Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The President just held a press conference repeating what most people already knew, that Condoleeza Rice will testify publicly before the commission. The term "press conference" may be a bit broad since the President didn't take any questions.

At first, it seemed that the administration could get a boost from this. The line has always been that Presidents advisors can't testify before congress. The reasons have been several including constitutional issues and (perhaps more defendable) that the President has to be able to rely on the confidence of those conversations. Either one of these reasons are reasonable explanations.
Now the President comes out and says he is giving his permission for Rice to testify. At first glance it might look like this could be a win for the President, that he is going against convention in order to get the truth out. But there are a few problems.

A.) The claim that Rice cannot testify is questionable, b.) she has already testified privately, c.) she has been on every news show you can get on talking about the topics covered in the 9/11 hearings.

The more accurate way to look at the turnaround would be that it was politically untenable anymore. Even fellow Republicans were calling the administrations position a political blunder.

Their primary claims rested upon what they referred to as a "principal". Yet now its obvious that the only principle involved was political principle, as in if it looks like you are going to get caught, give in but make it look like you were pushed.

The fact is, the public was figuring out their argument was ludicrous. Their argument was that Rice couldn't speak in front of a congressional committee, but she could go in front of every person on the planet who had access to a television.

Their position is not one of principle, but one of convenience.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I caught a bit about this yesterday, but didn't get the chance to check it out.
But now Hesiod has it over at CounterSpin. It's big-time, so check it out.
He has a copy of the relevant portion of the transcript online.

If you don't feel like clicking, I will give you the rundown, there are recordings and minutes of the meetings in which the threats and possible responses were discussed. To top it off, Tenet deferred to Clarke's testimony in terms of specific threats and responses.

This is pretty big. As Hesiod puts it, it's like when it was admitted that Nixon tapes all his conversations.
If Clarke was out of the loop, if he was a bumbling fool.....roll the tape! Let the commission, and the rest of the country take a look.
If the administration's criticisms of Clarke's accusations were accurate, then they would be tossing copies of the minutes into press rooms across the town.

Certainly, any calls for these records will be responded to with national security concerns. But certainly a carefully selected committee of congressmen could be allowed to go over the records. While of course that may mean a longer and wider investigation, but if either A.) the administration was ignoring the threat of terrorism or B.) the head of counter-terrorism was a bumbling out of the loop fool, then they should address this issue with substance.
Fred Kaplan over at Slate gives the best rundown of the Clarke testimony and why he believes it's, "game, set, match."

In another note, I caught a clip on Nightline last night which had Clarke talking about the administration's attacks against him. He called them, "mean, nasty people." While it may sound harsh, the administration has come out with all guns on auto. He has been characterized as out of the loop, and a bumbling boob. This is the individual who was appointed to head up the counter-terrorism position for the administration.
No one has yet refuted his accusations, they have attacked him, his record, even held contrary attacking positions (Cheney saying he was out of the loop, Rice saying they did everything Clarke requested but it was ineffective).
No one has come out and said "he's wrong, period."
Can they? The evidence is mounting that they can't.
Well, we always knew that Fox News would be fair and balanced. The question now, however, is who are they fair to and how do they balance their ethics with their agenda?
Josh Marshall caught a report on Fox News that demonstrates, rather clearly, that there is certainly a protectiveness when it comes to comments that may hurt the administration. I have to say that I was watching the 9/11 hearings on CSPAN yesterday and I heard both of these conversations. They were separate conversations and dealt with questions from two different committee members, yet the Fox News writer combined two separate series of questions, from two different questioners, in order to create a negative image of Clarke. There is no other way to interpret this passage. It's not simply a matter of laziness, the whole transcript is available to anyone who wants it.
Obviously, anyone who puts a few minutes into it will see the discrepancy between the Fox interpretation of it, and the actual testimony. This not only tries to put a negative spin on Clarke's testimony, but it insults Fox's viewers. If any other network made this type of characterization of an administration official's testimony, there would be an outpouring of protestation from the administrations supporters.
Should those who question the administrations handling of the terrorism issue, who question the decision to invade Iraq, who, regardless of party, have often given the administration a great deal of room in which to explain their case, really stand for this? Most of the public individuals who have raised questions are not known as partisan figures. Yet if you publicly protest the administration's policy you are an, "active partisan," to quote Former Secretary of the Navy Jim Lehman.
If there are particular objections a reporter or editor wants to bring up regarding an individuals testimony before a congressional panel, they should raise the objection, not simply mis-represent that person's testimony. It's dishonest and even more so, it is bad journalism.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

As I am watching the 9/11 commission hearings, Bob Kerrey, former U.S. senator (D-Ind) on the 9/11 commission, blasted the Fox News Network for releasing a transcript of a conversation Richard Clarke had on background. Information provided on background is understood to be anonymous. The reporter can refer to the person as an "official" or something similar, but it is understood that the person's actual name is not used. The idea of anonymity is to help foster the flow of essential information. It protects both the source as well as the reporter.
Fox has blown the cover off of that, and Kerrey took them to task for that.
Clarke's criticisms of the administration's handling of the threat of terrorism has been pointed and has drawn a great deal of fire from supporters of the administration.

For more information, Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Here's a question I would like to see answered, what happened to Saddam? We have him in custody, but after a quick LexisNexis search, there has been no news about him since his capture. Shouldn't he be a fount of knowledge? I know he will be resistant, but certainly after two wars and hundreds of deaths and countless dollars, they will get some information from him, regardless of the methods. Is he sitting in a cell someplace saying he had no weapons? Is he backing Hans Blix's assertion that the weapons they had were actually destroyed?
He's an enormous resource, yet there has been silence regarding his condition or if he's been providing any information. I'm sure it would be to no one's benefit to describe the nature of the information, but certainly someone in the press corps could ask if he's been of any benefit.
We went to war to nab the guy and now he's effectively disappeared.
Josh Marshall put this out yesterday. His approach was that it was a shot at the Democrats because they can't hold their own with the voting public and therefore they have to rely upon minorities to pad their vote. I think he's correct, but if you look a bit deeper, its a somewhat insulting argument. It's arguing that the Repubs don't need non-white voters. It's arguing that the minority vote is inconsequential and that they vote Dem because they don't know any better. It's a racist and degrading argument. What does that mean, "Without black voters," are they some monolithic group that votes according to a memo that's handed out? I doubt anyone thinks that. In fact there is a growing group of black conservatives. If the Republicans think they can bandy about insulting stereotypes like this and keep the number of black conservatives who support them, they are fooling themselves. I doubt there is anyone in this country who likes to be referred to the way Judy Woodruff refers to black voters.

Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?

Without black voters, the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections would have been virtually tied, just like the 2000 election. Oh no, more Florida recounts!

What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.

Right now, there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. How many would be there without African-American voters? We checked the state exit polls for the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections. If no blacks had voted, many Southern Democrats would not have made it to the Senate. Both Max Cleland and Zell Miller needed black votes to win in Georgia. So did Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Bill Nelson in Florida, John Edwards in North Carolina, and Ernest Hollings in South Carolina.

Black votes were also crucial for Jon Corzine in New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and Jean Carnahan in Missouri. Washington state and Nevada don't have many black voters, but they were still crucial to the victories of Harry Reid in Nevada and Maria Cantwell in Washington.

Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.

A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing -- Judy.

Also, it's an idiotic argument, any political group would be out of it if a major part of their constituency deserted them. Many black voters support the Democratic party because they believe it represents them best, not because their black.

You can read the whole article here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

It seems that the pro-administration assessment of the Spanish elections is taking over. The pro-administration assessment is that the victory of the Socialist Party's Zapatero over the incumbent Popular Party member Prime Minister Jose Aznar is more prominently a victory for al Qaeda.

That assessment comes from the idea that the bombings last Thursday in Madrid actually caused the fall of the incumbent party in Spain, thus the terrorists were able to use violence to influence the election. While certainly the effects of the bombing that killed 199 people will be varied and may have even taken some support from Aznar, that does not explain all the circumstances surrounding the elections.

Their view of the elections, and its consequences, fails to take into consideration that the Popular party had only a four point lead ahead of the Socialists, who were already opposed to Spanish involvement in Iraq. While it was believed the Popular Party would win the elections, it was by no means a lock. What many commentators also fail to note is that the bombings initially were claimed by the government to be caused by the ETA, the Basque sepratist group that has been using violence for decades, yet never on such a horrific scale.

It initially looked as if the attack could help boost the chances of the Popular Party retaining their seats. The Popular Party candidate for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had called for a cease in campaigning following the bombing. The incumbent position was also helped by Interior Minister Angel Acebes' assertion that ETA was the culprit, a stance he changed just hours before the election Sunday when he stated that the bombing was carried out by Islamic militants, not Basque sepratists.

The effect of that admission was more than likely the tipping point for what had in a matter of days become a tenuous hold on the incumbency for Anzar. The mass demonstrations on Friday against ETA had, by Saturday, turned into smaller anti-war protests and a growing sense that the Anzar government may not be giving the Spanish people all the information. The population of Spain was overwhelmingly opposed to Spain's involvement in Iraq, a factor that was more than likely offset by continuing economic gains.

Before the Sunday announcement by the Interior Minister Acebes, rumors had been flying that the government no longer believed ETA to be the perpetrators, but was waiting until after the election to make a final announcement. The rumors were bolstered by the arrest of three Morracans and two Indians on Saturday. El Pais reported that the Morracans were believed to have connections to Abu Dahdah, the jailed alleged head of Spanish Al Qaeda.
That same day, a video of man claiming al Qaeda's responsibility was recovered in a trash can near one of the sites.

The slim margin the Popular Party had over the socialists (4%), the overwhelming unpopularity of Spanish involvement in Iraq and perhaps more importantly, the belief that the government was concealing the true perpetrators all contributed to the defeat of the Popular Party.

The bombings may have been the catalyst, but they certainly weren't the cause.

(Much of the information in this came from news reports by Agence France Presse, The Economist and the Observer obtained through Lexis-Nexis).

Monday, March 15, 2004

I guess it's a good think honest comlumnists like David Brooks have decided not to take sides

In a characteristic sentence, which admittedly sounds better in the original French, Kerry exclaimed: "We know from our largely unsuccessful attempts to enlist the cooperation of other nations, especially industrialized trading nations, in efforts to impose and enforce somewhat more ambitious standards on nations such as Iran, China, Burma and Syria, that the willingness of most other nations — including a number who are joined in the sanctions to isolate Iraq — is neither wide nor deep to join in imposing sanctions on a sovereign nation to spur it to `clean up its act' and comport its actions with accepted international norms."

Can anyone say Churchillian?

Kerry has made clear that if he is elected president, the nation will never face a caveat shortage. He has established the foragainst method, which has enabled him to be foragainst the war in Iraq, foragainst the Patriot Act and foragainst No Child Left Behind. If you decide to vote for him this year, there would be a correctness in that judgment, but if you decide to vote for George Bush, that would also be correct.

The link

Not only is Brooks taking a side, but he is also misconstruing Kerry's argument. The vote was a vote to allow the President to take action if it was necessary. That permission, says Kerry, was based upon the idea that the Bush adminstration would use every diplomatic means available, as well as create an international coalition if force was necessary.

Doubtless, there were dozens of Congressmen who voted in favor of the resolution despite their own reservations. Politically, it would have been a bad move, their opponents would have made them eat that vote.

In some ways, you could argue that the vote in favor was a strong stand, only 28 percent of Massachusetts voters were in favor of a unilateral invasion. In addition, the majority of people in this country had reservations about the war, if they weren't totally against it.
Sen. Welstone was the only Senator to vote against the resolution.

Calling people out on the resolution is a cheap way to try and score points.
It was not a vote for war, but to allow the President to use military means if the diplomatic means failed.
The text of the bill is here: resolution."

Oh....here's a little bit of ironic titling.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

On a subject related to the Committee on Resources highlighting a news story on Sen. Kerry, the Committee on House Administration is investigating a similar violations. According to the committee's Congressional Handbook, the minority and subcommittee websites must only be accessible through the overseeing committee. In other words, outside websites can not be linked to the minority or subcommittee websites.
The Hill's Sarah Bouchard covers the story in more depth here.

It seems the original rule passed through the Republican-controlled House raised some problems with the Democrats (obviously).

The odd side of this investigation is the basic premise; through an outside party linking to a report on a minority or subcommittee website, they are causing the house sites to violate their own rule. While it is certainly possible to lock out access, I doubt that will satisfy anyone. Certainly members of subcommittees will eventually have a problem with it.
It looks like the Committee on Resources is using its website for politcal action. It’s devoting the front page to two paragraphs from a story on Presidental candidate Kerry:

“That black stuff is hurting us."
Sen. John Kerry on oil ( Greenwire )

Washington, DC -Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry is quoted in today’s edition of Greenwire as saying, “that black stuff is hurting us,” with regard to oil. Members of the House Committee on Resources found the Senator’s comment absurd.

“John Kerry is dead wrong,” Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) said. “Oil doesn’t hurt Americans; John Kerry’s anti-energy policies hurt Americans. In fact, this is exactly the kind of rhetoric and bad policy that has led to the outsourcing of good American energy jobs. Last year alone, the United States outsourced more than $100 billion worth of American jobs, economic growth, and national security to foreign countries for our energy needs. Americans are left with a supply and demand imbalance that creates higher prices at the pump and longer waits on the unemployment line." -

Posting the story so prominently on its website is certain to raise a few eyebrows and may possible be a violation of house rules, the relevant quote (from the Campaign Booklet created by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) is here:

“As detailed below, official resources of the House must, as a general rule, be used for the performance of official business of the House, and hence those resources may not be used for campaign or political purposes. The laws and rules referenced in this section reflect "the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection."

What are the "official resources" to which this basic rule applies? Certainly the funds appropriated for Member, committee and other House offices are official resources, as are the goods and services purchased with those funds. Accordingly, among the resources that generally may not be used for campaign or political purposes are congressional office equipment (including the computers, telephones and fax machines), office supplies (including official stationery and envelopes), and congressional staff time.”

You can read more of the specific section here.

This may not be an explicit violation. This may be more of a spirit rather than letter issue, since the substance of the matter does fall under the purview of the Resource Committee, but by so prominantly focusing on the sitting President’s opponent, it does seem like it may.
I think there should be a least a few folks looking into this, as well as other possible violations.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Well, it looks like creationism is trying to get in through the back door again.
An engineer from Boeing, Joe White, is working to pass a bill through the house that would require the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools. Intelligent design is the often discredited notion that the development of biology has been guided in some way by a higher intelligence.
While many advocates try to play it off as a genuine theory or a critique of evolution, is widely recognized as trying to insert creationism into the science curriculum.
Evolution has not been proven without a doubt, it's a theory and as such does not claim to be foolproof, but it explains observances and can make verifiable predictions. That basic idea is the foundation of science and scientific thought; "what did we see?", "how did it happen?". "will it explain x?"
That's a simplified version, but that's the basic idea.
By introducing creationism, you introduce arbitrary ideas.
The idea of science is not that the complexity of existence proves the existence of a creator, that's what creationism is after. Creationism is a metaphysical/spiritual/religious theory.

It's doubtful the measure will get very far. The speaker of the house, Catherine Hanaway (R-Warson Woods) is already backing off the conversation.
Missouri already does not include the word "evolution" in the teaching of biology.

The education system in Missouri already has enough diffculties without trying to insert someone's religious beliefs into the science classes.