jr., a retired rear admiral who says in the book that he had been on the small skimmer on which Mr. Kerry was injured that night in December 1968. He contends that Mr. Kerry wounded himself while firing a grenade.

But the two other men who acknowledged that they had been with Mr. Kerry, Bill Zaladonis and Mr. Runyon, say they cannot recall a third crew member. "Me and Bill aren't the smartest, but we can count to three," Mr. Runyon said in an interview. And even Dr. Letson said he had not recalled Mr. Schachte until he had a conversation with another veteran earlier this year and received a subsequent phone call from Mr. Schachte himself.

... Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author.

A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. He also received a Bronze Star for the day, a fact left out of "Unfit for Command."

Asked about the award, Mr. Thurlow said that he did not recall what the citation said but that he believed it had commended him for saving the lives of sailors on a boat hit by a mine. If it did mention enemy fire, he said, that was based on Mr. Kerry's false reports. The actual citation, Mr. Thurlow said, was with an ex-wife with whom he no longer has contact, and he declined to authorize the Navy to release a copy. But a copy obtained by The New York Times indicates "enemy small arms," "automatic weapons fire" and "enemy bullets flying about him." The citation was first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday.

... As Mr. Lonsdale explained it: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us.

"He called us rapers and killers and that's not true," he continued. "If he expects our loyalty, we should expect loyalty from him."

These men have bloody consciences, victims of a terrible war. It is their own demons that have driven them to madness.

Bush has no such demons, and no excuses. He is using these men and using them well.

The staggering incompetence of Homeland Security

The New York Times > National > Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport
Between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States, his aides and government officials said...

... Mr. Kennedy said his situation highlighted the odyssey encountered by people whose names had mistakenly appeared on terrorist watch lists or resembled the names of suspected terrorists on such lists. In April, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government on behalf of seven airline passengers who said they had wrongly been placed on no-fly lists or associated with names on the lists and could not find a way to clarify their identities.

In Mr. Kennedy's case, airline supervisors ultimately overruled the ticket agents in each instance and allowed him to board the plane. But it took several weeks for the Department of Homeland Security to clear the matter up altogether, the senator's aides said.

Just days after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called Mr. Kennedy in early April to apologize and to promise that the problems would be resolved, another airline agent tried to stop Mr. Kennedy from boarding a plane yet again. The alias used by the suspected terrorist on the watch list was Edward Kennedy, said David Smith, a spokesman for the senator...

Asa Hutchinson of the Department of Homeland Security, who was testifying at the Senate hearing, said his department was working to address the situation. He said travelers with such problems should contact the ombudsman at the Transportation Security Administration, a division of Homeland Security, who would help them take steps to clarify their identities.

"There is a process to clear names," said Mr. Hutchinson, the department's under secretary for border security. "But it does illustrate the importance of improving the whole system, which we are very aggressively working to do."

On Monday, Mr. Hutchinson told Congress that Homeland Security officials planned to take over the checking of names of passengers against the no-fly lists. The responsibility is now carried out by the airlines, to ensure that terror suspects do not board airplanes and that law enforcement officials are promptly notified of potential security risks...

Reading this, I was transiently speechless. I even exclaimed out loud.

What staggering incompetence.

Not incompetence of the airline agents -- they were obeying orders.

Not even the remarkable incompetence of the airlines. That's only "remarkable", not "staggering".

The staggering incompetence of the Department of Homeland Security. Even if terrorists agreed to only use unusual names (Edward Kennedy is not an unusual name), and even if they agreed to not change them, still this wouldn't work. John Faughnan is an unusual name, last time I looked (before this type of search was no longer free), there were thousands of us.

What thundering idiots. The body governmental is decaying from the top.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

IHT: The long reach of Leo Strauss (Pfaff 2003)

IHT: The long reach of Leo Strauss
.. Something of a cult developed around Strauss during his later years at Chicago, and he and some admirers figure in the Saul Bellow novel, "Ravelstein." The cult is appropriate because Strauss believed that the essential truths about human society and history should be held by an elite, and withheld from others who lack the fortitude to deal with truth. Society, Strauss thought, needs consoling lies.

He held that philosophy is dangerous because it brings into question the conventions on which civil order and the morality of society depend. This risks promoting a destructive nihilism.

According to Strauss, the relativism of modern American society is a moral disorder that could block it from identifying its real enemies. "Moral clarity" is essential. The Weimar Republic's toleration of extremism allowed the rise of the Nazi party.

Bush and Rove live the Straussian story. The key element is that "stories" are what the masses need. It's why Bush has absolutely no credibility among anyone who thinks. It's not that Bush is stupid, it's that we know everything he says is a "story" for the "masses".

Washington Post exposes the true face of Bush ally

Records Counter a Critic of Kerry (
... Last month, Thurlow swore in an affidavit that Kerry was "not under fire" when he fished Lt. James Rassmann out of the water. He described Kerry's Bronze Star citation, which says that all units involved came under "small arms and automatic weapons fire," as "totally fabricated."

"I never heard a shot," Thurlow said in his affidavit, which was released by Swift Boats Veterans for Truth. The group claims the backing of more than 250 Vietnam veterans, including a majority of Kerry's fellow boat commanders.

A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance" to the disabled boat and its crew. The citation states that all other units in the flotilla also came under fire.

"It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case," Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. "My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting."

Thurlow said he would consider his award "fraudulent" if coming under enemy fire was the basis for it. "I am here to state that we weren't under fire," he said. He speculated that Kerry could have been the source of at least some of the language used in the citation.

In a telephone interview Tuesday evening after he attended a Swift Boat Veterans strategy session in an Arlington hotel, Thurlow said he lost his Bronze Star citation more than 20 years ago. He said he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans.

The Post filed an independent request for the documents with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which is the central repository for veterans' records. The documents were faxed to The Post by officials at the records center yesterday.

Thurlow and other anti-Kerry veterans have repeatedly alleged that Kerry was the author of an after-action report that described how his boat came under enemy fire. Kerry campaign researchers dispute that assertion, and there is no convincing documentary evidence to settle the argument. As the senior skipper in the flotilla, Thurlow might have been expected to write the after-action report for March 13, but he said that Kerry routinely "duked the system" to present his version of events....

... The Bronze Star recommendations for both Kerry and Thurlow were signed by Lt. Cmdr. George M. Elliott, who received reports on the incident from his base in the Gulf of Thailand. Elliott is a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and has questioned Kerry's actions in Vietnam. But he has refused repeated requests for an interview after issuing conflicting statements to the Boston Globe about whether Kerry deserved a Silver Star. He was unreachable last night.

Money has poured into Swift Boat Veterans for Truth since the group launched its television advertisement attacking Kerry earlier this month. According to O'Neill, the group has received more than $450,000 over the past two weeks, mainly in small contributions. The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that the organization has also received two $100,000 checks from Houston home builder Bob Perry, who backed George W. Bush's campaigns for Texas governor and for president.

So now Thurlow is saying that Kerry doctored Thurlow's military records? Or that Kerry conspired to get Thurlow a medal? This guy is falling apart at the seams. I wonder what things haunt his conscience.

Kerry tackles the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth".

Kerry addresses the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" quote from a firefighter speech ...
Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I won the nomination for president. But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.

Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam. As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I. Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.” I’m not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America—then, now, or ever. And I’m not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me. And let me make this commitment today: their lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health care, and our security – the issues that really matter to the American people.

The situation in Iraq is a mess. That is the President’s responsibility and he owes the American people an answer. America is on track to lose more jobs than it’s gained under George Bush and he supports a tax code that rewards companies for shipping jobs overseas. He owes the American people an answer. Health care costs have exploded out of control. The President has done nothing and he owes the American people an answer. The middle class is paying a bigger share of America’s tax burden. The President needs to answer to the American people why that is fair.

Unfortunately, those in the White House are coming from a different place than you and I. They see things a little differently than you and I. They tell us that today, when it comes to the issues that matter most, we’re getting the job done....

Kerry will attack Bush's use of the "veterans for truth" come the debates. This is good.

BTW, George Bush Sr was a certified war hero. Kerry is probably not in the same exotic class, but the evidence is strong that he served bravely and well. I have no doubt he irritated quite a few of his colleagues and superiors. George Bush Jr dodged the war and was a mediocre and probably negligent guardsman.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Weapon O'Neill: The long hand of Charles Colson attacks John Kerry

Old nemesis stalking Kerry's campaign trail
In 1971, when Kerry emerged as the articulate and telegenic leader of Vietnam veterans trying to end the lengthy conflict, the Nixon White House offered up O'Neill as "the un-Kerry."

A clean-cut Naval Academy honor graduate from San Antonio, O'Neill had earned two Bronze Stars as, like Kerry, a Swift Boat skipper in "Coastal Division II," better known as the Mekong Delta. O'Neill, in fact, once commanded PCF 94, the same Swift Boat that had previously been under Kerry's command.

O'Neill was incensed by Kerry's anti-war activities, particularly his claims that American troops in Vietnam had committed wholesale atrocities. His criticism of Kerry eventually came to the attention of Nixon White House counsel Charles Colson, and he became the centerpiece of Colson's attempt to discredit Kerry.

"Let's destroy this young demagogue before he becomes a Ralph Nader," Colson wrote in one of the White House memos about recruiting O'Neill to challenge Kerry.

Nixon himself became part of the effort, meeting with O'Neill for an hour in the Oval Office.

O'Neill has spent 30 years of his life in pursuit of John Kerry, apparently going insane in the process. Ahab would have understood.

And now he serves George Bush.

These manuevers worked against Bill Clinton -- in part because Clinton did have things to hide (mostly his sex life, though it's usually assumed Hilary's early stock options earnings were a form of bribe). They worked against John McCain.

Rove's calculations presumably run this way:

1. Minimum gain: Reduce ability to attack GWB's lackadaisacal approach to his draft-dodging national service stint. (I don't personally care that GWB dodged the draft, I'd have done it too. I would have thought Al Gore and John Kerry were a bit crazy to go into that war. It does make Bush's uber-macho-patriot act somewhat even more annoying.)

2. Maximum gain: Do a "Clinton" and trash Kerry.

3. Risk: Energize Kerry's base and make the media more aggressive than they've been.

Kerry can't dirty his hands with O'Neill, but the media should show some spine and investigate a bit. I suspect they'll find O'Neill has quite an interesting history.

A succinct summary of GWB's greatest Iraq failings

INTEL DUMP - Home - review of Tommy Frank's American Soldier
Second, the review implies that the other post-war criticisms of the Bush administration are unfounded — that the administration's judgment on this operation has been borne out by events. I just don't think you can make a colorable argument to support that point. The fact of the matter is that this administration latched onto every optimistic assumption in the book, as James Fallows reported in the Atlantic Monthly, and failed to effectively plan for the chaos and instability that followed the war. Of course, you couldn't foresee that with any certainty. But you sure as hell could plan for it — and in my opinion, it was derelict not to at least anticipate (and plan for) a worst-case scenario. As I wrote in June 2003 for the Washington Monthly, we have always known that it takes more troops and time to secure the peace than to win the war — it's simply a more complicated endeavor. We ignored the lessons of Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo in Iraq, and we are now paying the price.

The undeniable failure of the Bush administration was not overselling the WMDs. Bush bet on gut instinct that they'd be found. He was wrong, but many better men and women made the same mistake.

Their grievous failure was the catastrophic post-war planning. They were adequately warned, and they ignored those warnings. Since Rumsfeld is no idiot, I assume he was transiently insane -- or that he planned to partition Iraq. Apparently he forgot to mention the latter plan to his boss. John Kerry would not have failed this way. Al Gore would not have made this mistake. Clinton would never have even come close. Heck, George the First would have avoided it. This was George the Seconds character failing.

Now, will Tommy Franks end up supporting Kerry -- or his patron George the Second?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Brave New World of Psychic Reengineering and Robotic Monkeys: Be Afraid?

Brain's Reward Circuitry Revealed in Procrastinating Primates
Using a new molecular genetic technique, scientists have turned procrastinating primates into workaholics by temporarily suppressing a gene in a brain circuit involved in reward learning. Without the gene, the monkeys lost their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it, say researchers at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

"The gene makes a receptor for a key brain messenger chemical, dopamine," explained Barry Richmond, M.D., NIMH Laboratory of Neuropsychology. "The gene knockdown triggered a remarkable transformation in the simian work ethic. Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward a distant goal. They work more efficiently—make fewer errors—as they get closer to being rewarded. But without the dopamine receptor, they consistently stayed on-task and made few errors, because they could no longer learn to use visual cues to predict how their work was going to get them a reward."

Richmond, Zheng Liu, Ph.D., Edward Ginns, M.D., and colleagues, report on their findings in the August 17, 2004 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online the week of August 9th.

Richmond's team trained monkeys to release a lever when a spot on a computer screen turned from red to green. The animals knew they had performed the task correctly when the spot turned blue. A visual cue-a gray bar on the screen-got brighter as they progressed through a succession of trials required to get a juice treat. Though never punished, the monkeys couldn't graduate to the next level until they had successfully completed the current trial.

As in a previous study using the same task, the monkeys made progressively fewer errors with each trial as the reward approached, with the fewest occurring during the rewarded trial. Previous studies had also traced the monkeys' ability to associate the visual cues with the reward to the rhinal cortex, which is rich in dopamine. There was also reason to suspect that the dopamine D2 receptor in this area might be critical for reward learning. To find out, the researchers needed a way to temporarily knock it out of action.

Molecular geneticist Ginns, who recently moved from NIMH to the University of Massachusetts, adapted an approach originally used in mice. He fashioned an agent (DNA antisense expression construct) that, when injected directly into the rhinal cortex of four trained monkeys, spawned a kind of decoy molecule which tricked cells there into turning-off D2 expression for several weeks. This depleted the area of D2 receptors, impairing the monkeys' reward learning. For a few months, the monkeys were unable to associate the visual cues with the workload—to learn how many trials needed to be completed to get the reward.

"The monkeys became extreme workaholics, as evidenced by a sustained low rate of errors in performing the experimental task, irrespective of how distant the reward might be," said Richmond. "This was conspicuously out-of-character for these animals. Like people, they tend to procrastinate when they know they will have to do more work before getting a reward."

To make sure that it was, indeed, the lack of D2 receptors that was causing the observed effect, the researchers played a similar recombinant decoy trick targeted at the gene that codes for receptors for another neurotransmitter abundant in the rhinal cortex: NMDA (N-methlD-aspartate). Three monkeys lacking the NMDA receptor in the rhinal cortex showed no impairment in reward learning, confirming that the D2 [jf: rhinal cortex] receptor is critical for learning that cues are related to reward prediction. The researchers also confirmed that the DNA treatments actually affected the targeted receptors by measuring receptor binding following the intervention in two other monkeys' brains.

"This new technique permits researchers to, in effect, measure the effects of a long-term, yet reversible, lesion of a single molecular mechanism," said Richmond. "This could lead to important discoveries that impact public health. In this case, it's worth noting that the ability to associate work with reward is disturbed in mental disorders, including schizophrenia, mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, so our finding of the pivotal role played by this gene and circuit may be of clinical interest," suggested Richmond.

"For example, people who are depressed often feel nothing is worth the work. People with OCD work incessantly; even when they get rewarded they feel they must repeat the task. In mania, people will work feverishly for rewards that aren't worth the trouble to most of us."

Be afraid. Fundamentally, we are monkeys. This is psychic engineering on a new scale -- beyond current psychopharmacology and deep brain implants.

Also, if you have a family member suffering from severe psychiatric disorders -- be hopeful. This is a true breakthrough.

This NIH release shows that the effect is more subtle than the mass media are portraying. The intervention specifically blocked visual learning, it's not clear that it changed the Monkey's "character" so much as it changed their ability to interpret the visual input their cortex was receiving.

At a deeper level, if one sets aside the question of souls, the concept of "free will" is obviously a convenient and important fiction. This kind of research is making it harder to sustain that fiction. Somewhere in the next 10 years popular culture will recognize that, unless one posits a supernatural ingredient (eg. souls), "free will" and "responsibility" are clearly unsustainable concepts -- but they remain fundamental to our social structures.

Alvin Toffler is spinning in his grave and Huxley is looking down (up?) with a grimly satisfied expression.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Pakistan - Jihadi story opens up. Phase II of the "War on Terror"?

Asia Times Online - Cracking open Pakistan's jihadi core - Syed Saleem Shahzad

This Asia Times article digs down into the roots of the jihadi story. Fascinating, but it reads as though it was published by an intelligence service, presumably Indian. Be good to read a cross-checked version of this.

It does sound as though we're entering a new stage in this conflict.
KARACHI - The recent arrest of two top Pakistani jihadis, Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, marks the beginning of the end of an era that started in the mid-1980s when the dream of an International Muslim Brigade was first conceived by a group of top Pakistan leaders.

The dream subsequently materialized in the shape of the International Islamic Front, an umbrella organization for militant groups formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 and loosely coordinated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan.

The arrests in Pakistan, made under relentless pressure from the United States, are aimed at tracing all jihadi links to their roots, which are mostly grounded in Pakistan's strategic core.

As a former Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operator and air force official, Khalid Khawaja, commented in the Pakistani press on the arrests of the two jihadis, "Every link of the arrested jihadi leaders goes straight to top army officials of different times."

... The present problems in the "war on terror" are linked to the labyrinth of groups developed during the decade-long Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsored much of the jihadi movement, using the ISI as a front and a conduit.

For example, US planes used to fly supplies, arms and ammunition for the Afghan fighters to Islamabad, from where they were transferred to the ISI Afghan cell's facility at Rawalpindi, from where the ISI had its own network to distribute the merchandise to the mujahideen groups of its choice.

This modus operandi exposed a serious flaw in US strategic thinking. By not dealing directly with the Afghan groups, the US had no control over which ones benefited, and invariably only those factions that were both anti-Western capitalism and anti-Soviet socialism were cultivated by the ISI.

In this environment, late Pakistani dictator General Zia ul-Haq and his closest associate, the then director general of the ISI, Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, both of whom died in a plane crash in 1988, saw their opportunity to lay the foundations for a global Muslim liberation movement.

Blissfully unaware of this perspective, the CIA supported Pakistani efforts to recruit Muslim youths from the Pacific to Africa, and a whole generation of youngsters was trained in jihadi, and, importantly, with strong anti-US overtones. Youngsters were drawn from groups such as Abu Sayyaf from the Philippines and Muslims from Arakan province in Myanmar.

To keep the movements under the strict control of the ISI, the ISI established proxies such as al-Badr, the Harkat-i-Jihad-i-Islami and Harkatul Ansar (or Harkatul Mujahideen as it was once known). Akhtar, incidentally, was leader of Harkat, while Khalil was head of the Harkatul Ansar.

Crucially, all this was done without the CIA and, for that matter, the leaders of the Islamic movements knowing just how much control the ISI actually had.

To keep the Arab movements under control, an al-Badr facility was organized in Khost province in Afghanistan. A dynamic law and master of arts graduate from Karachi University, Bakhat Zameen Khan, a member of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), a powerful religious party (who originally hailed from Dir in North West Frontier Province), was chosen as commander. He brought together all Arab jihadis at the facility, and linked senior ones to the ISI. Out of this camp, the Palestinian Hamas emerged, as well as the Arab-sponsored Moro liberation movement led by Abu Sayyaf...

... Former Afghan prime minister and legendary mujahideen Hekmatyar went into exile in Tehran once the Taliban came to power in 1996. But as the Taliban regime disintegrated in late 2001, the US put pressure on Tehran to expel Hekmatyar, planning to arrest him as soon as he returned to Afghanistan, where he believed he could reinvent himself as an anti-US resistance guerrilla leader.

By this time, though, Islamabad, having been persuaded to abandon the Taliban and join the United States' "war on terror", was in the process of finding a substitute connection in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar was the obvious choice. Khan was sent to Tehran to assure Hekmatyar of Pakistan's support should he return to Afghanistan.

Al-Badr members were tasked to escort Hekmatyar from Iran to Afghanistan and to keep him away from the Americans. He was kept in a safe house in Chitral, where al-Badr members, along with Pakistan commandos, guarded the premises. As soon as al-Badr members located other diehard HIA commanders, such as Kashmir Khan and Ustad Fareed, Hekmatyar was launched in Afghanistan's Kunar province to reorganize the HIA as a proxy of the ISI in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, al-Badr, with its long experience in the region, helped many Arabs and their families, desperately wanted by the US, by providing them shelter and arranging fake passports for them to return to their countries of origin.

From the mid-1980s, then, to the present the ISI and al-Badr have virtually been one and the same thing. The US State Department declared al-Badr a terrorist organization a few years ago, and has steadily put pressure on Islamabad to arrest its operators. However, Pakistan, for obvious reasons, has been reluctant to comply with US demands....

... However, after the then director general of the ISI, Lieutenant-General Mehmood Ahmed, retired the day the US attacked Afghanistan, Khalil returned to Pakistan and was placed under house arrest as Islamabad had done an about-turn, under US insistence, on support for the Taliban.

The ISI, jihadi leaders and the Pakistani army have over the years been inextricably linked, especially in Afghanistan. Now that two key jihadi figures, Khalil and Akhtar, have been arrested, it can easily be deduced that the story of their involvement, and the quest to stamp out the jihadi movement at its heart, will not end with them being incarcerated: there has always been someone in the Pakistani establishment, whether active or retired, to pull the strings, as was the case with Khalil and Akhtar, and with Bakhat Zameen Khan.

Now, with the arrest of the the jihadi leaders, the "cover" has been broken and there is little place left for the "operators behind the scenes" to hide.

"The cat is cornered against the wall and the much-awaited game within the army is about to start," commented an observer based in Washington.

Emphases mine. Talk about building a monster.

The Pentagon is looking at funding "friendly militias" to operate in the world's ungoverned regions. I hope they've learned something from the CIA's "successes".

This backstory makes that plane crash even more interesting.

Bush's choice to protect the nation: a political ploy

Democrats Respond to Goss Nomination With Caution (
A Republican political operative, who requested anonymity because of participation in the party's regular conference calls, said the president turned back to Goss because "poll data showed Kerry had closed the gap with Bush on handling of terrorism and was slightly ahead as fit to be commander in chief." The operative also said polls showed the president's embrace of the commission's suggestion for a new intelligence director "was not understood by the public." Goss had to be named "to show Bush was moving ahead."

Goss is a Bush loyalist, a safe political choice. Very much the kind of intelligence head Putin would choose.

The most charitable interpretation is that Bush intends this to be a meaningless post, so by playing politics with it he achieves two ends: a political objective and neutering the 9/11 committee's recommendations.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Teflon, Dupont and PFOA

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > DuPont, Now in the Frying Pan
... In the 1980's, a DuPont study of female workers exposed to the substance found that two out of seven women gave birth to babies with facial defects similar to those observed in the offspring of rats that had been exposed to PFOA in another study. In its complaint, the E.P.A. charged that DuPont had also detected PFOA in the blood of at least one of the fetuses and in public drinking water in communities near DuPont plants, but did not report that it had done the tests.

THERE is no federal requirement for companies to test unregulated chemicals like PFOA, but if companies have reason to believe a substance poses a threat, they are required by the Toxic Substances Control Act to notify the E.P.A. The agency also said DuPont was in violation of another federal environmental law for not providing all of the toxicological data it had gathered about the chemical after a 1997 request from the agency.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in Wood County, W.Va., the home of the Washington Works plant where DuPont has made Teflon for decades, has turned up a series of documents that DuPont had sought to shield as proprietary information. The latest came to light in May, when the West Virginia Supreme Court voted unanimously to unseal several DuPont memorandums from 2000 in which John R. Bowman, a company lawyer, warned two of his superiors - Thomas L. Sager, a vice president and assistant general counsel, and Martha L. Rees, an associate general counsel - that the company would "spend millions to defend these lawsuits and have the additional threat of punitive damages hanging over our head.

Can you say ... asbestos? Dupont will have invested extensively in senators and the Bush campaign, perhaps they expect that will shield them. 3M cleverly dumped this business, but Dupont persisted. The evidence so far looks quite ominous.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

When genocide is difficult to prevent ...

The New Republic Online: Plan of ActionOne analysis of what it would take to stop the Sudanese genocide. It sounds midway between the Somalia intervention (which succeeded in terms of its initial stated goals) and the invasion of Afghanistan. Rather more than is typically thought, in hindsight, would have been needed to stop the Rwandan genocide.

This problem will take some creative thought. It might, for example, take less power to destroy the Sudanese government than to maintain a peace -- perhaps that would incent the current regime to cooperate.

Bush and the wolf - Jimmy Breslin
Kerry could have been been doing the least bit better in polls.

Every time something like that happens, Bush stumbles or a 9/11 report comes out to make him look bad, he cries 'terrorist.' He has done this for over two years now.

This time, a great bin Laden target in New York was the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue. You could be incinerated if Osama gets at this building!

Right away in the morning, George Bush's wife and daughters rushed up from Washington to stand bravely in the front of all those cameras. It was not for the election. They truly wanted to stand with New Yorkers and be incinerated, the same as anybody else.

It probably was the one most fraudulent act we have had since the World Trade Center bombing, and at that time, Bush himself got up on a destroyed fire engine and pretended to be tough. While not saying that he froze during the attack.

Here is Bush's latest intelligence from his intelligence agents: George Bush tells us that once upon a time bin Laden measured our inclines in parking garages. Oh, Lord, call out the troops!

The terrorists had records of the inclines of underground garages in big New York buildings. The TV announcers read this with wide, fearful eyes...
In several related pieces of news Bush/Rove may have blown the cover of a Pakistani undercover agent (the Onion predicted this, I guess one CIA agent wasn't enough [1]) and the Brits are fed up with politically motivated terror alerts.

My impression is that the alert wasn't entirely faked. It sounds like we've had a burst of good intel recently. I suspect there were grounds for an alert. The way the alert was handled, however, was ALL politics -- nasty, rotten, dirty Rovian politics.

The worst part is that Bush, by using a genuine terror alert to serve his electoral agenda, has turned a warning into a wolf cry. His credibility, near zero outside of 50% of the American public, is moving into negative terrain.

[1] The Onion had Bush blogging on an iMac. Since one of Bush's first acts was to end the antitrust action against Microsoft, a large campaign donor, it's unlikely he'd be using a Mac for his blog.

FTC National Resource for ID Theft: your account at eBay has been suspended

Federal Trade Commission - Your National Resource for ID Theft
If you ever complete any of these "phishing" emails, like the one I describe below, you'll need this link! Here's some background for those who've never bothered to investigate these scams.

I get at least 10 "contact eBay urgently" messages every week. If nothing else, the scum sucking scammers sending the messages are really hurting eBay's ability to reach their customers.

Today, on a whim, I decided to follow the link in one of those messages. I run Safari on OS X, so I wasn't that worried about viruses and browser hijacking.

This was the message. It looked reasonably genuine, only one grammatical error suggested the author was not a native english speaker:
Dear eBay User,

We regret to inform you, that we had to block your eBay account because we have been notified that your account may have been compromised by outside parties.

Our terms and conditions you agreed to state that your account must always be under your control or those you designate at all times. We have noticed some activity related to your account that indicates that other parties may have access and or control of your information in your account.

Please be aware that until we can verify your identity no further access to your account will be allowed. As a result,Your access to bid or buy on eBay has been restricted. To start using your eBay account fully, Please uptake and verify your information by clicking below


eBay Member Service

**Please Do Not Reply To This E-mail As You Will Not Receive A Response**
In the message I received clicking on the link doesn't go to eBay at all, it goes here:

There I completed an extensive and astounding form that requested everything anyone could steal. My SSN, eBay passwords, bank account information, credit card numbers, mother's maiden name, etc. I filled it full of nonsense. I suppose one way to hurt these scum would be to create a software program that would complete these forms with meaningless data that would be costly for the scammers to verify. It would raise their cost of operation. If I were eBay, that's what I'd be doing to fight back.

BTW, here's the whois entry for pornosim:
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: No nameserver
Status: ACTIVE
Updated Date: 09-apr-2004
Creation Date: 09-apr-2004
Expiration Date: 09-apr-2005
It was apparently created in April of 2004, I suspect it will only be transiently active.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Email is truly broken - so don't be upset if I don't reply!

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > Delete: Bathwater. Undelete: Baby.
Several months ago, Dr. Kim and Mrs. Crasco were at a meeting when they ran into a program director they knew from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She greeted them coolly. Puzzled, Dr. Kim and Mrs. Crasco asked what they might have done to offend her.

As it turned out, she had sent Dr. Kim and Mrs. Crasco an e-mail message suggesting that they work together on a grant application. The application deadline had since passed, and the acquaintance was more than a little miffed that she had gotten no response from them.

The two entrepreneurs were flabbergasted. Not only did they have no idea the e-mail had been sent, they had no idea that it had been snuffed out as junk.

Yes, email is broken. It's been obviously broken for a couple of years. I have over 4000 intercepted spams a week, and about 70 that aren't intercepted. Among the > 4000 intercepted spams are probably 1-3 legitimate emails. There's no way ANY spam filter can be accurate enough to eliminate 99.5% of all spam and NOT also eliminate 1 or more legitimate emails. I have done test analysis as part of my worklife, and no test is perfect. Spam filtering is a testing procedure. (If spam filtering services made some trivial UI changes it would be MUCH easier to hunt for the legitimate email in the mounds of digipoop -- the authors of those products clearly don't get much email.)

I proposed, years ago, a series of technical approaches to spam. Indeed, many years ago, I proposed to Mindspring that they start offering spam filtering as a service -- and months later they were the first to provide ISP based filtering.

I am sure none of my suggestions were original, though I've never seen a complete presentation of my primary recommendation: "differential filtering based on the managed reputation of an authenticated sending service". In any case, there are many technical fixes that will work. All of them will involve some form of sender authentication (authenticating the sending service and then filtering based on sending service reputation, as I propose, pushes the authentication obligation to the sending service and allows at least potential identity protection).

In general a lot of things done by email (file transfer, broadcast communication, collaborative groups, receiving notification of changed content) can be better done through other technologies, esp. webDav and RSS/Atom syndication. (Finding a unified workflow engine is a related challenge, however.) Sending messages, however, requires email or something fundamentally identical; instant messaging is no replacement for email.

Email must be fixed. It can be fixed. It will be fixed. It's just a question of whether the fix is a trojan horse for the RIAA/Palladium/DRM/Ashcroft agenda, or a more modest fix that addresses our messaging needs alone.

In the meantime, if I don't reply to your message, don't assume I got it.

Springsteen - the intellectual

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Chords for Change
Like many others, in the aftermath of 9/11, I felt the country's unity. I don't remember anything quite like it. I supported the decision to enter Afghanistan and I hoped that the seriousness of the times would bring forth strength, humility and wisdom in our leaders. Instead, we dived headlong into an unnecessary war in Iraq, offering up the lives of our young men and women under circumstances that are now discredited. We ran record deficits, while simultaneously cutting and squeezing services like afterschool programs. We granted tax cuts to the richest 1 percent (corporate bigwigs, well-to-do guitar players), increasing the division of wealth that threatens to destroy our social contract with one another and render mute the promise of 'one nation indivisible.'

It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

If Springsteen indeed wrote this piece, there's no doubt he's a strong writer. He isn't, of course, responsible for the dorky title.

He has come "out", not so much as a democrat (that was long suspected), but as an intellectual and a social critic. In this realm he joins a number of other rock and folk stars who made their wealth with a different image. Achieving mega-stardom, as the Terminator has recently demonstrated for the dark side, seems to require a formidable intellect as well as domain specific talent.

Time to hit Amazon and see if I can add anything to my Springsteen iPod list.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Life in 1954 -- a time traveler's tale

Popular Science | Tech '54, Where Are You?

A fantastic essay. I need to finish it!

Thirty-eight rhetorical tricks, with the methods of overcoming them

From 'Straight and crooked thinking' by Robert H. Thouless, Pan Books, ISBN 0 330 24127 3, copyright 1930, 1953 and 1974.

A marvelous resource.

Review here.

Updated 10/22/2011: The original link has vanished and the domain was acquired. I can't find a summary of the book online, but I found a PDF that can be downloaded from the 1953 edition. A wikipedia article lists some key excerpts.

The new, crazy, stock market

BW Online | August 6, 2004 | The New Rules of Investing... The long-term investor who checks in occasionally to see what's going on can be alarmed by what's happening. Technical indicators, like the level an index reaches on a analytical chart, can trigger major buying activity, even if there was no positive fundamental news in a particular sector. For example, one reason financial stocks rallied on Aug. 2 in the wake of a government announcement of a new terrorist threat may simply be because, that same morning, they fell to a technical level at which a lot of buyers had decided weeks ago to buy. So while most investors might have expected stock prices to decline in the face of rising fear, they actually rose. Go figure.

Similarly, individual stocks' moves can seem inexplicable until examined in the context of today's trading strategies. Did you wonder why Citigroup (C ) rose the day after its New York headquarters was named as a terrorist target? It may simply be because it was bought that day as part of a basket of bank stocks ...
We need to stop announcing market moves on the radio as though they were meaningful.

This noise is annoying, but I worry more about corporate governance and our weak financial regulatory environent. Those are the issues that are rigging the market.

Minneapolis is America's most literate city?!

Literate Cities 2004 | introduction
But St. Paul is number 16!!!

ARGGGHHHH. We St. Paulites will never live this down.

Scenice Byways - America and MN

Learn About Byways: "The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Since 1992, the National Scenic Byways Program has provided funding for almost 1500 state and nationally designated byway projects in 48 states. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities."
Sure looks like a typical pork project!! I ordered a map anyway.

Here's the list for Minnesota.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Will McCain turn on Bush? The right may have gone too far ... again.

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | McCain Condemns Anti-Kerry Ad
Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry's military service ``dishonest and dishonorable'' and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.

``It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,'' McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, referring to his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.

The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.

``When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry,'' one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad.

The ad, scheduled to air in a few markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, was produced by Stevens, Reed, Curcio and Potham, the same team that produced McCain's ads in 2000.

``I wish they hadn't done it,'' McCain said of his former advisers. ``I don't know if they knew all the facts.''

Asked if the White House knew about the ad or helped find financing for it, McCain said, ``I hope not, but I don't know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad.''

Later, McCain said the Bush campaign has denied any involvement and added, ``I can't believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt.''

The White House did not immediately address McCain's call that they repudiate the spot.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Kerry's record and statements on the war on terrorism - not his service in Vietnam - are fair game. ``The Bush campaign never has and will never question John Kerry's service in Vietnam,'' he said.

In 2000, Bush's supporters sponsored a rumor campaign against McCain in the South Carolina primary, helping Bush win the primary and the nomination. McCain's supporters have never forgiven the Bush team.

McCain said that's all in the past to him, but he's speaking out against the anti-Kerry ad because he believes it's bad for the political system. ``It reopens all the old wounds of the Vietnam War, which I spent the last 35 years trying to heal,'' he said.

``I deplore this kind of politics. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.''

McCain himself spent more than five years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. A bona fide war hero, McCain, like Kerry, used his war record as the foundation of his presidential campaign.

The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. The leader of the group, retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, said none of the 13 veterans in the commercial served on Kerry's boat but rather were in other swiftboats within 50 yards of Kerry's.

Jim Rassmann, an Army veteran who was saved by Kerry, said there were only six crewmates who served with Kerry on his boat. Five support his candidacy and one is deceased.

Overreach is always a danger. McCain is putting Bush into a corner. Either Bush repudiates the ad, or he's exposed as supporting it. Rove won't allow repudiation. But if Bush is shown to be a supporter, then he exposes his true nature -- and McCain may join the fight on Kerry's side.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

So what happened when the marines invaded Fallujah? And then withdrew?

The Atlantic Online | July/August 2004 | Five Days in Fallujah | Robert D. Kaplan
A hundred and thirty thousand U.S. soldiers in Iraq were simply not enough to deal with a small fraction of that number of insurgents. It wasn't only because insurgencies, pace C. E. Callwell, arise from the soil itself, and thus have whole categories of advantages that a military force from the outside, alien to the culture, lacks. It was also because—as the large number of American troops near the Baghdad airport attested—the U.S. defense establishment was still organized for World War II and the Korean War, with too many chiefs at enormous rear bases, and too few Indians at the edges. In the weeks ahead the Marines at Fallujah would attempt to avoid large-scale bloodshed by seeking Iraqi surrogates to patrol the city. Such an expedient may provide a hint as to how the U.S. military will deal with Iraq as a whole.

I remember the Fallujah episode as a series of puzzling and inconsistent news reports, ending in an odd sort of stalemate. This story provides more context.

The Marines Kaplan describes are classic warriors -- samurai -- violently devout, righteous, often compassionate, aggressive, lusting for battle and glory, courageous and prepared to die in battle. They seem to resemble their opponents, save that the Marines seem far more concerned about civilian casualties. I suspect for the insurgents there is no such thing as a "non-combatant". Women and children are combatants too; and those who are not combatants do not merit life.

The Marines entered Fallujah thinking there were a minority of enemies in a civilian population that wanted them out. They discovered that "minority" was pretty large -- too large to kill. They found every mosque was a military facility. They had far too few men to pacify a city like Fallujah -- unless they were to kill tens of thousands of men, women, and children. Ultimately they were withdrawn. It was the least bad alternative given fundamentally mistaken assumptions.

Kaplan on the old data alert: a reasoned condemnation

Waving the Orange Flag - Did the Bushies overplay the latest al-Qaida threat? By Fred Kaplan
Given what the Times' counterterrorism source said about the vast set of blueprints that al-Qaida keeps on the shelf, U.S. intelligence might discover lots of laptops with lots of apparent plans. If the alert goes up to orange or red with each discovery, very soon nobody is going to take these alerts at all seriously—and that includes the local law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the alerts on already overstretched budgets.

If president Bush is truly serious about preventing terrorist attacks, he has to ensure that these alerts, even when they're wrong, are at least perceived as sincere and untainted by political motive. By this standard, Tom Ridge last Sunday proved himself a dreadful homeland security secretary, and the Bush administration (by association, if not collaboration) diminished the trust that a president must inspire on such matters.

During the news conference where he announced the heightened alert, Ridge made the following remark: 'We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror.'

As far as I can tell, only Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, quoted this line. On one level, the 'real' news media might be lauded for ignoring the sentence and thus separating the news from the propaganda. But on another level, by censoring Ridge's spin, aren't they distorting the news? Isn't his spin part of the news? Could it be that the spin spurred the news, supplied (at least in part) the rationale for the announcement—especially given the broader context of its timing just a few days after the Democratic Convention?

Homeland security, like the Fed, should be appointed independently of the ruling party with congressional oversight. Kaplan's reasoning is persuasive. It was understandable that security heads and government wanted to announce the findings, but they are indeed old data. Given that, extra attention should have been paid to the perception of sincerity. Bush failed that test, but Rove passed his test.