October 31, 2005

Boo

President Bush to Democrats: trick or treat!

President Bush, stung by the rejection of his first choice, nominated conservative judge Samuel Alito today to replace moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his political base.

''Judge Alito is one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America,'' the president said in announcing Alito's selection. ''He's got a mastery of the law and a deep commitment to justice.'' Bush exhorted the Senate to confirm his choice by the end of the year.

The choice was likely to spark a political brawl. Unlike the nomination of Harriet Miers, which was derailed Thursday by Bush's conservative allies, Alito faces opposition from Democrats.

''The Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people,'' said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

In contrast to Miers, Alito ''has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in 70 years,'' the president said.

So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed ``Scalito'' or ``Scalia-lite'' by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.

Related:

• Wikipedia - Samuel A. Alito
• New York Times - special coverage
• Washington Post - special coverage
• Google News - Samuel Alito
• NRO - Bench Memos

Posted by Alan at 06:39 AM

October 30, 2005

Courage in New Delhi

Jihadist terrorists attacked innocent citizens in New Delhi Saturday; dozens are dead. But there were heroes, too.

The story of the blast on a packed Delhi Transport Corporation bus in south Delhi’s Govindpuri could have been similar to those of the two crowded markets. But a few seconds before the bomb went off, Budh Prakash and Kuldeep Singh changed the terrorists’ script.

Prakash, 42, the conductor of the DTC bus on the Outer Ring Road route and Singh, its driver, are now at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences — Prakash with minor injuries and Singh in a critical condition. But their presence of mind saved scores of passengers. The Govindpuri toll: No death, nine injured.

A passenger sighted a black rexin bag three seats behind the driver’s and alerted Prakash. He made the driver stop the bus. ‘‘There were 100 passengers on the bus at that point so we stopped the bus near Okhla Mandi and took the bag out. The driver saw a wire hanging out of the bag which was about two-feet long. The only solution seemed to be to throw the bag away and as the driver was doing that, the blast happened,’’ said Prakash who has minor injuries on his arm.

Singh is seriously injured. ‘‘His whole arm has burnt and he is in a critical state at the moment. Had the conductor and the driver not taken action in time, many lives would have been lost,’’ said DTC’s chairman and managing director A. Majumdar.

Glass splinters on the road and the smashed windshield of the bus with a dried blood stain told the story of an attack which was foiled.

For the DTC official on the spot, it was a proud moment. ‘‘We had clearly instructed our staff to be on the look-out for any unclaimed baggage and had told them to move people out in case they spotted anything suspicious. Thank God they were alert today. If not for them....’’

Tip via Winds of Change.

Posted by Alan at 07:39 PM

October 29, 2005

Lewis Libby's deep trouble

Andrew McCarthy, himself a former federal prosecutor, warns those eager to leap to Lewis Libby's defense against grasping too much at the fact that Libby's indictment yesterday was "merely" for perjury and obstruction of justice.

He says Patrick Fitzgerald's case is built on a stronger foundation: violation of espionage laws by Libby and tempered only by prosecutorial restraint.

The indictment charges the mere fact that Plame worked at the CIA was classified information. (“At all relevant times … Valerie Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified.”)

It is worth noting that many people, including me, have been wrong about this. I assumed that the fact that she was a CIA employee was well-known and not classified, but that some aspect of her relationship with CIA was covert and classified. The latter may be true (Fitzgerald, as he should have, declined to comment on it), but it turns out to be not so important because the very fact that she was a CIA employee was classified. It really doesn’t matter whether we think it should have been classified or not. The fact is that it was. People privileged to handle classified information well know that they mustn’t disclose it even if they personally think there is no good reason for it to be classified or that some higher purpose of theirs would be served by disclosing it.

So, if the allegations in the indictment are true, then Libby did obtain classified information in his official capacity and he did share it with reporters who were not entitled to receive it. The rest of the equation is: did he act willfully?

...

[W]hile Libby may have had a bad purpose as far as the law is concerned, he did not have a purpose to do damage to the country or help an enemy. That is what the espionage act is most concerned about. Under the circumstances, he was given the benefit of the doubt on his state of mind. I think that was an appropriate exercise of restraint on Fitzgerald’s part. The charges brought are serious ones. There was no reason to bring a questionable one just to rebut a talking point about how it’s only a cover-up and not a crime.

More serious reasons not to listen to glib excusers here and here.

Related:

Office of Special Counsel
Text of the indictment (PDF)
• Video - Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Oct. 28 press conference via C-SPAN (Real)

Posted by Alan at 08:16 AM

October 28, 2005

Priorities in the post 9/11 world

Daniel Henninger zeroes in on the most vital, but also most under-addressed, implication of the bitter tug-of-war over Harriet Miers's doomed SCOTUS nomination and the so-called "Plamegate" investigation.

At this juncture in the post-9/11 world, however, nothing should more occupy the remainder of Mr. Bush's term, including preoccupations with Supreme Court nominations, than stopping from happening to him what happened to the war presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

The erosion of domestic political support for the Vietnam War was an opposition strategy, a movement, and its success ensured the loss for a generation of America's self-confidence in its military capacity and moral authority. More specifically, it legitimized an American strategy of withdrawal from its commitments, a three-piece-suit version of cut-and-run.

The possibility of Rove and Libby indictments comes the same week that the Iraq War crossed an arbitrary threshold of 2,000 dead--jack-hammered home Wednesday by the New York Times' publication of 995 thumbnail photographs of killed soldiers, portentously titled "The Roster of the Dead." We may assume this was not meant to rally the homefront. The Times' effort to cut its reporter Judith Miller from the herd last Sunday is best understood as reflecting its apparent belief that her WMD stories alone--which is to say the authority of the New York Times alone--permitted the entire Iraq war to happen, smudging the paper's bright and shining legacy of exposing lies in war.

Without doubt, the decision to liberate Iraq by military means put great and unpredictable forces in motion--not merely the jihadists swarming to Iraq to fight America's troops, but also the U.S. and European policy establishments that were in opposition to the Bush-Rice-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz worldview before 9/11.

The only Vietnam analogy appropriate to Iraq is that this opposition's efforts to promote a withdrawal (today euphemized as a "troop draw-down") persists in the middle of a U.S. commitment--even as 2,000 U.S. soldiers die attempting to make that commitment succeed, as millions of Muslims protected by these Americans braved death to vote in Iraq's January election, braved death to write a constitution, braved death to affirm that constitution in a vote this month and now prepare for Dec. 15 elections to form a parliament.

One may legitimately argue that all this has been a "mistake." It is less easy to see what this administration's constant opposition expects would become of these troops and these Iraqis after it had used the Plame affair to push Messrs. Rove, Libby, Cheney and with them the Bush presidency over the cliff.

Nothing is more important than that President Bush preserve sufficient standing with the public to see this commitment through. The Miers nomination threatened that standing, and its withdrawal restores the conservative political support he will need to defend him against daily opposition to his 9/11 presidency.

Still, there is a lesson from the Miers nomination relevant to whether the president succeeds in Iraq and with the policy beneath it. His government has to do a better job of communicating the necessity and the substance of this action. The troops deserve better on this score. Just as the Miers nomination was a mystery and was allowed to remain a mystery, the war in Iraq most of the time has been allowed to drift through the mind of the American public on not much more than al-Zarqawi's news budget for the Western media. Just as the Miers nomination failed because of inadequate explanation, Iraq too may falter for the same reason. It should not.

Indeed, it must not. It cannot. Otherwise, more than 2,000 heroes will have died in vain.

President Bush's attention should be focused on the War on Terror, to the exclusion of virtually everything else. Social Security "reform" is a sidetrack, as are highwire judicial nominations and levee reconstruction projects.

His presidential legacy, and all our lives, depend on it.

Posted by Alan at 01:18 AM

October 27, 2005

Fly, songbirds, fly

Ironic: members of a choir founded by commie hero Che Guevara have jumped at a chance to escape from the island workers' paradise of Cuba.

Ernesto Cendoya-Sotomayor, a Cuban baritone, thought about defecting even before he landed in Toronto on a Canadian tour with the prestigious Coro Nacional de Cuba.

This was his first foreign tour -- and the 27-year-old singer saw it as his one chance to escape the repression and fear that marks his life in Cuba, where the indomitable Fidel Castro has ruled since the Communist revolution in 1959, the same year the choir was founded by Ernesto (Che) Guevara.

After a performance Sunday in a Toronto church, Mr. Cendoya-Sotomayor saw two fellow singers fleeing the hotel, suitcases in hand. He knew he had to act quickly. He called the Cuban-Canadian Foundation and within an hour, the foundation's president had sent a car to collect him, and two more singers.

"It is hard to choose between your freedom and your family. But this was my one opportunity to escape," said Mr. Cendoya-Sotomayor in an interview yesterday in the home of Ismael Sambra, a Cuban exile and the foundation's president. The singer is so worried about the safety of his four-year-old daughter and wife in Havana that he did not want his face to appear in a photograph.

In all, 11 of the 41-member choir managed to flee the hotel between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, when Digna Guerra, the choir's manager, discovered the absences. In an emergency meeting, she warned the remaining singers that the Cuban government would retaliate against their family members if they tried to seek asylum here, according to Mr. Sambra.

Before this, Mr. Sambra had organized a second vehicle to pick up several more defectors. Others escaped with the help of Cuban-Canadian friends, while one unlucky singer who went back to the hotel to collect her belongings lost her chance.

Posted by Alan at 10:33 AM

Miers finally out

As predicted here earlier, Harriet Miers has "withdrawn" her nomination to the Supreme Court. That's the best, if reluctant, decision made by the Bush administration in weeks.

Posted by Alan at 08:03 AM

October 26, 2005

Swept

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So, the White Sox sweep the Series. They're a great team and deserve the win. Tough for the Astros, who were thinking this could be, should be, would be their season of destiny.

The perennial hitting problem persisted, but there was still a LOT of exhilaration this time around. To the whole organization: thanks for the ride. And Brandon Backe and Roy Oswalt are quite a pair.

Related:

• Houston Astros - official site
• Houston Chronicle - full coverage

Posted by Alan at 11:37 PM

Truth about the "Black Sox"

Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal looks at the still-murky history of the infamous 1919 "Black Sox" baseball scandal and finds that the evidence now points to much broader corruption.

The black-and-white version of baseball's biggest scandal needs an update. The real story isn't the players. It's the conspiracy and cover-up of the scandal by the lords of baseball.

"There was an intense whitewashing by all parties in baseball because of a tradition of hiding these thing as long as you could," says Donald Gropman, author of a biography of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the team's star player. "That's how they did things."

That behavior is finally getting a full airing. New research shows that the baseball executives at the center of the scandal -- White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and American League president Ban Johnson, two giants of early baseball now enshrined in its Hall of Fame -- had information about the fix before the 1919 World Series between Chicago and the Cincinnati Reds had even started. Other recently discovered documents show that the players involved were publicly named long before an investigation took place a year later.

...

"It was not an isolated event," says Richard Lindberg, who has written four books about the White Sox. "It was the culmination of 40 years of warm relations between gambling syndicates and professional athletes."

In fact, the Black Sox scandal was investigated only after a grand jury was convened in 1920 to look into allegations of game-fixing -- allegations involving the crosstown Chicago Cubs. Earlier that year, National League executives had hushed up a hearing on game-fixing at which the scandal was mentioned by players.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Alan at 06:37 PM

Killing us softly

Houston Astros manager Phil Garner had some choice words early this morning about his team's losing performance in World Series Game 3.

"I'm really ticked off — that was some pretty poor hitting," Garner said of failing to have more than a single run to show against the Chicago White Sox for a succession of runners over the final 10 innings.

"We didn't hit the ball good except for Jason (Lane). I'm really ticked off. They had some pretty good at-bats. They're hammering our mistakes and fouling off our good pitches. On the flip side, we're doing just the opposite."

Except, of course, for the hammering part.

"It's embarrassing," Garner continued, "to play like this (in) our hometown. We're not hitting the ball at all. We're not putting the ball in play, except for Jason. We couldn't push anybody across when we had the top of our lineup up.

"We had some momentum, some chances, but we didn't even hit the ball hard. I don't know how we stayed in the ball game as long as we did."

All of the long-suffering Houston fans that I talked to today said pretty much the same thing. Those soft little pop-ups and caught-looking strikeouts were particularly hard to watch.

It's been an enduring mystery with this franchise: lack of clutch hitting in the post-season.

Posted by Alan at 12:26 PM

Astros down 0-3

The Astros are now down 0-3 in the Series. Tonight's performance, despite some admirable flashes of play, was a huge disappointment. After seeing 15 men left on base and enduring a pitching collapse by ace Roy Oswalt, it looks like they just don't have what it takes to prevail at the highest echelon.

One day it will occur to Drayton McLane that if he wants an actual championship, he needs to pay for both pitching and hitting.

Maybe Wednesday night will be different and there will at least be 3 games in Houston.

Posted by Alan at 01:29 AM

October 25, 2005

Houston Astros set for World Series Game 3

Game 3 of the World Series starts in just a few minutes. Houston Astros' fan hopes are riding high on pitcher Roy Oswalt and the rest of the goateed (no more beards) team in a clutch game. There's no designated hitter for the games in this year's National League park, so Oswalt will bat ninth as usual.

MLB has forced the Astros to close the Juice Box roof, which seems high-handed (but what else is new...).

Commissioner Bud "Damnation, the ratings are down" Selig was interviewed briefly on Fox and said it was non-negotiable. The MLB web site reports the official weasel line, and Phil Garner's response:

The rules make it an open-and-shut case: The Minute Maid Park roof will be open for Game 3 of the World Series, though the decision leaves the host Astros ready to hit the ceiling.

After consulting with Astros officials, Jimmie Lee Solomon -- Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations -- announced on Tuesday afternoon that the roof would be open when the Astros met the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night in the first World Series game ever played in Texas.

"The rules for the retractable roof are clear," Solomon said. "We're just following the rules that are in place."

The rules in place for Minute Maid Park stipulate that the roof will be closed when game-time temperature is 80 degrees or higher, and open when the temperature is below 80 degrees. And, of course, if rain and/or winds are a problem, the roof can be closed regardless of temperature.

With game-time temperatures expected to be in the low 60s (it was 70 at 4:30 p.m. CT) and a cloudless sky, the decision was made to leave the roof open, even though overnight lows in the 40s are forecast.

"I think it is a disregard for the comfort of our fans, and that's the last statement I'm going to make about it," Astros manager Phil Garner said.

Besides petty harassment, the only other reason that comes to mind is their desire to let Fox's blimpcam get a workout.

Related:

• Laurence Simon is tracking bloggers who support either the Astros or the White Sox.
• Houston Astros - official site
• Houston Chronicle - full coverage

Posted by Alan at 07:19 PM

Pimp and prostitute

Investigations into the U.N. Oil for Food scandal continue to unroll slowly, and methodically implicate scurrilous political figures around the world. This week's target is George Galloway, bombastic British MP and longtime abettor of leftist thugs and dictators. The U.S. Senate has the goods on him at last.

An anti-war British lawmaker gave false testimony to Congress when he denied receiving U.N. oil-for-food allocations from deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a Senate investigative panel said Monday.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., chairman of the subcommittee, and his investigators presented evidence that they say shows British lawmaker George Galloway's political organization and his wife received nearly $600,000 from the oil allocations.

Congressional investigators said Galloway could face charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing a congressional proceeding, with each charge carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Wretchard at Belmont Club compares carefully the nature of Galloway's flamboyant performance when called to testify before Coleman's committee, here and here.

Christopher Hitchens, who has engaged in a long series of public debates with Galloway, sums up where things stand.

This most probably means that what we now know is a fraction of what there is to be known. But what has been established is breathtaking enough. A member of the British Parliament was in receipt of serious money originating from a homicidal dictatorship. That money was supposed to have been used to ameliorate the suffering of Iraqis living under sanctions. It was instead diverted to the purposes of enriching Saddam's toadies and of helping them propagandize in favor of the regime whose crimes and aggressions had necessitated the sanctions and created the suffering in the first place. This is something more than mere "corruption." It is the cynical theft of food and medicine from the desperate to pay for the palaces of a psychopath.

[T]his is the man who received wall-to-wall good press for insulting the Senate subcommittee in May, and who was later the subject of a fawning puff piece in the New York Times, and who was lionized by the anti-war movement when he came on a mendacious and demagogic tour of the country last month. I wonder if any of those who furnished him a platform will now have the grace to admit that they were hosting a man who is not just a pimp for fascism but one of its prostitutes as well.

Related:

• U.S. Senate - full report (PDF)
• U.S. Senate - Oil for Influence - May 2005 hearing
• Hitchens-Galloway debate - Video (Real)

Posted by Alan at 06:06 PM

Pinhead - Part 2

Here's more about the shabby behavior of certain Chicago White Sox fans during Sunday night's game. The big, bad tough guys were brave enough to harass... Astros' wives.

The incident occurred on Sunday night during Game 2 of the 101st World Series at Chicago's ballpark, where several members of the Astros' traveling party were harassed.

"He slapped her and ran," Biggio said of the fan who struck his wife, Patty. "She ran after him. My brother-in-law ended up putting him against the wall. That's pretty sorry."

Asked if Patty had been hurt, Biggio said his New Jersey-raised wife held her own.

"You don't slap a New Jersey girl and get away with it," he said. "That happens sometimes. It's terrible. It's over."

Although Patty Biggio was the only Astros wife who was slapped Sunday, she wasn't the only member of the traveling party who was harassed. Ausmus said his wife, Liz, endured some vulgar taunts and a few vulgar hand gestures throughout the night.

"Some of the treatment that the Astros families received at U.S. Cellular Field was a huge black eye for the city of Chicago," Ausmus said. "Now, I understand that's not indicative of all the people in the Chicago area, because I have friends and relatives there.

"I know the people of Chicago are overwhelmingly good people. But if I was from Chicago, I'd be embarrassed by the way the Astros' families were treated by the White Sox fans. My wife didn't get hit or anything, but people flipped her off and were screaming at her."

White Sox coach Ozzie Guillen sounds like alright, though.

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen issued a public apology on behalf of his organization to Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, whose wife was slapped by a fan in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I feel like it's our fault, and I talked to (Biggio) about it, and he knows we're sorry," Guillen said. "He knows it was something we couldn't control. It wasn't like a fight. (The fan) hit the lady and left."

Added Guillen: "I wish she would have grabbed something and broken his head. If that happened to my family, it would have been a big problem. ... People should just go to the game and not bother people next to you, or you're not a White Sox fan or a baseball fan. Just enjoy the game. Drink if you want to drink; just respect the people next to you."

... Guillen insinuated that he would have definitely defended anybody in the Astros' traveling party.

"I know the security in Chicago is doing a great job," Guillen said. "And when something happens so quick, you can't blame anybody. And the guy that did it, he should be brought to Biggio, and he's the one that can hopefully get him back.

"I told the police, 'Don't put him in jail. Bring him to me in the dugout.' But hopefully, that won't happen again."

Hard to imagine such a situation here in Houston.

Posted by Alan at 08:30 AM

October 24, 2005

Pinhead

Sports doesn't always bring out the best in fans. Case in point: a moronic White Sox supporter.

One of the Astros' wives was the victim of an ugly incident at US Cellular Field Sunday night.

White Sox officials say a man hit Patty Biggio in the back of the head with his open hand. Security immediately removed him and Mrs. Biggio remained in her seat. We're told security talked with her and her husband, Craig, and they declined to press charges.

The White Sox are calling it unacceptable, and their team manager says he plans to personally apologize to Craig Biggio.

"On behalf of the White Sox organization, it's something we could control," said White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen. "I think the family is a big part of my life, especially the kids, and when that happens in your ballpark, you feel a little disappointed."

Posted by Alan at 10:31 PM

October 23, 2005

Astros coming home with their work cut out

White Sox 7; Astros 6. Good nine innings on offense by the Astros and a memorable slide for that sixth run by Burke. But Brad Lidge must be in a mental state after his last two games.

Wasn't this series supposed to be a pitchers' duel? Instead, we've got a slugfest.

Back to Houston!

• Houston Astros - official site
• Houston Chronicle - full coverage

Posted by Alan at 10:35 PM

Serenity

Today we went for a second time to see Serenity, the rousing sci-fi movie based on Joss Whedon's canceled but cult favorite TV series Firefly (which we have yet to see). It held up very well, especially the humor.

If you haven't seen it yet, take our advice and do so asap. But don't act like the doltish father sitting on our row and take your four year old daughter. The PG-13 rating is well-deserved.

Serenity official site
• Yahoo! Movies - Serenity
• IMDB - Serenity
• IMDB - Firefly

Posted by Alan at 05:24 PM

Bio-Suit for space

Interesting: NASA has been funding research on dramatically different designs for space suits. This would make a huge difference in how humans actually get work done in the vacuum of space.

In 1972, when humans last visited the surface of the moon, the bulky, stiff legs of spacesuits made the "moonwalk" more of a swaying hop. Since then, manned missions to space have stayed in Earth orbit, where astronauts mostly use their arms to get around. But when explorers get back to the moon, or if they ever get to Mars, these old spacesuits aren't going to cut it, scientists say.

"We need to design some pretty revolutionary spacesuits if we're really going to realize human exploration of other [planetary] bodies," says Dava Newman, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By combining an old idea with the latest technology, Dr. Newman and her team are trying to build a better spacesuit: the BioSuit, a form-fitting "second skin," designed for lunar and Martian living.

The proposed BioSuit will consist of a skintight body suit, a hard torso and backpack for life-support systems and equipment, and a domed helmet. The conceptual images for the project look like science fiction: sleek, color-coded spacemen and spacewomen climbing Martian windmills, whacking red rocks with hammers, and casually shaking hands.

Much of the technology needed to make the BioSuit practical may be decades away - just like a Mars mission - but the idea behind it was dreamed up decades ago.

Related:

NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts
An Astronaut "Bio-Suit" System: Exploration-Class Missions (PDF)

Posted by Alan at 12:55 PM

October 22, 2005

Astros drop first game

Game 1: White Sox 5, Astros 3. The Sox were good, very good, but this one was winnable.

Through the first five innings, the find-a-way-to-win Astros were on the field - making plays, scoring in the second and third innings, and staying within a run even with Clemens pitching sub-par ball and then pulled due to a still-injured hamstring.

But then the old Astros took over, wasting lead-off doubles in the sixth and eighth innings and leaving men on base. When they were blanked by that refrigerator-sized Sox closer who threw 102-mph fastballs, it was over fast.

Looking forward to watching them make adjustments tomorrow and hoping they've got game for all nine innings.

• Houston Astros - official site
• Houston Chronicle - full coverage

Posted by Alan at 10:54 PM

Damascus steel?

Steven A. Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations has a take on what might be next in Syria, now that the ever-cautious United Nations has outright accused Syrian government officials of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

You have to look at Syria’s power structure as more like The Sopranos, than as a government. It will reveal that in fact, at the highest levels of the Syrian government, they were calling the shots and ordered the assassination of Hariri. It is hoped that this will be one of the factors that will lead to the unraveling of the Assad regime in Syria. The problem as I see it is that it may increase international pressure on the Syrians, but in terms of domestic political pressure, there is no coherent, unified, strong opposition in Syria. So if there is going to be any change in Syria, it’s going to have to come from within.

What can we look for if there really is an unraveling or dramatic weakening of the Syrian regime? It would probably be a palace coup in effect in which members of the Alawite clique who run the government believe that President Bashar Assad has not played his hand very well and that these people have significantly sullied Syria’s reputation and put the regime in such jeopardy that they have to take action to put things back together again.

The omniscient InstaPundit has links to more.

Posted by Alan at 12:42 AM

October 21, 2005

Willfoolery

Here are more experts who don't believe that Will Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him, and a theory about who did.

[A] new book claims that the real Bard was Sir Henry Neville, an English courtier and distant relative of the Stratford Shakespeare. Shakespeare himself was simply a front man, claim Brenda James and William Rubinstein in The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare.

James, an English literature lecturer, said Neville ''wanted [the plays] to go under another name and wanted a poor relation to have a hand up.''

James and Rubinstein, a professor of history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, argue that Shakespeare of Stratford, who came from a modest background and did not attend university, could not have had enough knowledge of the politics, foreign languages and European cities described in the plays to have written them.

Neville, in contrast, was well-educated, had traveled to all the countries used as settings in the plays and had a life that matched up with what ''Shakespeare'' was writing about at the time, the book says.

''The more we looked into his life, the more convincing the matchup became,'' Rubinstein said.

James said that she began exploring the connection between Shakespeare and Neville about six years ago when she deciphered what she believes is a code on the dedication page of Shakespeare's sonnets. The code revealed the name Henry Neville.

Nice work if you can get it, I guess, peddling such notions, and an even easier sell during these Da Vinci Code days. But other experts don't buy it. Nor do I

''Like most previous theories that challenge Shakespeare's authorship of the plays, this claim makes the mistake of assuming his education and general knowledge of the world were very limited,'' said Roger Pringle, director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford. ''There is plenty of evidence to suggest Shakespeare received a thoroughly good classical education at the Stratford grammar school and then, for well over 20 years, was involved in artistic and intellectual circles in London.''

Jonathan Bate, a professor of literary studies at Warwick University and author of ''The Genius of Shakespeare,'' said, ''There's not a shred of evidence in support of the argument; it's full of errors. There's no reason to doubt that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.''

Bate said the authorship question emerged more than 100 years ago ''out of snobbery.''

''People began to say, 'How could a middle-class grammar school boy from the provinces write these plays?''' he said. ''It shows how Shakespeare has become such a cult figure. The moment Shakespeare becomes regarded as the greatest of all writers, inevitably heresies start emerging.''

Posted by Alan at 08:21 PM

West Texas wants the Bush Library

Lubbock's KCBD has posted a copy of a video prepared by the multi-site West Texas Coalition in its bid for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The narrator: cowboy poet Red Steagall.

Tip via ResourceShelf.

Posted by Alan at 12:30 AM

October 20, 2005

Humility

Peggy Noonan offers advice to a president who is teetering on the brink of a massive mistake. Is anyone listening?

All presidents have personalities and all presidential personalities become at least somewhat disoriented by the very nature of the modern presidency. However. George W. Bush showed real humility when he made his big change 19 years ago, and one suspects it is whatever bedrock humility that remains behind the smirk that can help him turn his fortunes around now.

Once again there's a family in crisis, and it's conservatism. He can let it break up, or let it wither under his watch. Or he can change. Just as he learned at 40 that to keep his family he had to become part of something larger than himself, he should realize as he approaches 60 that he has to become part of something larger if he is to save his administration. And that "something larger" is a movement that has been building for half a century, since before Barry Goldwater. The president would be well advised to look at the stakes, see what's in the balance, judge the strengths and weaknesses of his own leadership, and get back to the basics of conservatism....

In 1986, George W. Bush reached a crisis point in his life and changed what wasn't working. He dug deep and got serious. He got humble. He questioned himself. He can do it again, and should.


Posted by Alan at 07:12 AM

October 19, 2005

World Series bound

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Roy Oswalt was amazing. On to Chicago!!

Posted by Alan at 10:31 PM

Intelligence pays off in Nalchik

Analyst Fred Burton of STRATFOR reports on the thwarted jihadist terror attack in Nalchik, where intelligence may have proved crucial in preventing a major catastrophe.

[T]here is reason to believe that the militants who planned the attacks in Nalchik (an operation that has been claimed by Moscow's arch-enemy, Shamil Basayev) actually were forced into carrying out their operation prematurely, after Russian intelligence got wind of a much larger and more chilling plot -- one combining all the most deadly tactics of both Sept. 11 and Beslan.

Russian military contacts and other sources have told us that the events in Nalchik apparently were supposed to be only the first phase of a plan that ultimately was to include flying explosives-laden aircraft into high-profile targets elsewhere in Russia. Though the exact targets have not been confirmed, sources say possible targets included the Kremlin, a military district headquarters and railway hub in Rostov-on-Don, a nuclear plant in the vicinity of Saratov, and a hydroelectric plant or dam on the Volga. Sources also say the militants had a back-up plan that would have involved mining important government buildings and taking hostages -- tactics the Chechens have used in other headline-grabbing attacks.

...

[T]he Nalchik incident fits into wider trend that we have been following in the Chechen/Islamist insurgency for more than a year, and the target sets make sense for what is becoming an increasingly Wahhabist-dominated campaign in Russian territory.

The events on the ground also seem to bear out the sourced intelligence: The militants opened their attack with attempts to seize the airport in Nalchik, where -- had they not been beaten back by Russian forces already guarding the target -- they would have been able to commandeer the aircraft needed for follow-on operations. The incidents in other parts of the city, which were closely time-coordinated but appear to have involved poorly trained recruits, are believed to have been intended as distractions -- drawing attention and Russian security forces away from the strategically crucial airport.

The fact that the follow-on attacks were more or less quickly put down, with (relatively) small loss of life, also fits the notion of a busted operation.

Nalchik: The 9/11 That Wasn't

By Fred Burton

Russian military forces are continuing mop-up operations in Nalchik, a city in the Caucasus region where Islamist militants last week staged a series of coordinated attacks -- signaling attempts to widen the Chechen conflict to other parts of Russia. The incident, which burst into the international news Oct. 13, is significant on several levels -- not least of which was the much-improved counterterrorism response by Russian forces, without which the raids conceivably might have expanded into something approaching the Sept. 11 attacks in terms of geopolitical impact.

As it happens, the events that took place involved some 100 to 150 armed militants, who attempted to seize control of the airport at Nalchik while also assaulting police stations, government offices and the regional headquarters of the Russian prison system, among other targets. All told, about 100 people were killed -- more than 60 of them militants, and roughly equal numbers of security forces and civilians. That's hardly what anyone would term a "minor incident," but compared to other attacks by Chechen militants -- such as the school hostage crisis in Beslan in 2004 or a similar event at a Moscow theater in 2002 -- the Russian response was swifter and the outcome much better.

This is not due to dumb luck: The response logically stems from drastically improved intelligence-gathering and targeting priorities in Russian counterterrorism strategies, which underwent a sea change following the Beslan incident. In fact, there is reason to believe that the militants who planned the attacks in Nalchik (an operation that has been claimed by Moscow's arch-enemy, Shamil Basayev) actually were forced into carrying out their operation prematurely, after Russian intelligence got wind of a much larger and more chilling plot -- one combining all the most deadly tactics of both Sept. 11 and Beslan.

Russian military contacts and other sources have told us that the events in Nalchik apparently were supposed to be only the first phase of a plan that ultimately was to include flying explosives-laden aircraft into high-profile targets elsewhere in Russia. Though the exact targets have not been confirmed, sources say possible targets included the Kremlin, a military district headquarters and railway hub in Rostov-on-Don, a nuclear plant in the vicinity of Saratov, and a hydroelectric plant or dam on the Volga. Sources also say the militants had a back-up plan that would have involved mining important government buildings and taking hostages -- tactics the Chechens have used in other headline-grabbing attacks.

Intelligence from human sources is rarely golden: Analysts always must play the skeptic and filter out the sources' own motives for providing the information -- and in this case, the Russian military certainly has reason to want to appear to have pre-empted a catastrophe. In this case, the list of possible targets reads like a laundry list of nightmare scenarios that have been widely discussed, in the U.S. context, since Sept. 11 -- so, admittedly, it is not much of a stretch to assume such assets also could be targeted in Russia. That said, the Nalchik incident fits into wider trend that we have been following in the Chechen/Islamist insurgency for more than a year, and the target sets make sense for what is becoming an increasingly Wahhabist-dominated campaign in Russian territory.

The events on the ground also seem to bear out the sourced intelligence: The militants opened their attack with attempts to seize the airport in Nalchik, where -- had they not been beaten back by Russian forces already guarding the target -- they would have been able to commandeer the aircraft needed for follow-on operations. The incidents in other parts of the city, which were closely time-coordinated but appear to have involved poorly trained recruits, are believed to have been intended as distractions -- drawing attention and Russian security forces away from the strategically crucial airport.

The fact that the follow-on attacks were more or less quickly put down, with (relatively) small loss of life, also fits the notion of a busted operation. Reportedly, the grand plot was to have been carried out on Oct. 17, with a force of about 700 militants -- most of whom had not yet moved into Nalchik when the Russians began taking action. The entire plan apparently started to unravel nearly 10 days in advance: Acting on tips from local residents, Russian forces arrested two suspected militants -- who reportedly confessed to planning attacks -- as early as Oct. 8.

Accepting, then, that the intelligence concerning the shape of the plot is credible, we have an operation that, if carried to fruition, would have mirrored Sept. 11 in many respects -- opening up a new front in the global jihadist war and, conceivably, could have reinvigorated the organized Islamist militancy in other parts of the world.

Considering Basayev's claims of responsibility for the Nalchik plot, that clearly seems to have been the intent. Basayev, it must be remembered, is the Chechen commander who has authored many of the most horrific terrorist incidents in Russia. Attacks like those at Beslan and the Moscow theater, and hostage-takings at hospitals and other soft targets typically have resulted in hundreds of deaths at a time -- both before and during the bloody responses by Russian security forces. To say that Basayev has a penchant for grand, showy schemes would be something of an understatement.

Operationally speaking, that trait seems to undermine his effectiveness as a militant leader -- and, in fact, eventually could be his undoing. The fact that that has not yet happened points more toward particular aspects of the political conflict between the Chechen/Islamist insurgents and Moscow than to best practices taught in Terrorism 101.

Under those principles, the most effective forms of attack are those that are simple yet ruthless: They require few resources, and operatives practice airtight "need-to-know" communications. The fewer people who know about a plan -- or have access to more details than they need in order to carry out their own part -- the less likely the plan is to leak out and be pre-empted. Except for the fact that Basayev has, for the most part, operated in territory where locals have supported at least some aspects of the militant campaign against Russian rule, it is nothing short of amazing that he and his cast of thousands have succeeded to the degree that they have.

But the amount of local support Basayev still is able to command has become something of a question mark, as Chechens themselves have
grown weary of the death and destruction in their war. It is said that, partly because of this, Basayev increasingly has surrounded himself with Wahhabi militants -- including some Saudi commanders -- and is seeking ways to export the campaign from the Muslim-dominated Caucasus republics into Russia proper.

All of this seems logical: Judging from details of the Nalchik plot and
others within the past year, Basayev appears intent on mimicking elements of the Sept. 11 attacks -- indicating that he at least is studying and learning from al Qaeda, even if he is not intimately linked to it. At the very least, his emerging fixation with air assets is reminiscent of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- another tactical genius with a penchant for spectacular strikes.

Both the Nalchik operation and the wider plot, had it been carried out, would have mirrored Sept. 11 in other ways as well: Multiple targets, representing a mix of both hard (government installations) and soft (civilian infrastructure) nodes, might have been struck -- maximizing the political, economic and sheer terror value of the strikes. The plot shows high degrees of strategic planning and, as a result, could have been designed to inspire audiences in the Muslim world -- whether that world is defined to include Russia's Muslim-majority provinces or other regions.

It is important to note here that, though Sept. 11 has become the gold standard for "effective" terrorist attacks, we and others believe that even al Qaeda likely was stunned by its success. The plot was redundant in most aspects: two economic facilities (the World Trade Center towers) and two government facilities (the Pentagon and, it is believed, the Capitol) were targeted, building in a margin of error for planners who likely never expected three of the four aircraft to strike their targets. Similarly, Basayev appears to be hatching redundant plots, so that operations can still be politically and economically effective even if some aspects of the mission fail.

But at Nalchik, almost the entire operation failed before it could get off the ground. The points of failure appear to rest in two areas.

First, there is evidence that Basayev used some and ill-prepared operatives in Nalchik -- rather than highly trained and ruthlessly efficient cells, like those that carried out the 9/11 attacks. The assailants acted in groups of five men. Typical al Qaeda operations use four-man cells, in which each member plays a specific and crucial role. Larger cells appear to be the norm in Chechen operations -- partly because this allows commanders to play a greater role on the ground, but also perhaps because strikes often include local militants who have been poorly trained. This can be a mixed blessing. For instance, we saw in Beslan would-be suicide bombers who ran away; in Nalchik, some of the fighters -- many of whom were well-equipped -- fired their weapons while running toward their targets (a tactic very likely to draw return fire and get them killed). The use of larger cells allows for this kind of attrition without endangering the mission, but it also brings into the mix local operatives who have supreme area knowledge -- and thus are able to identify launching points and escape routes with lower operational overhead.

Second, and crucially, there was poor operational security in Nalchik. In short, someone snitched, and the op was blown. The snitch could have been someone motivated by the bounties Moscow now is offering for intelligence targeting Chechen commanders, or a mole who has infiltrated the militants' ranks, or perhaps a local parent who overhead a conversation between teenagers -- or all of the above. Given the hundreds of people who, according to sources, ultimately would have taken part in the plot, anything is possible. The point is, a lot of people were in the know, and COMSEC -- communications security -- was next to impossible.

At this point, the Russians have to be feeling both relieved and shaken, asking the inevitable "What if?" Basayev certainly has the means and ability to hatch grandiose plots that, if effectively executed, would have serious geopolitical implications -- and, of course, he is alive and free to fight another day. On the other hand, his soaring ambition -- combined with the obviously improved intelligence capabilities and response strategies of the Russian forces -- could be his undoing.

This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at www.stratfor.com.

Posted by Alan at 08:14 PM

October 18, 2005

We believe

Houston Astros: one strike away from the World Series and then sudden defeat. I can only think of the mighty Mike Schmidt's wisdom:

"Any time you think you have the game conquered the game will turn around and punch you right in the nose."

We still believe, so on to St. Louis, dammit, and a ticket to the World Series via the longer, harder road -- the only kind the Astros and their fans get to travel.

Posted by Alan at 12:40 AM

October 17, 2005

More Miers problems

Here's more trouble -- big trouble -- for the doomed SCOTUS nomination of Harriet Miers, via John Fund at The Wall Street Journal.

On Oct. 3, the day the Miers nomination was announced, [James] Dobson and other religious conservatives held a conference call to discuss the nomination. One of the people on the call took extensive notes, which I have obtained. According to the notes, two of Ms. Miers's close friends--both sitting judges--said during the call that she would vote to overturn Roe.

The call was moderated by the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Participating were 13 members of the executive committee of the Arlington Group, an umbrella alliance of 60 religious conservative groups.... Also on the call were Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas-based federal trial judge.

According to the notes of the call, Mr. Dobson introduced them by saying, "Karl Rove suggested that we talk with these gentlemen because they can confirm specific reasons why Harriet Miers might be a better candidate than some of us think."

What followed, according to the notes, was a free-wheeling discussion about many topics, including same-sex marriage. Justice Hecht said he had never discussed that issue with Ms. Miers. Then an unidentified voice asked the two men, "Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

"Absolutely," said Judge Kinkeade.

"I agree with that," said Justice Hecht. "I concur."

That disclosure -- both the stance on Roe v. Wade and the revelation of a secretive conference call between Bush operatives and religious activists -- is going to create consequences.

Should hearings begin on Nov. 7 as is now tentatively planned, they would likely turn into a spectacle.... Should she survive the hearings, liberal groups may demand that Democrats filibuster her. Republican senators, already hesitant to back Ms. Miers after heavy blowback from their conservative base, would likely lack the will to trigger the so-called nuclear option. "The nomination is in real trouble," one GOP senator told me. "Not one senator wants to go through the agony of those hearings, even those who want to vote for her." Even if Ms. Miers avoids a filibuster, it's possible Democrats would join with dissident Republicans to defeat her outright.

There are philosophical reasons for Republican senators to oppose Ms. Miers. In 1987, the liberal onslaught on Robert Bork dramatically changed the confirmation process. The verb to bork, meaning to savage a nominee and distort his record, entered the vocabulary, and many liberals now acknowledge that the anti-Bork campaign had bad consequences. It led to more stealth nominees, with presidents hoping their scant paper trail would shield them from attack.

President Bush has now gone further in internalizing the lessons of the Bork debacle. Harriet Miers is a "superstealth" nominee--a close friend of the president with no available paper trail who keeps her cards so close to her chest they might as well be plastered on it. If Ms. Miers is confirmed, it will reinforce the popular belief that the Supreme Court is more about political outcomes than the rule of law.

Posted by Alan at 12:24 AM

October 16, 2005

Multi-culti vs. murderers

Islamic terrorists staged a large-scale attack against targets in the obscure Caucasian city of Nalchik on Thursday. Israeli site DEBKA reports that the terrorists were affiliated with al Qaeda.

The Nalchik Wahhabi cell of al Qaeda is notably dangerous and ruthless. It provided the jumping off base for the raiders who besieged the Beslan school a year ago, leaving 332 dead, most children.

After tha[t] attack, on Sept. 13, 2004, DEBKAfile reported that the small, out-of-the- way province of Kabardino-Balkaria (est. pop. one million) attracted an al Qaeda presence from 2002 when American bases went up in Georgia. Its leaders decided to counter the US presence by establishing a strategic base in the Muslim Northern Caucasus, the southwestern region of the Russian Federation.

Most of the province’s inhabitants are ethnic Circassian Muslims. The unrecorded chapter of the Chechen intelligence war of the 1990s relates how the Circassian community of Jordan, which was the security buttress of the Hashemite throne, was used by US, British and French intelligence as a pipeline into the Chechen breakaway movement for close surveillance of its conflict with Russia. Al Qaeda, which tracks and meets every American intelligence move connected with the global war on terror, countered by going into the remote and relatively affluent Kabardino-Balkaria to quietly acquire its own Circassian asset.

Until early 2005, the Kabardino-Balkaria cells were the rear bases of the Saudi Wahhabis fighting in the Chechen rebellion against Russia. They were also used for trading intelligence and weapons. But then the Saudi fighters moved out of Chechnya to join Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s terrorist ranks in Iraq. Al Qaeda then promoted the Nalchik Wahhabi cell to become its leading Caucasian base.

Dan Darling at Winds of Change presents an overview and also addresses the linkages between various Islamic terrorist groups.

The attack on Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkaria is yet another sign of the deteriorating situation in the North Caucasus. While this is the first high-profile attack by Basayev's Chechen fighters and their allies since Beslan, this is unfortunately just the latest indication of the waning Russian control in the region. For some time now, there have been nearly as many clashes between Russian forces and Chechen fighters in Dagestan and Ingushetia as there are inside Chechnya proper and Basayev's followers now consist of large numbers of Dagestani and Ingush Muslims in addition to actual Chechens and Arab al-Qaeda fighters.

Oddly, National Public Radio interviewed a Russian security expert Friday and I was struck by his virtual refusal to even mention the Islamic nature of the attackers.

Mark Steyn was listening to the same broadcast and has a lot to say about that coverage and more.

What happened in Russia on Thursday was serious business, not just in the death toll but in the number of key government installations that the alleged insurging rebel militants of non-specific ideology managed to seize with relative ease. The militantly rebellious insurgers of no known religious affiliation have long said they want a pan-Caucasian Islamic state from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, and the carnage they wreaked in the hitherto semi-safe-ish republic of Kabardino-Balkaria suggests that they're more likely to spread the conflict to other parts of the Russian Federation than Moscow is to contain it.

Did you see that news item in Stavropolsky Meridian last October? "Strontium, Uranium And Plutonium Found In Train To Caucasus." When a region already regarded as a Bud's Discount Warehouse for nuclear materials is getting sucked deeper into the maw of Islamism, why be so sheepish about letting us know the forces at play?

The Russians couldn't hold on to Eastern Europe. They couldn't hold on to Central Asia. Why would they fare any better with the present so-called Russian "Federation"? The country is literally dying. It's had a net population loss every year since 1992, one of the lowest fertility rates in the world -- 1.2 children born per woman -- and one of the highest abortion rates: some 70 percent of pregnancies are terminated. Russian men now have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis -- not because Bangladesh is brimming with actuarial advantages but because, if he had four legs and hung from a tree in a rain forest, the Russian male would be on the endangered species list.

Yet, within their present territory, there remain a few exceptions to the grim statistics cited above, parts of Russia that retain healthy fertility rates and healthy mortality rates. And guess what? They're the Muslim parts. Or, as the New York Times/NPR/Agence France Presse/Scotsman/Toronto Globe & Mail would say, they're the insurgent rebel militant parts. Many of these Russian Muslim areas -- like Bashkortistan (and no, I didn't make that up, it's a real stan. Check it out in the World Book Of Stans) -- are also rich in natural resources.

If you're an energy-rich Muslim republic, what's the point of going down the express garbage chute of history with the Russian Federation? The Islamification of significant parts of present-day Russia is going to be a critical factor in its death spiral.

Posted by Alan at 03:12 PM

October 15, 2005

Across the Syrian border

This is sure interesting: fighting inside Syria between the Syrian military and U.S. forces.

A series of clashes in the past year between U.S. and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to U.S. and Syrian officials.

One of Bush's most senior aides, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that so far U.S. military forces in Iraq had moved right up to the border to cut off the entry of insurgents, but he insisted that they had refrained from going over it.

But other officials, who say they got their information in the field or by talking to Special Operations commanders, say that as U.S. efforts to cut off the flow of fighters have intensified, those operations have spilled over the border — sometimes by accident, sometimes by design.

Some current and former officials add that the U.S. military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for intelligence gathering.

Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was during the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.

In the summer firefight, several Syrian troops were killed, leading to a protest from the Syrian government to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, according to U.S. and Syrian officials.

A military official who spoke with some of the Rangers who took part in the incident said they had described it as an intense firefight, although it could not be learned whether there had been any U.S. casualties, nor could the exact location of the clash be learned.

Posted by Alan at 05:47 PM

Myth vs fact

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's exhaustive investigation continues into whether or not Bush administration officials like Karl Rove and Scooter Libby "leaked" the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame or committed some other offense.

If you want the shallow version, you go to sources like the Washington Post. If you want the actual details of what is known, you can read a report by Stephen F. Hayes in the Weekly Standard. His conclusion:

Whatever Fitzgerald determines about the veracity of individuals in the administration or the press, in their statements to each other or to the grand jury, it is not possible to understand the current investigation without appreciating the history recounted here.

On July 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger; from the now-famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.

As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

This is not a minor detail. The Senate report, which served as the source for much of the chronology in this article, is the definitive study of the events leading up to the compromising of Valerie Plame. The committee staff, both Democrats and Republicans, read all of the intelligence. They saw all of the documents. They interviewed all of the characters. And every member of the committee from both parties signed the report.

It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence. A story about deliberate White House deception is perhaps more interesting than a story about bureaucratic miscommunication. A story about retaliation is perhaps more interesting than a story about clarification.

But sometimes the boring stories have an additional virtue. They're true.

Read the whole thing.

Or read pp. 36-83 of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report (PDF).

Posted by Alan at 07:15 AM

October 14, 2005

MI6 decloaks (a bit)

Interesting: The New York Times reports on the brand new web site of Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6. The Times seems to be less than certain that the info on the site can be fully trusted...

If there is an institution that the fictional James Bond made famous with all his derring-do it was, to quote from the thriller and movie of the same name, Her Majesty's Secret Service.

As of Thursday, the service was not quite as secret as it had been.

At midnight, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 - the equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency - introduced its first publicly accessible Web site, raising the hem of its cloak (if not its dagger) to just a modicum of scrutiny.

So intense was the interest in this move by an intelligence service - once so secret that it denied its own existence - that the site recorded 3.5 million hits in its first few hours, slowing access to a crawl, said Nev Johnson, a British Foreign Office press officer who speaks on behalf of the Secret Intelligence Service.

"It's been pretty astronomical," he said.

Girding for the fight against global terrorism, the agency developed the site primarily to recruit agents, operatives and analysts from a much broader academic and social background than in the past and to let would-be spies know how to join.

So wide is the net that the site has versions in Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Russian - hardly the kind of overture that would have been expected in the cold war heyday of writers like John le Carré, or double-agents like Kim Philby and Guy Burgess, when the point was to keep foes at bay by the most devious of means.

But times have changed.


• British Secret Intelligence Service - official web site
• Wikipedia - Secret Intelligence Service

Posted by Alan at 12:19 PM

Bush library planning

Four finalists have been picked to compete for the proposed George W. Bush presidential library.

One public university and three faith-based universities are the finalists to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Dallas and the West Texas Coalition, a group led by Texas Tech University, were tapped this week by a six-member committee headed by Donald Evans of Midland.

The four proposals beat out bids from Texas A&M University, the University of Texas System and the city of Arlington.

The next step in the process will be presentations next month in Washington.

Condolences to The University of Texas and Texas A&M.

Posted by Alan at 06:48 AM

Not in vain

Great Britain's William Shawcross is unimpressed with Cindy Sheehan and the other "anti-war" demonstrators who gathered recently in Washington, D.C.

You did not see in those demonstrations, after all, many banners reading, "Support Iraq's New Constitution," "No to Jihad" or "Stop Suicide Bombers." The crimes committed daily against the Iraqi people by other Arabs who wish to re-enslave them seem to be of little interest to Michael Moore, Jane Fonda and their followers. Rage against the daily assaults on children, women, anyone, by Islamo-fascists and ordinary national fascists is not fashionable. Only alleged American crimes are cool to decry.

It's hard to think of a more graphic illustration of the horror the U.S.-led coalition is fighting in Iraq than the mass murder on Sept. 26, in which terrorists disguised as policemen (a New York Times headline called these butchers "fighters") burst into a primary school in Iskandaria, south of Baghdad, seized five teachers (all Shiites) and shot them dead. Children stood weeping through this atrocity.

Why do crimes like this make so little impression on those Americans and Europeans who want the coalition to abandon Iraq? The demonstrators think of themselves as moral, but it is hard to think of any policy more amoral than abandoning Iraq to such an enemy.

Iraqis are dismayed by the mistakes made by the coalition. They don't like the continued presence of foreign troops. But they like the prospect of being abandoned prematurely to the terrorists even less.

...

U.S. soldiers are being killed not by romantic nationalist insurgents (as some liberal journalists and marchers like to pretend) but by an unholy grouping of Saddamite gangsters furious at losing power, Syrian and Iranian agents intent on creating mayhem and then theocracy, and Islamo-fascists who want to enslave the world and whose local Pol Pot, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, boasts of seeking to murder as many of Iraq's majority Shiite population as he can.

Al-Zarqawi has also declared that if he is victorious, he will use Iraq as a base to drag down other regional governments and to mount attacks on the United States. Osama bin Laden has said that "the Third World War is raging in Iraq. The whole world is watching this war." All of which makes the antiwar opposition in the United States and Europe remarkably shortsighted and self-indulgent. We in the West have a vital stake in delivering on our promises and ensuring that terrorism does not move on to other victims, with even greater bloodlust.

The sacrifice of U.S. soldiers, of their coalition allies and of Iraqis is horrifically painful. But if we can stay long enough to enable the Iraqis to lay the firm foundation of civil society, their deaths will not be in vain. We should leave when the elected Iraqi government asks us to do so.

In the face of such cynical and self-centered opposition from the Left, it's tough to see that President Bush's public support continues to languish. A new Wall Street Journal opinion survey indicates:

Looming over Mr. Bush's second term is what [Republican pollster] Mr. McInturff calls a "very difficult, sour" public mood. Just 28% of Americans say the nation is heading in "the right direction," the lowest figure in nearly 10 years, according to the Journal/NBC survey.

The biggest cloud may be the war in Iraq. By 58%-34%, Americans say U.S. troop levels should be reduced once elections scheduled for December are held, up from 48%-42% before the previous elections in January. A 51% majority says removing Saddam Hussein from power hasn't been worth its human and financial costs, and 56% feel less confident the war will end successfully.

Inept public relations work like President Bush's clumsy teleconference Thursday with U.S. troops in Iraq doesn't help maintain public confidence, nor does the rapidly building distraction of the doomed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

Bush needs to re-trench and re-focus himself, his team, and his agenda before his support at home erodes the nation's willingness to stay on the offensive against terrorists. There's still a hard, hard war to win.

Posted by Alan at 12:37 AM

October 13, 2005

Idiotic ferocity

Peggy Noonan advises Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court before things get worse, and has some advice for the White House.

An essential White House mistake--really a key and historic one--was in turning on its critics with such idiotic ferocity. "My way or the highway" is getting old. "Please listen to us and try to see it our way or we'll have to kill you," is getting old. Sending Laura Bush out to make her first mistake as first lady, agreeing with Matt Lauer that sexism is probably part of the reason for opposition to Ms. Miers, was embarrassingly inept and only served to dim some of the power of this extraordinary resource.

As for Ed Gillespie and his famous charge of sexism and elitism, I don't think serious conservatives believe Ed is up nights pondering whiffs and emanations of class tension and gender bias in modern America. It was the ignorant verbal lurch of a K Street behemoth who has perhaps forgotten that conservatives are not merely a bloc, a part of the base, a group that must be handled, but individuals who are and have been in it for serious reasons, for the long haul, and often at considerable sacrifice. They don't deserve to be patronized by people they've long strained to defend.

John Fund examines how this ill-fated nomination came to pass.

The vetting of Harriet Miers leaves questions that demand answers, not more spin or allegations that critics are "sexist" or "elitist." It was so botched and riddled with conflicts of interest that it demands at a minimum an internal White House investigation to ensure it won't happen again.

Not only did the vetting fail to anticipate skepticism about her lack of experience in constitutional law or the firestorm of criticism from conservatives, but it left the White House scrambling to provide reporters with even the most basic information about the closed-mouthed nominee. Almost every news story seemed to catch the White House off guard and unprepared....

[E]ven internal advice was shunned. [Andrew] Card is said to have shouted down objections to Ms. Miers at staff meetings. A senator attending the White House swearing-in of John Roberts four days before the Miers selection was announced was struck by how depressed White House staffers were during discussion of the next nominee. He says their reaction to him could have been characterized as, "Oh brother, you have no idea what's coming."

A last minute effort was made to block the choice of Ms. Miers, including the offices of Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It fell on deaf ears. First Lady Laura Bush, who went to Southern Methodist University at the same time as Ms. Miers, weighed in. On Sunday night, the president dined with Ms. Miers and the first lady to celebrate the nomination of what one presidential aide inartfully praised to me as that of "a female trailblazer who will walk in the footsteps of President Bush."

It's time for Miers to do the right thing.

Posted by Alan at 07:04 AM

October 12, 2005

Miers support erodes further

The political fallout from President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court continues. Here's just one report from the nation's capital:

Harriet Miers, unlike previous Republican nominees, will face hostile questioning from both Democrats and Republicans when she appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Several Republican senators -- including committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Sam Brownback of Kansas -- have said they won't be cutting her any slack just because she's a Republican nominee. And Republican staffers say privately that they're researching her background as if she were a "third-party nominee."

Meanwhile yesterday, a leading Christian conservative said the White House told him that some prospective Supreme Court nominees conservatives would have preferred withdrew their names from President Bush's "short list" before the nomination -- raising the possibility that Miss Miers wasn't Mr. Bush's first pick.

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said he spoke with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove on Oct. 1 -- two days before the Miers nomination -- and was told that "Harriet Miers was at the top of the short list."

Also on that list were several candidates that many conservatives say they would have preferred, Mr. Dobson said on his radio program that was recorded yesterday and will be broadcast today.

"Well, what Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list," he said, according to a transcript obtained last night. "They would not allow their names to be considered because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter that they didn't want to subject themselves or the members of their families to it."

...

Mr. Specter had suggested he might call Mr. Dobson and Mr. Rove to testify before his committee about any inside knowledge they might have about Miss Miers -- a threat that has only heightened the angst many conservatives feel about the nomination.

Republican staff lawyers on the committee -- normally the ones building the case to confirm a Republican nominee -- say they are despondent over Mr. Bush's choice and some are actively working to thwart her.

"I don't know anybody who is buying what the White House is selling here," said one Republican staffer.

"They're putting out a bunch of positive rhetoric, but they're not putting any substance behind it," said another.

Regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of the nomination decision itself, this political firestorm is spreading, not dying down. And the president's supply of allies among both the rightwing intelligentsia and the Senate itself is dwindling. The entire Republican nomenklatura will not be far behind now.

Prediction: Harriet Miers will withdraw her own nomination, within days, not weeks. GWB will not walk away, but Miers is smart enough to get the picture and act to protect her president and friend from self-destruction.

Posted by Alan at 12:06 PM

October 09, 2005

So close

Amusing moment of the day so far: watching Brit Hume want to slap Bill Kristol this morning on Fox News Sunday, after Kristol suggested that Hume was using White House talking points to smear Kristol's favored SCOTUS nominees.

Too bad Hume refrained...

Posted by Alan at 10:05 AM

Rabbit trouble

At the movies: Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is amazing. Nick Parks's stop-action animation is as brilliant as ever, and accompanied by a rich, witty script and effective vocal acting. Nicely done.

wallace1.jpg

Posted by Alan at 09:56 AM

October 07, 2005

Self-reflection

Williams Powers at National Journal is watching the media watch President Bush, and sees a not-very-subtle trend.

It's one of those rare moments when everyone in Washington pretty much agrees on the state of the presidency -- and it ain't good.

The White House is a house of pain, and the news class is taking every opportunity to remind us of this fact and, let's face it, to celebrate the downturn. You can't go anywhere in the media without stumbling on an extended discussion of exactly how awful things are for President Bush, how deeply unpopular he's become, how chastened and timid he is, how tattered his record, how dark and dreary the prospects for the rest of his term. The tone is measured, but between the lines you can sense the barely concealed glee....

Journalists as a group have center-liberal tendencies, but in the end, our chief allegiance is not to any political party. We are the party of scandal, failure, ignominy, embarrassment, and tragedy. The more of these horrors afflicting this or any other White House, the better for us.

I don't buy Powers's inability to recognize the leftist bias that also factors into the slanted coverage of this administration. However, there's no denying the role of journalistic schadenfreude.

Tip for this article via e-mail from a thoughtful newspaper correspondent who adds this comment:

This is in line with what [my paper] is like - not terribly liberal like other "leading" news outlets, but rushing along with the tide and building upon the trends of failure it sees everywhere, from Katrina to the White House. This is a perfect example of the media's self-centered, close-minded inability to critique itself.

Every reporter I talk to, either from [my paper] or at other papers, thinks all reporters are just after the story. If they're guilty of anything, it's being overly negative and of always pursuing the scandal. Of course, all you have to do is look at the "controversy" stirred up by Bush's bathroom note at the UN (what a waste of space) to know that those people are completely self-deluded.

Posted by Alan at 02:57 PM

October 06, 2005

What really matters to GWB

This comment from a reader of NRO's The Corner seems more than plausible as a partial explanation of President Bush's reasoning behind the nomination of Harriet Miers:

"Bush does not really care about conservatism or shifting the court in any direction - he only cares about war. He has a litmus test alright, but it's not "Will (s)he overturn Roe?" (as everybody assumes) but rather "Will (s)he set Jose Padilla loose?". Courts have potential for a lot of mischief in the war against Islamofascism and in fact a district court ruled in favor of bin Laden's driver not long ago. That decision was subsequently overturned by certain Judge Roberts, and that judicial record (rather than his impressive resume - as everybody assumes) earned him the nomination. Since it's been Miers' job to provide legal opinion about actions performed or considered by the Administration, the president must know very well where she stands on a multitude of legal questions pertaining to the war. In other words, the president is not willing to trust anybody's opinion about a candidate (especially remembering how his father was assured about Souter) but rather requires extensive personal knowledge or a proven record on the only issue that truly matters to him (and if my theory is correct you can forget about Justice Brown because of her strong libertarian streak).
Posted by Alan at 09:45 PM

Stealth no longer

Here's an exploration by David Durant of what it's like for a conservative to work in a profession that's become roughly 200:1 leftist: academic librarianship.

The problem is not that most librarians have liberal or leftist views. It is that the overwhelming prevalence of such views has created a politicized atmosphere of groupthink and even intolerance, in which left-wing politics permeate the library profession and are almost impossible to avoid.

In conversations with colleagues, on library e-mail lists, and at professional conferences, liberal and leftist attitudes are shoved in your face. Because most librarians are left-of-center politically, they automatically assume that you are as well. After all, only benighted Red State theocrats could possibly have voted for Bush. You quickly learn to keep your opinions to yourself, except among colleagues whom you know well.

...

Librarians are supposed to stand for intellectual freedom, diversity of opinion, and providing access to materials that represent all points of view. How can we do that when many of us are intolerant of dissenting views? Allowing our profession to be a bastion of orthodoxy of any kind defeats our purpose.

Tip: ResourceShelf

It's that previously noted "Unreason, an indifference to the most basic of facts, and a spirit of belligerence" again. Hang in there, David. It will not always be so.

Related sites:

• David Durant - Heretical Librarian
• Jack Stephens - Conservator
ALA's Shameful Silence

Posted by Alan at 12:26 PM

October 05, 2005

Will power

The rushed controversy over Harriet Miers continues unabated. Smartie George F. Will thinks President Bush is not serious in his thinking about Supreme Court nominations.

He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their prepresidential careers, and this president, particularly, is not disposed to such reflections.

John Hinderaker at Power Line, where the evolving discussion has been vigorous, responds with perhaps the most mature commentary from pundits on the Right so far.

I think Will is way off-base on this one. I don't think Miers was one of the best nominees Bush had available, but no one asked my opinion (or Will's). The bottom line is, the President gets to appoint Supreme Court justices. Miers is easily--very easily, in my opinion--within the range of qualified nominees that it would be improper for the Senate to reject. I think her qualifications are better, for example, than Ruth Ginsburg's were. I think it would be very foolish for Republicans to start campaigning for Senators to refuse Miers confirmation, on the theory that we would then get someone better. If Bush gets another nomination, we probably will get someone about whom I am more enthusiastic, but in the meantime, Miers is the President's nominee and she ought to be confirmed.
Posted by Alan at 05:12 PM

Harriet Miers and the real world

Texas senator John Cornyn makes his case for Harriet Miers and her nomination to the Supreme Court. Among her virtues:

Harriet Miers's background as a legal practitioner is an asset, not a detriment. She has spent her career representing real people in courtrooms across America. This is precisely the type of experience that the Supreme Court needs. The court is full of justices who served as academics and court of appeals judges before they were nominated to the bench. What the court is missing is someone who understands the consequences of its decisions on the American people.

This experience gap is a real one. With the exception of the newly confirmed chief justice, John Roberts, no justice on the court has been an advocate in a court of law in the past 25 years, and Chief Justice Roberts was involved only at the appellate level.

Harriet Miers, by contrast, has a long and successful career as a lawyer representing corporate and individual clients in a variety of state and federal courts. I am confident that this background provides her with an understanding of the burdens of modern litigation, a recognition of the problems with frivolous lawsuits and an appreciation for tort reform.

Cornyn is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and served previously as attorney general of Texas, as well as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

Posted by Alan at 06:07 AM

October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers, part the first

Trust George W. Bush to take the unexpected path. Today's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has already confounded pundits and activists alike.

Last summer the Washington Post published a rare profile of her.

Miers's low-key but high-precision style is particularly valued in a White House where discipline in publicly articulating policy and loyalty to the president are highly valued. Formerly Bush's personal lawyer in Texas, Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general.

"Harriet Miers is a trusted adviser on whom I have long relied for straightforward advice," Bush said at the time. "Harriet has the keen judgment and discerning intellect necessary to be an outstanding counsel."

When he was governor of Texas, Bush offered a less formal assessment at an awards ceremony, calling Miers "a pit bull in size 6 shoes." The line stuck, in no small part because it described her cool but dogged determination.

It's very early in the process. I suspect this from ABC's The Note is about the state of play right now.

Is Harriet Miers a trailblazing, conservative, consensus-y, strict constructionist?

Or is she a bureaucratic, undistinguished, paper-pushing cipher-crony?

If her image by the time the Senate votes on her nomination is along the lines of Option 1, she will be confirmed easily, and the President will have gone a miraculous 2 for 2 in getting SCOTUS chairs filled without battle royales.

If her image by that time is more along the lines of Option 2, she will likely be confirmed after a long and hideous process that will include more than one deer-in-the-headlights moment.

UPDATE 10:43 p.m.: Well, the depths of despair and frustration among the conservative blogosphere and punditocracy today was surprising and more than a little pathetic. The right-wing chatting class seems to be divided among those spoiling for a SCOTUS cockfight, now mad that they may not get one, or those who want a Court candidate who will promise to overturn Roe v. Wade.

All will be revealed in the fullness of time and maybe Harriet Miers will be shown to be not-so-great, but frankly my gut reaction right now is to side with Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush:

If there's anything dumber than liberal[s] these days, it is whiney [sic] conservatives who are acting like liberals when President Bush doesn't follow their advice.
Posted by Alan at 12:21 PM

October 02, 2005

Poverty moral, not just material

Scholar Charles Murray is pondering the fate of New Orleans, the true nature of the underclass in America, and the folly of federally-funded government "solutions."

Watching the courage of ordinary low-income people as they deal with the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, it is hard to decide which politicians are more contemptible -- Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or Republicans who are rediscovering poverty and claiming that the government can fix it. Both sides are unwilling to face reality: We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem.

...

Versions of every program being proposed in the aftermath of Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass. Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass.

Perhaps the programs now being proposed by the administration will help ordinary poor people whose socialization is just fine and need nothing more than a chance. It is comforting to think so, but past experience with similar programs does not give reason for optimism--it is hard to exaggerate how ineffectually they have been administered. In any case, poor people who are not part of the underclass seldom need help to get out of poverty. Despite the exceptions that get the newspaper ink, the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive. And behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass.

Hurricane Katrina temporarily blew away the screens that we have erected to keep the underclass out of sight and out of mind. We are now to be treated to a flurry of government efforts from politicians who are shocked, shocked, by what they saw. What comes next is depressingly predictable. Five years from now, the official evaluations will report that there were no statistically significant differences between the subsequent lives of people who got the government help and the lives of people in a control group. Newspapers will not carry that story, because no one will be interested any longer. No one will be interested because we will have long since replaced the screens, and long since forgotten.

Posted by Alan at 08:51 AM

October 01, 2005

Anger and clarity

Tunku Varadarajan of the Wall Street Journal profiles Debra Burlingame, fresh from a victory over the ill-fated "International Freedom Center" at Ground Zero and determined to keep up her relentless focus on the true meaning of 9/11.

Her well-heeled opponents dismissed her as a pretty "Westchester housewife." Big mistake.

Rage renders some people incoherent and others blind. It causes some to flare up--fiercely, but briefly--and then to burn out. In others, it does no more than instill sadness, and paralysis. Yet in Debra Burlingame--the 51-year-old sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame, the pilot of the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon by terrorists on September 11, 2001--rage has fueled eloquence, an impressively mulish obstinacy, and an almost eerie moral clarity.

Composure is only a part of her arsenal. "Anger can be very, very productive, as long as it's focused and you don't lose your mind. After the London bombings [in July], someone asked me, 'Have we become complacent? Do you miss 9/11, when people had more unity?' And I say, 'No, no, no. What I miss is the anger. And the clarity. That's what I miss.' "

Read the whole thing.

Related:

Take Back the Memorial - web site
Ground Zero has been stolen
Fighting the rock stars of grief

Posted by Alan at 07:37 AM