December 28, 2004

Tsunami Aftermath: Relief Pointers

The known death toll is now pushing 60,000 and is certain to go considerably higher. Many of the dead will simply never be found. To prevent epidemics from driving the death toll even higher in the days and weeks to come, medical relief is required in addition to food aid and materials.

Contributions for direct relief and assistance may be made to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Bengal Bay-specific IFRC donations link is here.

Those trying to contact friends and family members in the affected areas can try the IFRC FamilyLinks website here.

Direct Relief International is also a very worthy org, one of only five US charities rated at 99% efficient in all categories. They specialize in direct medical aid to disaster areas and 3rd world nations. They are equipped to handle corporate donations of medicines and medical materials to the affected areas. FEDEX has agreed to move DRI medical shipments to the Bengal Bay area without charge. The DRI cash donations link is here. Cash donations combined with coporate material donations and assistance allow DRI to leverage their applied assistance at levels of 25-1 and greater ($2500 of delivered aid for every $100 cash donated).

UPDATE: If the Red Cross and Crescent or DRI aren't to your taste, Command Post Blog has a much longer list of additional ways to help.

MORE UPDATE: A very good set of relief links can be found at the US Agency for International Development page here.

STILL MORE UPDATE: has a donation link collecting donations for the Red Cross Indian Ocean relief effort as the top of their front page, complete to a donation meter. You can use the link to make a donation of any amount through their secure payment server. Surely you can spare at least $5 or $10, eh? (Yes, in some things I am shameless. Get off your butt, if you haven't done so already.)

When I went to bed in the wee hours, it was at about $800K. As of now it's at $1.42 mil and rising. Go there, wait a minute or two, and then refresh to see how "stingy" we Americans are. And remember--this is just the amount of aid donations through this one single Web page.

November 15, 2004

Some Relevant Thoughts on Media

William Raspberry's column today has some good insights on how the media can approach contentious issues in a more reasonable, informative, and thoughtful manner.

Accepting Our Shades of Purple

But neither is it all that rare. Scores of public controversies are reported as to-the-mat battles between unyielding opposites -- in part because our journalistic habits send us looking for these irreconcilables. What, we ask ourselves, is the point of seeking out a minister who believes that gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly, even sympathetically, but who draws the line at church-ordained marriage? And it's a cinch such ambivalent people won't seek us out.

We ridicule people who insist that, on one issue or another, they are just a little bit purple. And yet I dare say most Americans are just a little bit purple on most issues.

Acknowledgment of this fact -- in our politics and in our journalism -- might go a long way toward the healing our country clearly needs.

(P.S.: The dam in question was never built, because the courts decided it might impact a scarce sub-species of fish--the "Snail Darter Principle." Environmentalists continue to fight tooth and nail to prevent the construction of "wind farms" in the Flint Hills on the grounds they might adversely impact the populations of prairie chickens.)

Good News From Afghanistan

The peripetatic Aussie-tranplanted Polish blogster Arthur Chrenkoff weighs in again!

The Spark of Democracy: A roundup of the past month's good news from Afghanistan

In which Chrenkoff reports on Karzai's run-away election victory, the women's movement in Afghanistan, the rise of a free Afghani radio industry, the coming of the Internet, a bodybuilding craze, reconstruction and a booming economy, wind and solar energy efforts, water and agriculture, humanitarian efforts, the annoyance felt by NGO's that coalition troops are a major part of the humanitarian efforts, security issues and the fading insurgency, and anti-drug efforts.

October 27, 2004


Yes, my comment section is down, and will remain so until a week or so after elections. I'm time-pressured and only vaguely html competent. Thank you for the inquiries. Yes, the addy is the same as the first word of the blog title followed by the usual upper-case 2 in the middle and cox period net.

Missing Explosives--A Summary

I've been digging into the evidence (and lack thereof) and reached the following conclusions, arranged in time-line order. None of them require noting the suspicious timing of the report after so many months, the threatened status of El Baradei as he seeks a new term as IAEA head over US objections, or any partisan inclinations on the part of the media outlets involved.

The U.S. asked the IAEA to destroy the stockpiles in 1995. The IAEA refused, citing the explosives as legitimate "dual-use" material. The material was present only because the IAEA under El Baradei refused to destroy it.

In December, 2002 the IAEA found that 35 tons of HMX was missing. The Iraqis claimed that it had been used for legitimate construction purposes. The IAEA began another inventory.

The stockpiles of explosives were last seen in early January, 2003, when the IAEA inventoried them and placed seals on the bunkers they were stored in.

In early March 2003 IAEA inspectors visited Al QaQaa and found the seals intact on the HMX bunkers (holding 192 tons at time of sealing). They were not permitted to check the RDX and PETEN bunkers, and this was noted in their report. NOTE: It is certainly possible for the Iraqis to fake seals in any case. The explosives were NOT "seen" in March. The seals on one set of bunkers were, and other bunkers were not seen at all because of Iraqi interference.

April 3, 2003--the 3rd ID comes through Al QaQaa. Reports differ--by some accounts they had a list of items to look for, and once CENCOMM was notified the items were not where they were supposed to be the 3ID was told to move on. Other accounts say they did not have a list. All accounts agree that they found a cache of "thousands of boxes" measuring 2 inches by 5 inches that contained "three vials of white powder" and chem/bio weapon instructions. The powder was tested and found to be explosives, and it is highly likely that this was HMX or RDX. By all accounts the complex had suffered air strike damage, many buildings were completely destroyed including two large bunkers, and many others severely damaged. There were large quantities of conventional munitions ("AK 47's, ammunition, and artillery shells") to be seen in some of the damaged and collapsed buildings. No reports that any IAEA seals were seen. By some accounts the vials found were destroyed, other accounts do not mention this.

(NOTE: If the "thousands of boxes" were RDX or HMX, it is worth noting that the full amount of 380 tons would have been many millions of boxes. This was not formed explosives, but raw material in a lightweight powder form. More on this later.)

April 10, 2003--the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, with an NBC embed team along, stops in Al QaQaa for a 24-hour breather. They secure the area and rest. They do not have orders to search for the explosives. Some of the troopers check out the area--naturally, as securing the area requires some inspection. One of them (Ken Stillman) reports seeing two large empty bunkers with obvious signs of heavy traffic--lots of boot prints (not ours) and truck tracks. No signs of either the IAEA seals or explosives are reported.

On either May 7 or May 27 (I saw five accounts, with conflicting dates) the 75th Expeditionary Task Force (75ETF) arrives at Al QaQaa to "I & D"--inventory and destroy. The explosives are not there, and the already-damaged site shows signs of extensive looting. The 75ETF destroys piles of munitions and leaves.

Last date confirmed as actually present: January 2003. Date on which IAEA inspectors were NOT allowed to check all seals: Early March 2003. Dates on which US Troops visited and did not find any IAEA seals at all: April 3 and April 10. Date known for a fact to not be present: May 27, 2003.

A few more points. This is not some super-explosive, but raw material capable of making into plastic explosive roughly 20% to 50% more powerful than TNT by weight. It was not even in usable form, it was a fluffy plastic powder that required fillers, binders, and stabilizers to make usable explosives. When reconstituted, what you would have would be either Semtex or C4, depending on the binders and formulation, and you would still require detonators. All of those are already widely available in the Middle East. Artillery shells and other ordanance, already scattered over Iraq in the hundreds of thousands of tons, contains these materials in their usable form, and has the advantage of having the appropriate matching detonators already in place.

Damage to the two large destroyed bunkers (described by members of the 3ID and 101st as "craters with rubble centers") is consistent with impact detonation of large amounts of raw explosives. Could some have gotten out after we got there, and then left again? Sure, but unlikely. The fact that the boxes that were found were labelled as bio-weapons suggests they were intentionally placed as "scare tactics." The condition of the destroyed bunkers is inconclusive, but they could have had some quantity in them that got wiped in air strikes.

Odds that the material was moved out of the complex before Coalition troops arrived, during the period when Saddam was scattering his munitions all over the countryside, even sending convoys over the border into Syria--considerably good. Odds that part was dispersed by Saddam and that most of the rest went ka-boom in the air strikes, with little left to loot--also good. Odds that millions of boxes of fluffy white powder packed in vials could be moved out through the Coalition lines in bulk after US troops reached the area, all of them on high alert for anything that remotely resembled chem/bio weapons, without one single box being intercepted, and concealed so well that NONE of it has shown up since--just about zilch.

Just my take from an actual review of known accounts. Your mileage may vary.

October 26, 2004

The 101st Weighs In?

No way to tell from here if these are legitimate, but National Review's KERRY SPOT vouches for them as all coming from ".mil" email addresses and having the correct credentials. They've posted them anonymously for obvious reasons. As always, your mileage may vary.

I can tell you what happened at my squad level. When we arrived there, humvees with Mark-19's and other mounted weapons immediately secured the parameter with appropriate manpower backup. On the foot level we broke up into squads and went building to building and cleared them; mind you, we couldn't do them all. But we found what had been typical finds, caches of AK-47's, artillery rounds and bullets. There was absolutely no talk of a big find, and what I could sense no worries of anything that should have been there. Of course, we were still worried about the possibilities of chemical weapons but they never panned out.

I am a little perturbed at the gross mischaracterization of what went on there. From what I remember of the NBC crew, they did not go out with us, and they may have in fact been asked to not to go on the search with us, due to the dangers that may have possibily come up. Now this part is my opinion, but don't you think that if they had gone out with us they would have video?


You are correct in your bottom line conclusion. Here is a second follow up.
I was serving as a [identifying information removed by the Kerry Spot] staff member during the time in question. The Commander on the site had complete real time intelligence on what to expect and possibly find at the Al-QaQaa depot. The ordinance in question was not found when teams were sent in to inspect and secure the area. When this information was relayed, Operational plans were adjusted and the unit moved forward. Had the ordinance in question been discovered, a security team would have been left in place.


But I was there at Al QaQaa on April 10th with the 101st, I can rest assure you that [NBC producer interviewed on MSNBC earlier today] Lai Ling Jew is lying about it, she seems to be expressing a convenient contrary opinion of the time. The very first thing we do when we move into an area is clear it of any enemy combatants, including going inside warehouses full of ordinance, which we did immediately when we reached there.


Operational plans in modern warfare are continually rolling and are available to combat commanders in a real time network environment. The original pre-invasion Operation Plans listed the Al-QaQaa weapons depot as a priority security site. After the 101st Airborne Division inspected the site, the security priority was downgraded and the Operational Plan was modified.

October 25, 2004

Missing Explosives

Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq

As we should always do before jumping to conclusions at a time when we know for a fact that various factions are trying to stampede us with scare stories and overblown outrages, let's take a closer look. October Surprises have a long history of being less than substantial on close examination. Their purpose is to get us to buy a pig in a poke, so let's open the bag and check out the pig first.

I read through the NY Times piece very carefully, and noticed that the only evidence cited that the explosives were still there at the time of the invasion was the unsupported word of a Saddam-era Iraqi official. He stated that the cache was looted "after 9-4-2003." (That's April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell.) The current minister is cited as confirming this, but is actually only quoted as saying: "Yes, they are missing. We don't know what happened."

So from the article we know they were there in "late 2002" when IAEA checked them, that the invading Coalition troops coming through a few months later saw no IAEA marked materials, and that the explosives are not there now. We know that two of the 10 bunkers went ka-boom before or during the invasion, big time. And we know that the only verification the article presents for the implication that they were still there at the time we invaded, and that we blew it and let them get away, is the word of a Saddam-era bureaucrat telling the IAEA that it's not his fault. One of the very bureaucrats whose butt would be on the hot seat if the explosives had taken a friendly little hike to Syria, in one of those many convoys spotted heading there by satellite imagery in the few months immediately prior to the invasion.

The story might be true--lack of evidence offered is not evidence of falsity. But there's no proof that it's true in the story itself, the tone is highly overplayed, there is significant underplaying and omission of all "doubt factors" and alternative hypotheses, and there are BIG grey areas of journalistic wiggle room in the construction.

To add some context to the startling figure of 350 tons or so of missing armaments, here's the Army Corps of Engineers report on the total amount of ordanance captured and/or destroyed in Iraq to date. It comes to 328 THOUSAND tons. Even if we let those 350 MOL tons be looted, they would represent about 1/10th of 1% of the total arms we have captured and destroyed to date.

You won't see that mentioned by the Times. Iraq was so awash in munitions that even an extra half-million-plus pounds of them is a drop in the proverbial bucket. With or without the missing explosives, there was never any shortage of munitions available to insurgents. But mentioning this would undercut the effectiveness of the article as an attack on Bush.....

Can you say "Rather biased?"

October 20, 2004

The Law of the Instrument

We've all heard them--the maxims of insight that help distill experience into simple "laws" for dealing with reality. The classic example is Murphy's Law. "If anything can go wrong, it will." And of course, there's O'Toole's Corollary to Murphy's Law. "Murphy was an optimist."

Then there's Abraham Kaplan's Law of the Instrument, often mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain. "Give a small boy a hammer and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding." This is also often stated as "If you give a child a hammer, everything looks like a nail." And that leads me to Tully's Corollary to the Law of the Instrument.

"When you really want to drive a nail, everything starts to look like a hammer." It doesn't matter if it's a rock or a wrench, a board or a baguette, if you really want to drive that nail, you'll try it.

At no time is this more evident than during election season.

Candidate A and Candidate Z may be remarkably close in outlooks and philosophy, or they may be very far apart. Still, the odds are excellent that neither one of them is truly an extremist, rapist, killer, agent of the Zionist Conspiracy, or tool of Satan. In fact, they're probably both fairly decent people (apart from being politicians). But once the campaign gets underway, anything and everything that could possibly be construed as negative in any fashion whatsoever by any unreasonable stretch of the imagination will be inflated, conflated, twisted, demagogued, misrepresented, made up and/or lied about in order to either support one candidate or tear down another.

Political professionals call this "spin." Political scientists call it "propaganda." It's the single most negative aspect of politics, the thing that turns more people off and drives more insane accusations than any other factor. There are always those who hate the other side. The more intense the hate, the more likely that absolutely anything will be seized upon as a hammer to drive that nail into the opposition coffin.

So as the last two weeks of this election season play out, as the rhetoric escalates and the more rabid factions on both sides advance the most astounding and incredible claims of nasty, loathsome, despicable, repugnant, contemptible, abhorrent behavior and motivations against the opposition (regardless of which side you are on), it may be soothing to remember Tully's Corollary, and reflect that what you are really seeing is children, looking for a hammer.

October 14, 2004

John O'Neill Shoots Self in Ass

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth felt it necessary to question every single aspect of John Kerry's service in Viet Nam, most especially every medal he received. Maybe they should have stuck to the areas where the evidence was less ambiguous.

What Happened in Kerry's Vietnam Battles? NIGHTLINE Speaks to Witnesses of Disputed Firefights

Despite the implication of the titles, the article speaks only to the day Kerry won a Silver Star. As near as I could tell from a quick search, the SBVT site leaves this incident alone, but John O'Neill beat solidly on it in his book, claiming that Kerry's Silver Star was for shooting a lone, fleeing teenager in the back and that the Swifties didn't land under fire.

But according to the villagers involved, who claim to remember the incident clearly, there were as many as twenty VC soldiers in the village that day. The man who fired the B-40 rocket at PC-94, they say, was named Ba Thanh.

The soldiers fired on the Swift Boat, which returned fire. The soldiers retreated when the boats turned into shore and beached. Ba Thanh ran but was shot and fell down dead. The villagers don't know who shot him, if he was pursued and shot, etc.

But according to the villagers there was more than just a lone VC with a rocket launcher who was run down and killed. There were about 20 VC, who fled as the boats beached. And the boats beached and attacked because they were under fire, contradicting O'Neill's claim.

The villager's accounts don't confirm the entire story. (No one knew if Ba Thranh died from Kerry's gun, or from the boat .50, or what. But die he did.) The villagers sure as hell contradict O'Neill's version. And unlike O'Neill, the villagers were there that day.

I couldn't ask for clearer proof that the tendency to think the absolute worst of your opposition, to demonize them beyond sense and evidence, is not a bright way to
play. (Michael Moore, take note.)

October 07, 2004

The Iraq Survey Group Report: A Lesson in Reality

Over a year ago, as the invasion forces desperately searched for those WMD's and failed to find them, we all wondered how the U.S. and European and Israeli intelligence agencies could be so wrong. Well, some of us wondered. The anti-Bush crowd simply said loudly and often that BUSH LIED, without bothering to consider the evidence.

But at the time, still certain that stockpiles would eventually be found, I said something almost prophetic. I said that, given the consistent intel of a decade, the only way it made sense that Saddam didn't have WMD's was if his own people spent years fooling him, or he spent years fooling his own people. Now the ISG report is out, and it turns out that my second guess was correct.

While the Kerry-Edwards campaign is running around waving the Duelfer Report and screaming the Deaniac campaign song that BUSH LIED, those of us who have done some serious reading into the new ISG report are seeing something entirely different. After having access to all the top kicks in the Hussein regime, including Saddam and his generals and even "Chemical Ali", Duelfer came to the conclusion that Saddam spent years trying to keep the international community fooled into believing that he had stockpiles of WMD's, even long after he had had them destroyed.

After the decimation of his forces in 1991, Saddam was worried that he was wide open to an attack from Iran. His second concern was getting the sanctions lifted. So he maintained the fiction of having WMD's even as he complied with the ceasefire agreements and destroyed them, and gamed the inspectors into thinking he was concealing them while (truthfully!) maintaining that he had destroyed them. He even kept his own generals in the dark.
"The Iranian threat was very, very, palpable to him, and he didn't want to be second to Iran, and he felt he had to deter them. So he wanted to create the impression that he had more than he did," Duelfer, the Iraq Survey Group head, told members of the Senate on Wednesday.

And, the man known for colossal miscalculations made perhaps his greatest strategic blunder by refusing to believe that President Bush would make good on threats to forcibly remove him from power.

"He kept trying to bargain or barter, and he had not realized the nature of the ground shift in the international community," Duelfer said. "That was Saddam's intelligence failure."

Saddam systematically corrupted the Oil-For-Food program, using the revenues to bribe key officials at the U.N. and in France, Russia, and elsewhere. In return, they helped him buy (non-WMD) armaments to shore up his weakened military, resisted U.S. calls for the Security Council to enforce the sanctions, and watched happily as the U.S. played the bully and guaranteed their windfalls.

The "friends and allies" that Kerry and Edwards say we should have deferred to were stabbing us in the back the entire time. Our vigiliance and steadfast enforcement of the ceasefire provisions was making them rich. They would never have agreed to enforce the penalties. They would never have sent troops. They were doing entirely too well under the status quo to rock the boat.

The Deulfer Report doesn't have a lot of good news for either the Bush administration or the Kerry campaign. It lays out how Saddam snookered the entire intel community in all the major nations into believing he had WMDs. It details how we were fooled. It shows that Saddam worked hard to maintain his technological base so that he could resume WMD production after the sanctions were lifted, that he (easily) bribed our "friends and allies" into helping him along, and that had he stayed in power he would indeed have become what we thought he already was, a clear and present danger to both the United States and the entire region.

It's a painful lesson, noting how we got suckered and how little faith we can place in our "friends and allies" in Europe. But in the end, Saddam suckered himself. After years of dealing with the U.S., he simply never believed Bush would actually do as he said he would, until he did. And then it was too late.

September 16, 2004

Campaign Balladeers

By a friend of mine....

Down the Dukakis Trail
(To the tune of "Ghost Riders in the Sky")

A veteran from Vietnam went out to Ioway
Upon his medals boasted as he stumped both night and day
When all at once a mighty herd of Deaniacs he saw
Come rushin' off the Internet and into Iowah

Yipie i ay yipie i oh
Down the Dukakis Trail

Their eyes were all on fire and their laptops made of steel
Their donor base was howling and their workers full of zeal
A bolt of fear went through the vet as they caucused far and wide
And Howard Dean was rising fast 'til he made his fateful cry

Down the Dukakis Trail

His face was flushed his eyes were wild his shirt was soaked with sweat
When he screamed and lost his lead to the Massachussetts vet
Who rode both sides of Vietnam to the nomination show
'Cause being both against and for's "electable" you know

Yipie i ay yipie i oh
Down the Dukakis Trail

But then some other vets appeared he heard one call his name
Your medals rust you've lost our trust but your head don't hang with shame
Make your peace with other soldiers or you're sure to feel our pain
As we tell all the nation of the fantasies you claimed

Yipie i ay yipie i oh
Down the Dukakis Trail
Down the Dukakis Trail
Down the Dukakis Trail....

Copyright S.D. Roberts 2004. Permission is hereby granted to use these words however you see fit as long as this copyright notice is included. Have fun with it.

September 08, 2004


What Would John Kerry Do?

I keep asking that question of Kerry supporters, hoping to find out the current platform and any honestly substantive agenda the candidate may have. I don't expect anyone to change my mind, but I honestly do want to know what Kerry has to recommend him other than being a rich Democrat senator from Massachussetts, as compared to a rich Texas Governor with an ex-Prez daddy. But I never seem to get any real answers. Instead I hear:


OK, I'll play along, he's Satan Incarnate. So, about that litigation abuse, WWJKD?


Well, he's a politician and I've seen his lips move, and I'm certainly not going to argue the relative degrees of verity with electronic wanna-be Jesuits. But to stem job outsourcing and smooth the bumps of a shifting world economic structure, WWJKD?


I know that. Everyone who's been within ten feet of any media outlet in the last year knows that. But what we don't know and would like to hear is, on say the impending implosion of Social Security and Medicare, WWJKD?


I'm sure everyone on all sides is thankful about that, not least of all Theresa Kerry and Laura Bush. But, in Iraq, WWJKD?


Yes yes, in Vietnam. We know. Which he really ought to quit talking about and try talking about some current issues instead, like structural reform of health care instead of more taxpayer-funded bandaids. So WWJKD?


Well, that's certainly one view with some validity, but it's kinda past-oriented. In terms of the future, WWJKD?


And so it goes.

September 04, 2004


A national Newsweek poll conducted September 2nd and 3rd and released today seems to confirm yesterday's TIME poll, indicating that Bush has a clear post-convention lead of 11 points, both head-to-head against Kerry and in three-way including Nader. The poll was of 1008 registered voters.

For the first time in over a year, the Newsweek polling shows a majority (53%) in favor of re-electing Bush. More interesting to me was the breakdown of whom voters would like to see as the 2008 Republican nominee. (Figures are shown as ALL/Republican respondees only). The top two were Rudy Giuliani (50%/65%) and John McCain (48%/47%). Arnold Schwarzennegger came in third at (22%/30%), and Jeb Bush, Bill Frist, and George Pataki brought up the rear.

August 29, 2004

Jumping the Shark

I don't have time right now for the long entry I'd like to write on this subject, but I think we're going to be looking back on the last two weeks as the moment that the Kerry campaign jumped the shark and started sliding down the Mondale/Dukakis/Gore road.

This opens me entirely to being slam-dunked into the Dustbin of Stupid Presidential Campaign Predictions. It's a long time until November and fresh events and revelations can change things drastically. Anarchists could run riot at the GOP convention, get beat up by Republican delegates on camera, and win the sympathy vote for Kerry. Bush could lose his sanity in the middle of his speech and start babbling like an ayatollah on acid. Dick Cheney and Colin Powell could be revealed as child pornographers.

LOTS of things can happen to change the dynamics of a race, and this one still has over 60 days to go. But I believe that barring such events and revelations, the current indicators say that Kerry is on his way down. Of course, I'm the guy who took Gephardt in the Veepstakes immediately after Iowa, so take the prediction with whatever amount of salt grains you prefer.

The major factor in my calculations is Kerry's insistence of using Vietnam as his campaign keystone. I think it's rapidly becoming a millstone, and for many more reasons than just the Swift Boat ads. Frankly, I think it was a tactical and strategic blunder of enormous proportions, and will sink him. Vietnam is still an open wound in the American psyche, and poking it with a sharp stick does not win many hearts and minds. Especially in wartime.

Among other things, Kerry's insistence on trying to own both sides of Vietnam plays into the flip-flopping meme the GOP has managed to hang on him. And it doesn't play in a good way. Consider that Kerry is proud of his service to the country, and his medals won in committing what he himself called war crimes and atrocities...cognitive dissonance. Irreconcilable images.

Having put so much of his weight onto the Vietnam issue, Kerry is left without too many other tools to effectively use at this late date. He's on the defensive now and is likely to pretty much stay on the defensive right through election day. And challengers don't win playing defense. If Kerry can't change the momentum (and the subject) back into his favor, and quickly, he's done.

HINT: If you're a Kerry supporter, "Vote John Kerry for Another Vietnam!" is NOT a good subliminal message to have floating around the country right now. But that's the message that is getting out. And it won't win the election.

July 23, 2004

One Berger, With Lies

The flap over Sandy Berger's Frequent Visitor program at the National Archives continues, and the finger-pointing by Democrats continues. The scripted attack line is that Republicans leaked the news of the Berger investigation to take some of the sting out of the 9/11 Commission Report and some of the light out of the upcoming DNC convention. Or both. In this, they have been ably assisted by many in the media, who would have us believe that the real scandal is all Republican.

The problem is, there's a total lack of evidence that the story was leaked by Republicans, and a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that the story was leaked by Berger's team. Even seasoned political observers have to cringe at the hypocrisy emanating from the Kerry campaign and the Democrats on this one.

The known basics: Former Clinton White House National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger was deputized by Clinton to review documents at the National Archives in preparation for testifying to the 9/11 Commission. During the course of several visits, Berger asked NA employees to violate security procedures by leaving the room, so he could take and make "private phone calls." Apparently intimidated by Berger's status, some did so. Also contrary to NA rules and procedures, employees did not search the contents of Berger's leather portfolio case when he exited the viewing room. Documents were subsequently discovered missing, and NA employees began watching Berger more closely. He was observed placing documents in his clothing. The NA employees then began numbering and coding documents which Berger requested, and discovered that they were indeed not all returning to the secure files, but going missing in Berger's possession.

Then it gets a little murky. It is reported that Archives officials notified Clinton attorney Bruce Lindsey about the affair (something Linsey now denies) and that Berger then returned some, but not all, of the missing documents to the archives, along with some hand-written notes he had taken while in the viewing room and also removed contrary to procedure. A National Archives employee came to Berger's house to retrieve the documents still missing, and was told they could not be found. The FBI then came and searched Berger's house, finding some hand-written notes on the Middle East peace talks of the 1990's that also should not have been removed. 

All of this happened several months ago, in the fall of 2003. The documents in question, the items that kept coming up missing and roused NA staff suspicions to the point that they set up a "sting" on Berger, were drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of al-Qaida terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration. These documents carried our nation's highest security classification, CODEWORD.

Some thoughts before continuing to discussion of the current flap.
First, the odds that Berger "inadvertently" removed these documents is zero, the odds that he did not know that his hand-written notes were supposed to be reviewed for content before leaving the room is also zero. He concealed them and removed them on purpose, knowing full well that he was committing felony violations of both NA procedure and national security law. As a former National Security Adviser it is simply not credible that he could NOT have known all of this. The lesson of John Deutch was fresh. You can't even get into the viewing rooms without signing papers acknowledging all of these things. And red-covered security documents of a few dozen pages do not blend in so well that they are repeatedly, on more than one occasion, "inadvertently" slipped into one's briefcase or folder--or one's clothing.

Second, it's ridiculous to assume that Berger had no reason for taking these documents. The question becomes what his reason or reasons were. Reports indicate that while the documents were all drafts of a single final document, they were not all identical. At a minimum, they were copies that contained hand-written notes and annotations from various Clinton administration staffers, including those of Berger and main author Richard Clarke. Or they may have been copies of various stages of the draft, showing how it evolved. Or both.

So it is reasonable to assume that Berger wanted some of those annotations or draft versions to disappear from the Archives, and was willing to commit serious crimes of national security to accomplish his purpose. Had he simply wanted a copy on which to base his upcoming testimony, one would have sufficed. The same reasoning applies if he wanted a copy to help guide Democrat campaign strategy. And indeed, some of the copies that Berger took have not been recovered. (It is also possible that the copies Berger returned had been altered, and/or that he had already susbstituted doctored copies in place of other Archive copies.)  In any case, Berger is in deep trouble, and it's not something that's just going to go away, as Deutch can tell him. Deutch's crime appeared to have been an honest error, a claim that Berger is going to find tough to sell, and it took a presidential pardon to get Deutch off the hook.

Onward to the "leak" flap. On July 19, this story appeared on the AP wire, revealing that Berger was under investigation for removing documents. Immediately Democrats from A to Z began claiming that the story had been leaked by the White House in order to overshadow the 9/11 Commission Report, due to come out in a few days, or the upcoming DNC convention. Or both.

The evidence that Republicans leaked this story? NONE. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch. But Democrats from Bill Clinton to the Kerry campaign iteslf, along with many prominent "unbiased" media outlets, continue to point fingers at the Bush administration, trying to get the focus off of Sandy Berger.

The author of the original article has not said (and will not say) where the story came from. But there are some clues, some circumstantial evidence, that could point the way. And ALL of that evidence points in exactly one direction--at Sandy Berger and his advisers.

To begin with is the article itself, which tells the story almost exclusively from the mouth of Sandy Berger's attorney, Lanny Breuer. If the article was original investigative journalism, or had been leaked by a hostile GOP source, it would almost certainly contain something more damning than Berger's own "inadvertent mistake" mea culpa. It does not. In fact, it notes that the House Intelligence Committee had not yet been informed of the breach. That's one.

The reasoning that the news was leaked by Republicans to draw attention away from the 9/11 Commission report falls flat. The 9/11 report is actually very positive for the Bush administration, debunking almost all the spectacular claims made by the Frothing Left about Bush perfidy. The White House has had "vetting" copies of the report for weeks, plus the benefit of inside information from Republican Committee members, and knew this. Why would they want to cloud over it? Similarly, the proper timing for leaking this item in order to cloud the DNC convention would be during, or immediately after, the convention, not before it. In fact, the single most effective time to leak this news for GOP'ers would be right at the end, or shortly after, the GOP convention or in the last few weeks before the election. The timing of the news, which was bound to come out anyway, seems positioned to help (or at least do the minimum amount of damage to) Democrats, not Republicans. That's two.

Then we have the detail that Berger added Joe Lockhart to his damage control team in January. As Clinton White House press secretary, it was the team of Lockhart and Lannie Davis that perfected the technique of selective timing of bad news releases to minimize political damage. In the press they found many willing accomplices who would publish immediately and ask few questions, as long as they got the scoop. As Davis himself said in this article explaining the details of the technique, charmingly entitled "
Damage Control 101--How to get the bad news out quickly - and quietly," their favorite "go-to" guy for releases was AP's John Solomon, and they used him more than any other reporter.

When Davis was questioned yesterday about whether he had anything to do with the leaking of the Berger story, he dodged, bobbed, weaved, and evaded answering.  But going back to the original release, the one composed almost entirely of Berger's own lawyer-approved version, we can't help but note that the author was none other than John Solomon of the AP. And that's three.

None of which you will find in the august pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times, or hear from Dan Rather, all of whom continue to insist that a tale of a Democrat stealing national Security materials and pre-emptively timing the release of the story is a somehow a Republican scandal.

April 21, 2004

Supporting the Troops

Much has been made about Spirit Of America's efforts to help out the American troops in Iraq in various ways. It's all over the blogosphere, and if you haven't seen a mention you should chastise the blog sites. I6t's not a pro-war or anti-war thing, it's just about letting our friends, relatives, and fellow citizens servng overseas know that we haven't forgotten them.

They're a fine organization, but if they aren't your cup of tea, there's also Books For Soldiers, which helps you send not just books but basic supplies to our troops. Things such as baby wipes, chapstick, socks, etc. that are in very short supply in The Sandbox. Good folks.

And there's also Soldier's Angels, which has an Adopt-A-Soldier program that fosters correspondence and support for deployed soldiers.

It's not much to ask--a few paperbacks, maybe some hard candy or a DVD, some "neccessaries." And it does a world of good. So pay 'em a visit, any of 'em, and do something to help out our men and women in uniform.

Selling Kerry

In the Washington Post today, an article on the insiders of the Kerry campaign and their plan to sell Kerry to the public as a "centrist." Says the Post...

As he prepares for the most ambitious and defining phase of his presidential candidacy, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) is relying on image-makers schooled in traditional Kennedy liberalism to sell himself anew to voters as a 21st-century centrist Democrat, a muscular hawk on national defense and deficits.

Old-School Team To Sell Kerry as Modern Centrist

What's wrong with this picture?

Other than the obvious, that Kerry isn't a centrist but an unreconstructed Massachussetts liberal?

January 30, 2004

Double Shot

Not dead yet, just been blogging elsewhere and up to my ears in the daily routine of being a daddy and self-employed to boot. My current project is voter database parsing for maximizing campaign fund usage (why waste campaign funds on non-voting voters?) although I'm not saying for whom for contract reasons. To be truthful, as long as they pay me in advance, I'm willing to work for anyone that doesn't fall in my "better dead than elected" list. After all, while I could stand to lose a few pounds the kids gotta eat. But payment in advance is mandatory. I've been in this game too long to believe anyone's campaign promises, especially monetary ones. Being a paid political worker is somewhat like being a criminal defense attorney--you should ALWAYS get your fee in advance, or at least enough to cover your expenses, 'cause if your client loses you're not going to get one thin dime save by sheer luck.

Today, a few notes on the countries that opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and another non-gratuitous slap at the Bush administration's wholesale handover of taxpayer money to their favorite lobby, the drug companies.

This story at ABC News on the recent revelation that Iraq used oil moneys from the "oil for food" program to bribe foreign officials isn't really "new" news, just confirmation of what many of us pointed out last year. Namely, that some nations and officials therein profited handsomely from the Iraqi "oil for food" program and didn't want the apple-cart upset, as they wanted to continue getting wealthier on a personal basis from Saddam's regime. That both the French and Russian governments are thoroughly and relentlessly corrupt comes as no surprise to many of us, who are quite aware of how the European "Good Ol' Boy" network functions and France's desire to take over the EU, but may shed some light on last year's Security Council debates for those who still believe those wonderful Europeans and the U.N. are pure of heart and beyond reproach....

What I find amusing is the country noticeably missing from the (admittedly partial) list published by ABC, namely Germany. It's gotta hurt to find out you got suckered into lining the pockets of top dogs in France, Russia, and even the Vatican without getting anything in return, not even a lousy T-shirt! And if you still think France's opposition was innocently ideological, check out this lovely little development concerning our erstwhile ally, and their undying commitment to World Peace! Yep, those peace-loving, democracy-hugging, dictatorship-hating French....

In other news, the New York Times published this list of random facts about the recent Medicare Drug bill on the op/ed page. I haven't had the time or energy or resources to check on their facts, but if verifiable it certainly sheds some light on the state of crony capitalism in Washington under the Republicans, and fits with what I have been saying all along about the GOP and their relationship with the medical/drug establishments under Senator Frist and the Bush admin. Not that I think a Democrat administration would do any better--I believe they would merely shift the blatant ripoff & reward of public funds to different sue for me being cynical. It's an attitude I've earned through experience.

Have fun, folks. The election season is here, and the circus is coming to your town soon.....

January 11, 2004

Si, we have more Hispanics!

Some folks view the recent Bush push on illegal-to-legal immigration as a cynical campaign move to capture Hispanic voters, and no old pol in his right mind would argue the point. The Hispanic bloc is one of the big plums on the electoral tree, and both sides are eager to shake it loose. During the Clinton administration, it seemed the only way to get deported as an Hispanic illegal alien was if Castro demanded your return, and the Dems actively worked to sign up illegals to vote (and still do--witness the combined effect of the "Motor Voter" law and the recent Dem push to get driver's license rights for illegals) while not enforcing the borders.

The Dem assumption (a correct one) is that illegals, especially new illegals, are more likely to vote Democrat. The Republican assumption is that the considerably larger legal and established Hispanic population can be won over to the GOP camp, also a view with some validity, and that loosening the laws to allow more guest worker visas for Hispanics will give their efforts a boost. always, there are other considerations lurking beyond the obvious, and a consideration of the demographics involved is revealing. Not the electoral demographics, but the statistics for birth rates. So, if you're one of those folks who simply can't abide the thought of neighbors that don't look just like you, now is the time to quit reading this and go hide under your covers.

It requires a birth rate (per woman) of slightly over 2.00 live births per lifetime to simply maintain population levels. (It must be slightly over 2.00 to cover deaths before parenthood in the childbearing age population). Our current rate is right at 2.06 births, which translates to an annual birth rate of 14.7 per 1000 population. This breaks down roughly as follows: White non-Hispanic 12.2; Black, non-Hispanic 17.9; Asian/Pacific Islander 16.7; and Hispanic 24.4. Percentages of total population, respectively, are 73.9, 12.1, 3.4, and 10.5. (I'm leaving out the "other" category right now to keep from bogging down in lists, but it's miniscule for our purposes).

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last couple of decades, you know that we have a demographic bulge of Baby Boomers heading into their retirement years, with the associated problem of a stretched Social Security system, too many people collecting as compared to currently paying in. These boomers are overwhelmingly white, non-Hispanic. The only cures for too many people collecting are to either [1] cut benefits, [2] raise taxes, [3] get more people paying into the system, or [4] some combination of these.

Since WNH's are, as a group, not even sustaining their population numbers through replacement births, it's pretty obvious that the only way to accomplish option 3 in whole or part is to either boost birth rates or working-age immigration or both. And the highest birth rates and immigration rates are among Hispanics. In short order Hispanics will outnumber blacks as a group. And another fact of immigration is that new immigrants are more likely to work their butts off for low wages, and to more rapidly advance through the socioeconomic strata than established resident groups, boosting the economy more in the process.

The trend of a growing Hispanic population percentage will happen regardless of our immigration laws, as already-settled legal Hispanics in the U.S. population are reproducing at faster rates than any other population group, and at twice the rate of WNH's. Like it or not, we WILL become an increasingly Hispanic nation. (Committed bigots should consider moving to Norway...or Idaho.) What both parties are trying to do is to speed up that process a bit to ameliorate the SS problem, while capturing as much of that segment of the electorate as possible.

Not that they'll ever admit it.