Really not worth archiving.




Me: Frank Lynch

(Current commentary)

These are my mundane daily ramblings.
For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,800 Johnson quotes), with a weekly essay springing from one of Johnson's quotations.


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Wednesday, June 23, 2004:

If Clinton is not his own Boswell, is he a failure? That's an important question. (If Derek Jeter's batting average isn't as high as Ty Cobb's, shouldn't the Yankees just dump him?) Boswell wrote what's been called the greatest biography in the English language. It would be senseless to declare Clinton's book a failure against that standard. But you see, selection of a standard is key, because it may lead you to draw conclusions which are uninformative. That's part of the point which novelist Larry McMurtry makes when reviewing Clinton's memoir. Members of the press, he suggests, have been wasting ink by comparing Clinton's memoirs to those of Ulysses S Grant's:

In recent days the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant have been raised as a stick to beat Clinton with, and why? Snobbery is why. Some people don't want slick Bill Clinton to have written a book that might be as good as dear, dying General Grant's. In their anxiety lest this somehow happen they have not accurately considered either book.

Grant's is about being a general, in what Lincoln called a big war. Clinton's is about being a president at the end of the 20th century. Grant's is an Iliad, with the gracious Robert E. Lee as Hector and Grant himself the murderous Achilles. Clinton's is a galloping, reckless, political picaresque, a sort of pilgrim's progress, lowercase. There are plenty of stout sticks to beat Clinton with, but Grant's memoirs is not one of them.

(How often is this comparison happening? Here's a Google news search; it generates over 500 hits. Surely, some of those are wire service repeats, but that still means the idea is getting broad coverage.)

I won't be able to read Clinton's book any time soon. But one of the complaints which McMurtry gives voice is oddly reminiscent of a complaint often lodged against Boswell, and that's the telescoped early years. For Boswell, the years before he met Johnson were given fairly short shrift; in Clinton's memoirs, the years leading up to his enrollment in college are only 69 of the over 900 pages. At a distance, this proportion could be completely fair for Clinton; the similarity of the complaint is just interesting.

At one point, McMurtry digresses into the difficulties of reviewing this particular book:

When asked to review this big puffy plum cake of an autobiography, I at once agreed, expecting to have the book the next day. After all, we're an A.S.A.P., next-day America now - pretty much everything desirable in the world of goods can be had overnight. But not, as it turned out, Bill Clinton's book. He wasn't finished. He was writing it in longhand. He's still sending in pages to his publisher, I was told.

Sending in pages, in the era of e-mail? Had Clinton become our Balzac, working all night at his office up in Harlem, with haggard gofers bringing in pizza, Chinese, ribs, whatever the Midnight Scribbler wanted? Could there even be a copy boy, making his last appearance in history, waiting to rush these pages down the street to Knopf?

There's a hidden Samuel Johnson allusion there, I think. (Yeah, I know about these things...) Johnson's Rambler No. 134, about Procrastination, discusses the columnist's plight in getting down to business, while the copy boy is waiting outside the door. (I think I deserve extra credit for noticing that, don't you?)

I could write more, but the FTP software I use to upload posts is waiting...
Link 8:03 PM Home

You've been with the professors, and they've all liked your looks. Ask Dr. Bob Dylan.
Link 3:57 PM Home

The US is dropping its pursuit of an extension for exemption from war crimes trials. It's as if the administration realized it can't be trusted, or something.
Link 1:35 PM Home

Wolfowitz must resign. Having admitted the misjudgment about Iraqi insurgency — surely that judgment was part of our decision to go to war — he's an embarrassment to the administration, and he has to go. (You do remember, of course, that when he testified in the senate recently about the number of US service people who'd died in Iraq, he was way off?) How can this guy stay around?
Link 11:52 AM Home

Senate Republicans reduced our veterans to pawns in a political game. Presumptive-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has missed many senate votes while out on the campaign trail; generally, they've been cases where his vote would make little or no difference to the outcome, or to his constituents.

In spite of the inconsequential nature of most of the absences, Republicans are working to make it an albatross. For instance, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney called for Kerry to resign from his senate seat. (Even while he claims that Massachusetts is being hurt, he's cognizant that he would have an opportunity to appoint a fellow Republican in Kerry's place, while embarrassing his party's presidential opponent.) For further evidence that there is more at stake than the welfare of Massachusetts, the Boston Herald points out that an urge that Kerry resign even came from the Bush campaign itself. So let's be clear about the context here.

Veteran's benefits, however, are an important issue to Kerry, and he took a detour from the campaign trail in order to vote in the Senate on them. The result? Surprise! The vote was delayed. Why? To prevent Kerry from voting on something, keeping his absentee streak alive.

Sen. John Kerry, who has missed 118 of the Senate's 134 votes this year while campaigning for the presidency, canceled a speech on Tuesday, skipped a half-million-dollar fund-raiser and flew back from Denver to vote on veterans' health benefits.

But Republicans foiled him. They postponed the vote.

The vote would have put Kerry, D-Mass., on record on one of his signature issues - expanding health care for military veterans. It also would have allowed him to end a Senate voting drought that's prompted some Republicans to call for his resignation.

Republican leaders didn't let the proposal come to the Senate floor - a maneuver that Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota blamed on Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. "Senator Frist noted to me as he was standing here that he didn't want to accord Senator Kerry the opportunity to vote today," Daschle said. (Emphasis mine.)

So let's be clear about this: this is how well the Republican senate leadership supports our troops. Any effort of theirs, of course, to put Kerry in a bad light demonstrates how vulnerable Bush is to complaints about his excessive number of vacation days. (Hint: in three years, he's already surpassed Clinton's total for eight years. Talk about being out to lunch!)

Is there any particular reason to single out a vote on veterans' benefits? Well, here too, the Republicans are vulnerable. According to the linked article, the Republican-controlled...

U.S. House of Representatives approved billions of dollars in cuts to veterans' programs over the next 10 years on the same day it unani-mously passed a resolution of "unequivocal support" for the nation's troops overseas.

So the Republican record is abysmal and Kerry has another idea. The Republicans fell two birds with one stone: they prevent Kerry from saying he voted for an improvement for veterans, and they prevent Kerry from voting in general.

Do you see how well they support our troops?
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The news out of Iraq IS usually bad. But sometimes it's good. "There are no beheadings here. Instead, there are weddings, picnics and soccer matches."
Link 8:35 AM Home

Tuesday, June 22, 2004:

Did you hear the one about the terrorist report that had to be revised? And the 2003 count had to be doubled?

The administration said international terrorism killed 625 people last year, up from the 307 it reported on April 29 but below 2002's 725 fatalities. It found 3,646 were wounded last year, above the 1,593 initially cited and the 2,013 in 2002.

The errors in the State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report embarrassed the administration and dented its claim to be prevailing in the war on terrorism, a key part of President Bush's re-election strategy.

Secretary of State Colin Powell blamed "computational and accounting errors."

Okay, so maybe campaigning on 9/11 and making America safer won't work... How about if they pick a real issue, and claim Kerry is pessismistic? (That is, Kerry questions the rosy descriptions of the world...) No? That doesn't work? OK, well maybe the RNC could complain about the cost of a Kerry vacation. Yeah! like that bit of pettiness counts for a whit when the President seems to be perpetually on vacation...
Link 10:37 PM Home

And just who had their hands on the crowbar? This morning on CNN, political analyst Bill Schneider questioned the wisdom of John Kerry reminding people of the Clinton years. His argument was that, although Bush has not succeeded on his campaign promise to be a "uniter, not a divider," if Kerry reminds people of the Clinton years, they'll remember how divisive Clinton was. That may, in fact, be how people would think. But it's very wrong of Schneider to suggest that it was Clinton who was divisive. Clinton presided over the country's longest period of economic expansion, ever, and people like their wallets. Rather, the divisiveness came from Republicans who chose partisan politics over love of their country: they lined up around the Arkansas Project; they lined up to stop him improving health care insurance in any way; they lined up against his intervention in Bosnia; they supported an independent prosecution campaign of ever-expanding scope — all because they felt cheated that Bush I didn't get a second term. Clinton was not the divisive politician; division was in their hearts.
Link 11:35 AM Home

That Liberal Media is at it again. Christopher Hitchens gets to write about Michael Moore. (This presents an interesting quandary: if you assign the article to a liberal, you get charged with bias; if you assign it someone like Hitchens, you get charged with bias. Who do you assign it to? Are there no more neutral pundits available? If not, will every thing get accused of bias?)

I haven't seen the film, so I can only comment on what seems to be Hitchens' underlying biases. Here's a fine example:

The president is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, on a golf course, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the president on a golf course. If Eisenhower had done this, as he often did, it would have been presented as calm statesmanship. If Clinton had done it, as he often did, it would have shown his charm.

Well, I disagree. We have been told that September 11 changed everything, so I'm not sure if Ike or Clinton would have done the same thing. Bush, certainly, could have handled his encounter differently. A "I want to make sure I answer all your questions before I proceed" would have come off completely differently from "now watch my drive." Americans were justly startled by the ease with which he went to talking about golf, as if it were that which had been on his mind the whole time. (And if you think about how he spent his August 2001, it's hard to persuade that the August 6 PDB made much of an impression you know, the one titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.")

Hitchens also comments on Bush's time in the classroom on 9/11:

More interesting is the moment where Bush is shown frozen on his chair at the infant school in Florida, looking stunned and useless for seven whole minutes after the news of the second plane on 9/11. Many are those who say that he should have leaped from his stool, adopted a Russell Crowe stance, and gone to work. I could even wish that myself. But if he had done any such thing then (as he did with his "Let's roll" and "dead or alive" remarks a month later), half the Michael Moore community would now be calling him a man who went to war on a hectic, crazed impulse. The other half would be saying what they already say that he knew the attack was coming, was using it to cement himself in power, and couldn't wait to get on with his coup.

This is just pathetic: I don't know of anyone who suggests the former, and very very few people suggest the latter. Bush could simply have stood up after Andy Card came to him, and said, "Kids, I have to go, one of those President things has come up." (Al Franken has said he could have embellished it by inviting all the kids to the White House.) No, rather than do anything Presidential, Bush sat immobile. (And as I will repeat over and over, by sitting in that chair at a well publicized event, and remaining in the school until 9:30 at least, he was putting innocent children at needless risk.)

The seven minutes in the classroom is deadly film. And Hitchens knows it: but rather than treat it with any honest admission, he tries to brush it off as being of no real concern.
Link 8:24 AM Home

Down 13 percentage points since April.

Exactly half the country now approves of the way Bush is managing the U.S. war on terrorism, down 13 percentage points since April, according to the poll. Barely two months ago, Bush comfortably led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 21 points when voters were asked which man they trusted to deal with the terrorist threat. Today the country is evenly divided, with 48 percent preferring Kerry and 47 percent favoring Bush.

This is from a Washington Post poll. When a recent LA Times poll reported that only a minority of registered voters, the White House questioned its sample (too many Democrats, it wasn't limited to likely voters, and so on), but apparently the LA Times poll results were robust.
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Monday, June 21, 2004:

Revisiting the 18th Century? When you think about the money a publisher spends preparing a book like Bill Clinton's — the advance, the marketing plans, the public relations campaign — I guess it's questionable how many free peeks you want the public to get. You want to build enthusiasm, but when Reuters writes "readers may feel they hardly need open the book themselves," well, I doubt the publishers feel the same way. Back in the 18th century, magazine and newspaper publishers felt no compunction about abusing copyrights and printing extracts willy nilly: in the 18th century limited market of British publishing, extracts of Johnson's Rasselas were printed 16 times in the first six weeks following its release. Some people are just more than happy to jump on a bandwagon, without giving the rights holders any consideration.
Link 10:12 PM

How aBOUT that Martina Navratilova? She is so impressive: between you and me, I never had a victory at Wimbledon at age 47.
Link 9:47 PM Home

How NOT to vet your nominees. Thomas Griffith, a nominee for the federal appeals court in Washington, has been practicing law in Utah for years without a license. He's a repeat offender on this, because he "had previously failed to renew his law license in Washington for three years while he was a lawyer based in the District."

A lawyer who specializes in legal ethics said Griffith's two licensing lapses should disqualify him from a lifetime appointment to one of the nation's most important federal benches, second only to the Supreme Court.

"This moves it for me from the realm of negligence to the realm of willfulness," said Mark Foster, a Zuckerman Spaeder attorney who represents lawyers in ethics matters. "People who thumb their noses at the rules of the bar shouldn't be judges."

One veteran law professor said the two incidents raised significant questions, but that "in and of itself, it is not disabling."

"It begins to look like a pattern of carelessness," said Paul Rothstein, a law professor at Georgetown University Law School. "It should cause your red flags to go up to see if there are other signs of carelessness."

Just the kind of guy we want on the federal bench. What are his qualifications? Weelllll, these might be significant:

Griffith, 55, is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and was the lead counsel for the Senate during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Married and the father of six, he is a former partner at the D.C. firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding, whose partners served in prominent positions in past Republican administrations.

I'm sure he has other qualifications, too.
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"Don't wear the ties." That was the punch line to a joke in David Mamet's Things Change. A stand-up comic's bit went something like this: "statistics show that x percent of all criminals have organized crime ties. Don't want to get arrested? Don't wear the ties!" But seriously, has anyone looked up the definition of "ties" recently? Here's the relevant one from The American Heritage® Dictionary:

  • As a noun: Something that connects or unites; a link: a blood tie; marital ties.
  • As a verb: To bring together in relationship; connect or unite: friends who were tied by common interests; people who are tied by blood or marriage.

Note that in these there is something concrete and lasting; they are not temporary, like paper clips; or instantaneous, like bumper cars.

How on earth can the Bush administration be using the word ties, such that it characterizes non-productive meetings as ties?

It's a bald deception to position them as ties. There needs to be more.
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Thought for the day:

Precipitant Conclusions concerning Persons, Things, or Opinions, formed without Evidence, and often in Defiance of Demonstration to the contrary, discover a Degree of Madness.
 — Samuel Finley, "The Madness of Mankind; Represented in a Sermon Preached in the New Presbyterain Church in Philadlphia on the 9th of June, 1754"

Encountered in the Library of America volume American Sermons. Seems to me it might be aptly applied to, oh, people who had a fever to invade Iraq?
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Sunday, June 20, 2004:

Only a semantic difference? Co-chairmen Kean and Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission say the Bush White House is in agreement with this week's commission staff report that there was no collaborative relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that the differences we've read about are only semantic.

The commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, and its vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, appeared on the ABC News program "This Week" as two other commission members were interviewed on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" about initial findings of the commission. Its final report is scheduled to be released next month.

Last week, a commission staff report was released that said there did not appear to be a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and the terrorist network, an observation that seemed to weaken one of the main justifications for the decision to invade Iraq last year and overthrow Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton appeared to suggest that any differences over the issue were largely semantic.

"We have concluded there is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States," Mr. Kean said. "What we do say, however, is there were contacts."

Mr. Hamilton said he had looked at the statements "quite carefully" from the administration. "They are not claiming there was a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda with regard to the attacks on the United States," he said.

He later added that with regard to the administration's core statements, "I don't think there is a difference of opinion with regard to those statements."

I suspect that Kean and Hamilton are being very diplomatic about this. Because, while it is not the 9/11 Commission's charge to make foreign policy recommendations, they must have noticed that the Bush administration has used "meetings" ("relationships" or "ties" in the White House terminology) as an argument that Iraq was dangerous and worth invading. If differences are only "semantic," I would expect them to interpreted the same. I don't get that feeling from the 9/11 Commission staff report; I do get the feeling, however, from language like "no collaborative relationship" that America needn't have worried about them combining their assets. That's more than semantic, in my book, and I fear that hawks will take comfort in the characterization of the difference as merely semantic.

As I interpreted it earlier this week, it sounded to me like the Bush White House had a fairly low bar for its "evidence." (See here for the low bar, and here and here for the semantic issues.)

As for why Kean and Hamilton might be acting so diplomatically, I suspect it's because their work isn't done yet. They've behaved so in the past when they still needed administration cooperation: over document access, over Rice testimony, over deadlines, and over Bush and Cheney participation. It ain't over yet.
Link 6:18 PM Home

The Iraqi-Al Qaeda thing seems to have gotten more attention while I've been offline, what with...

  • Putin saying he passed intel onto the White House asserting Iraq was planning US attacks
  • Cheney saying he "probably" had information the 9/11 Commission didn't have,
  • 9/11 Chairmen Kean and Hamilton saying share it, Mr. VP, and,
  • Cheney's office giving a non-definitive response as to whether or not they would share it. (See this article, scrolling down to "Mr. Cheney's spokesman, Kevin Kellems, declined to comment on the request...")

I'm in no real position to know the inside operations of Washington, but as an outsider, it would seem to me that any intelligence which Cheney had, or which Moscow might have provided to the White House, should have been shared with the CIA. Right? And to not do so would be another dereliction of duty, right? Possibly exposing the nation to the unnecessary risk of misinformation? Wouldn't you most certainly share that information with the CIA?

I think that what we're seeing here may be a difference in scope. Russia's intel might be relevant to an investigation of why we invaded Iraq, and less relevant (or irrelevant) to the scope of the 9/11 Commission. Still, it's hard to imagine Tenet being unaware, and Woodward's book — which does cover the run-up to the war — doesn't mention Tenet harping on any Iraq-al Qaeda connections. In fact, he questions the solidity of the connections, and this from the man who called the WMD case a slam dunk.

Is Cheney's info exclusively about post-9/11 ties? No: Bush and Cheney so far have only referred to the same meetings which the 9/11 Commission have mentioned, meaning it was reviewed by the 9/11 panel. This crap which Cheney and his office have been playing — suggesting chances are grey ("probably" and "we just don't know") when the evidence which has been produced is to the contrary — is a liar's game of equivocation.

Look, I want the truth as much as anyone else, and I take note of the staff report's opening acknowledgment of the tentative nature of their conclusions ("This report reflects the results of our work so far. We remain ready to revise our understanding of events as our investigation progresses"), but this silly game, prolonged by Cheney's spokesperson's failure to assure that all information would be provided, is silly. It wastes our time and patience.

CORRECTION: Russia passed its intel onto the CIA, "its counterpart," according to the article, not the White House. In a sense this strengthens other conclusions here. The CIA was in a position to know.
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The first sign of electrical problems came on a hot night about a week and a half ago, Wednesday June 9. Everything in the building (perhaps the neighborhood?) went out at once, and quickly came back on. Luckily, everything in my office is on a surge protector; yet the DSL modem wasn't normal, and I couldn't really get back on the Internet. Then this past Tuesday night we had another quick interruption, but with more serious consequences. My Bose Wave Radio/CD just would not read CDs, and Bose wanted over $100 to repair it. (We're foregoing that expense for a while.) In the meantime, I noticed that the microwave wasn't as loud, the TV wasn't retaining the programming codes from the universal remote, the clothes washer wasn't spinning, and so on. We have been delaying turning on the AC, in spite of temps above 85, so perhaps that would have been another cause of frustration. A flyer in the neighborhood said Con Ed's response to the Tuesday outage was to not deliver us our full 110 current, perhaps only 95.

Then on Friday evening Fire trucks with their
lights beaming, on the street at dusk.I returned from a walk to see four or five fire trucks and a police car around the corner from our block. The firemen were cordoning off a manhole, using a litter basket and police tape to form a triangle. There was a discarded pizza box in the trash can, and seeing the fireman nonchalantly drag the can — complete with pizza box — into the middle of the street made me think of kids improvising bases for a game. But saw smoke, and smelled burning rubber, and knew it wasn't good. I took some lousy photographs and went home to a building which was close to completely dark.

The 20 hours which followed were pretty unpleasant, and a couple dark thoughts crossed my mind... One, it made me appreciate the frustrations Iraqis must feel when their power is unreliable (having gone through that massive blackout last August, I was less forgiving, and Iraqis are experiencing them more frequently). Two, I thought about the recommended reaction to a bio/chem attack (plastic sheeting and duct tape over all the windows, etc.) and prayed that it would never happen at all, much less during a summer power outage.

We seem to have normal power back. The Bose Wave CD/Radio player still needs to be repaired, and I need to check the washer (I had scheduled a repair call for tomorrow, not realizing the power situation), and I hope all our AC's are unaffected. But we're going to be cleaning out the refrigerator today and restocking it. Aside from that we're OK, thank God.
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Temporary radio silence,

while neighborhood electrical problems are being solved. Following a neighborhood power interruption Tuesday night, several appliances have been acting erratic due to Con Ed under delivery (the DSL modem, for instance; plus refrigerators, microwaves, clock radios, clothes washers, television sets and so on). Friday night power shut down completely, and wasn't restored even partially till Saturday afternoon. Not even sure how soon I can upload this note, but once it's up I probably still won't be back to normal.

Friday, June 18, 2004:

Since some of you check this page a few times a day, I should let you know I won't be posting any more until tonight at least. I'm off to the zoo with my daughter.

A war crimes exemption for the US, permitted by the UN, is due to run out at the end of this month. (Did you know we'd pushed for such an exemption two years ago?) In light of recent events, Kofi Annan does n't want the exemption renewed.

"For the past two years, I have spoken quite strongly against the exemption and I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq," he told reporters.

"Blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value and I don't think it should be encouraged by the Council."


UN diplomats say America may find it difficult to get the necessary nine votes to pass the exemption resolution in the Security Council, the BBC's Susannah Price reports.


UK Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said his country, a Security Council member, is prepared to consider extending the US exemption because a defeat could harm peacekeeping operations around the world.

"We need American support... when the need for those operations has never been greater," he said.

So depending on how hard you want to link the causality, it's quite conceivable that Abu Ghraib abuses would make the US even more intransigent about the exemption than before; in which case the Abu Ghraib abuses have another unforeseen effect, of threatening worldwide peacekeeping missions.
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Upside Down Fun! Deciphering Bush's meeting notes.
Link 12:10 AM Home

Thursday, June 17, 2004:

"Follow the facts, wherever they lead." Back in the days when the 9/11 Commission was being set up, and Bush announced Kissinger as its head, Bush called for a thorough probe:

Dr. Kissinger and I share the same commitments. His investigation should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the fact, wherever they lead. We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th. My administration will continue to act on the lessons we've learned so far to better protect the people of this country. It's our most solemn duty.

Kissinger, of course, had to leave the Commission over conflicts of interest (refusal to divulge his client list, or break ties with them), but that didn't change the commission's charge. Thus, it's disheartening to hear President Bush insist that Iraq and al Qaeda had a relationship, despite the conclusions of an interim report of the commission staff. At least, not a significant one: the commission staff report found no credible evidence of collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. Read this from the New York Times' web site today:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush told reporters after a cabinet meeting today.


"We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two."

Since the Commission Staff reported on these very same meetings, and found they led to nothing, Bush is talking about the meetings themselves as being sufficient proof of a relationship. Not only is this an incredibly low standard to use as justification for war: it flies in the face of his initial charge to the commission. They followed the facts; now it's the President's turn. He has to stop talking about all this as if it were a significant relationship.

(Pointing to al Zarqawi in Kirma presents two logical problems. One, Kirma is in an area of Iraq which was controlled by the Kurds, not Saddam Hussein; and two, the Pentagon proposed, on several occasions to take Zarqawi out but the White House passed — perhaps to preserve an argument for war. Powell made reference to Zarqawi in his UN Security Council presentation.)
Link 4:47 PM Home

Bush walking on his hind legs? From the New York Times:

Democratic strategists said there was now no question that Mr. Bush would be dogged through the rest of the campaign by questions about whether the war was necessary, justified and sufficiently well planned. But Mr. Bush's supporters said that in political terms, the amazing thing was how well he had weathered the problems thrown at him by Iraq. (Emphasis mine.)

Uh,I'd say it's more amazing that he's weathering them at all.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004:

It's curious when an Internet news article shifts over the day. In this post, I extracted three paragraphs from a Washington Post article as it stood at that point in the day. The article originally suggested Cheney was off-base in citing a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, and that he had been refuted by the interim report of the 9/11 Commission staff. Even as I wrote my post, I could see how Cheney's idea of a connection could still be there, whether or not Iraq collaborated on 9/11. (It's still not clear how strong the connection was, if you read Woodward's book.)

As the morning progressed, events progressed also: the Commission staff issued a second report, detailing the evolution of the 9/11 plot. It was sensational in its details, of course, ten jets, both coasts, and so on. The Washington Post chose to merge the new story into the old account, for reasons which aren't apparent. It may have been an issue of trying to present an integrated point of view; it may have been an issue of the limited pixels on the newspaper's web site's home page. In the process, the attention to Cheney and his beliefs were no longer the focus: and the three paragraphs I originally quoted essentially disappeared. InstaPundit seems to think the Cheney's diminished role in the news story is in response to reader complaints, and assuming that's why, objects to their lack of openness about admitting their presumed error. But still, I'm not so sure that was why the Post changed the Cheney emphasis; it's very possible that as the morning progressed the emphasis shifted. That's all.
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As a New Yorker, I have strong memories of September 11. One thing I remember is that when I was walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge, and rumors were flying over the radios that Washington had been hit, I assured fellow Brooklynites that they needn't worry about the President because he was in Florida that morning, not Washington DC. I knew that because his appearance at Booker Elementary School had been mentioned on NBC's Today show before I left the apartment that morning. Why point this out? Only so you know that his appearance there was well-publicized. Meaning, when you watch Michael Moore's new film, and you see his seven minutes in the school room — seven minutes after Andy Card has told him of the second jet hitting the WTC — think about more than his apparent indecisiveness:

  • remember that the air space hadn't been cleared out
  • that he had no way of knowing whether or not he was a target
  • and every moment he stayed there meant that the kids were at unnecessary risk.

And what did he do after leaving the classroom? He stayed in the school, until 9:30 AM at least, thus continuing to endanger everyone on the premises.

I've pointed this out here before, but with the release of Moore's film I thought it made sense to remind...
Link 9:40 PM Home

Your tax dollars at waste. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker estimates that we've already wasted $1 billion in Iraq through inefficient spending.

It amounts to less than 2 percent of the $60 billion the government has spent since March 2003 on waging war in Iraq and rebuilding the country. But it's more than the government spends on research into Alzheimer's disease and asthma combined, for example.


As an example of overspending, Walker's agency, the General Accounting Office, said the involvement of the politically connected firm Halliburton in a contract to feed U.S. soldiers in Kuwait had cost taxpayers an extra $30 million.

Before the war, a Kuwaiti firm, Tamimi, had a contract to provide meals to troops at four bases in Kuwait. Just before the fighting started, the Pentagon turned that job over to Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root.

As part of the switch, the Defense Department ordered KBR to rehire Tamimi to do the actual feeding. For undisclosed reasons, Halliburton was taken off the contract this April, and costs dropped from $5 a meal to $3 a meal, said Neal Curtin, the GAO's defense management chief.

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're citing an apocryphal Everett Dirksen quote.
Link 5:39 PM Home

Standards for action are what the question is, I guess. The post below discusses whether or not there was collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. Apparently not, according to the 9/11 Commission, yet Bush and Cheney continue to talk about ties, based on whether or not al Zarqawi was in Iraq prior to the war. According to Bob Woodward (Plan of Attack, pages 300-301), Zarqawi was in Iraq. Tenet, however, couldn't point to anything more than a geographic connection (he was there), he had no evidence of support or control by the Iraq government. To Lewis Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, this didn't matter: Baghdad was not stopping Zarqawi from operating, therefore Iraq was harboring him. If this was the standard, then those who decided not to hit Zarqawi are guilty of a gross dereliction of duty in not doing so, don't you think?

UPDATE AND WELCOME to readers of InstaPundit. Since Glenn's link mentions my feelings that the Administration willfully blurred the connection between Iraq and 9/11, I'd like to make the additional point that it was not until well after the war that Bush said he'd seen no evidence connecting Baghdad to 9/11, something he might have said far earlier, in response to public polling data showing Americans commonly drew that inference. Another example of this failure to correct the record is Cheney's two appearances on NBC's "Meet The Press" in 2003; his March statement that Hussein has reconstituted his nuclear weapons was widely reported, but Cheney didn't correct it as a "misstatement" until his appearance in September — again, well after the war. I believe that in both instances they chose not to correct the record, for political expedience. More below.
Link 12:08 PM Home

Say this as loudly as you possibly can: there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks. None. We're not talking "beyond a reasonable doubt," or even probably. Read this very carefully (Note: since I originally posted this, the Washington Post has revised their account; it no longer reads as follows):

There is "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, including the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings, according to a new staff report released this morning by the commission investigating the hijacking plot.

Although Osama bin Laden briefly explored the idea of forging ties with Iraq in the mid-1990s, the terrorist leader was hostile to Hussein's secular government, and Iraq never responded to requests for help in providing training camps or weapons, the panel's report says.

The findings come in the wake of statements Monday by Vice President Cheney that Iraq had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, and comments by President Bush yesterday backing up that assertion.

Bush and Cheney, however, continue to harp on ephemeral "connections." Note this exchange between CNN's John King and Bush, last September:

Q Mr. President, Dr. Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld both said yesterday that they have seen no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with September 11th. Yet, on Meet the Press, Sunday, the Vice President said Iraq was a geographic base for the terrorists and he also said, I don't know, or we don't know, when asked if there was any involvement. Your critics say that this is some effort -- deliberate effort to blur the line and confuse people. How would you answer that?

THE PRESIDENT: We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th. What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Zarqawi, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He's the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He's a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.

The commission's interim report (on which the Washington Post article linked above is based) is silent on Zarqawi. (You can find it in pdf form here.) But the way it describes al Qaeda and Iraq, it's difficult to see how Iraq could have been harboring al Zarqawi:

From page 3: With al Qaeda as its foundation, Bin Ladin sought to build a broader Islamic army that also included terrorist groups from Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea. Not all groups from these states agreed to join, but at least one from each did. (Emphasis mine.)

From page 5: Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States. (Emphasis mine.)

But let's say the report's silence specifically on al Zarqawi doesn't rule out his presence in Iraq. Let's say, for argument, he was in Iraq. An NBC report from March said he was there in June 2002, and we had several opportunities to take him out:

NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

(Read the article: there were a number of hits proposed, none acted on.) By the time we did attack his camp, after the war started, he was long gone. Just who here thinks it was a great war, Mr. President?

Republicans, of course, have long worked to feed the idea of a connection, and the media has never really pointed out how shabby the evidence was; for instance, this report from an April, 2003 Ground Zero gathering:

New York [Republican] Gov. George Pataki praised the U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Some of you may have seen yesterday in Baghdad a picture of a statue of that evil dictator being toppled and dragged through the streets by Iraqis," Pataki said to the cheering crowd.

"Let's melt it down. Let's bring it to New York and let's put it in one of the girders that's going to rise over here as a symbol of the rebuilding of New York and the rebuilding of America."

Construction worker William Sekzer's son, Jason, died September 11. He attended the rally because he believes the terrorist attack is connected to the war on Iraq.

"What do you want as proof?" Sekzer asked. "Do you want Saddam Hussein shaking hands with Osama bin Laden?"

So let's be clear about this: Iraq was not connected to 9/11, but it was in the Administration's interest to keep the idea of that connection in the public mind; the only evidence of any Iraq-Al Qaeda connection is al Zarqawi; the White House could have ordered an attack on him prior to the war, but did not; al Zarqawi is now being used as justification for the invasion. Got it?
Link 11:27 AM Home

On a small planet, I hated those Dasani ads which showed people splashing themselves with the bottled water. Those plastic bottles (which shouldn't be reused) can be a strain on the system, even though they are recyclable. Why? Well, recycling doesn't always pay for itself (New York City had to call a temporary halt, for instance). I think it makes a lot more sense to fill up a biker's water bottle and carry that around with you. So I confess I'm not at all heartbroken to read that Coca Cola's launch of Dasani in the UK flopped, badly, and the product was withdrawn after five weeks. That badly. (Note: Dasani is a registered trademark of the Coca Cola Company.)
Link 10:01 AM Home

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