Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Plutocrats with hands in the money jar:  "Conrad M. Black ran a "corporate kleptocracy" for his own benefit at Hollinger International, the publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers, and the board of directors failed in its responsibilities to monitor what he was doing, a committee of that board concluded in a report filed on Monday in federal court in Chicago and made available today.  "Hollinger wasn't a company where isolated improper and abusive acts took place," said the report, largely written by Richard C. Breeden, a former chairman of the SEC. Rather, it said, Hollinger was "an entity in which ethical corruption was a defining characteristic." ..

The report lays out in devastating detail the ways in which it says Lord Black and his associates drained $400 million, or 95% of Hollinger's adjusted net income from 1997 through 2003. .. the report said Hollinger failed to disclose as much as 96 percent of the amounts it should have disclosed. ..

The report saved its harshest criticism for Richard Perle, the former Reagan administration official and current member of a Pentagon advisory board. It said it did not consider Mr. Perle to have been an independent director and called on him to return $5.4 million in pay he received after "putting his own interests above those of Hollinger's shareholders."

It said James R. Thompson, a former governor of Illinois and the chairman of Hollinger's audit committee ..  and two other members of the audit committee, Richard D. Burt, a former United States ambassador to Germany, and Marie-Josée Kravis, the wife of the financier Henry Kravis, "failed to respond critically to the repeated demands for [management] payments even though they should all have known these payments were highly unusual from the numerous boards on which they had served." ..

The committee said large Hollinger donations to "pet charities" of various directors, including Mr. Kissinger and Robert Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, "without the restraint of sound corporate governance controls, raises questions regarding the independence of those directors.""

  10:47:15 PM  permalink  

Foreign Affairs - What Went Wrong in Iraq - Larry Diamond: Long careful analysis of the failed Iraq reconstruction.  "The obsession with control was an overarching flaw in the U.S. occupation from start to finish. In any postconflict international intervention, there is always a certain tension between legitimacy and control. Yet for most of the first year of occupation, the U.S. administration opted for the latter whenever the tradeoff presented itself. ..

Because of the failures and shortcomings of the occupation-as well as the intrinsic difficulties that any occupation following Saddam's tyranny was bound to confront-it is going to take a number of years to rebuild the Iraqi state and to construct any kind of viable democratic and constitutional order in Iraq. The post-handover transition is going to be long, and initially very bloody. It is not clear that the country is going to be able to conduct reasonably credible elections by next January. And even if those elections are held in a minimally acceptable fashion, it is hard to imagine that the over-ambitious transition timetable for the remainder of 2005 will be kept. "

  10:00:40 PM  permalink  

Gary Hart warns us (twice):  June 6, 2004: "[Rice] was a supporter of mine when I ran for Senate in '80 and for president in '84, so I've known her a long time. We briefed her on the phone when our [commission] report came out in January [2001]. We had a personal briefing with Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld. We tried to see the president, and he refused. We tried to see the vice president. He refused. After our commission was disbanded, I tried to see Dr. Rice as a concerned American. I had no official authority or title. It took months. While I was waiting, I kept on giving speeches, including one to transportation officials in Canada. A Montreal newspaper, the Gazette, ran a story after my talk: "Terror Risk Real: Hart: Thousands in U.S. Will Die." I flew down to Washington to see Dr. Rice, and my hair was on fire (to use Richard Clarke's phrase). That was September 6, 2001. When I saw the second plane fly into the tower on television on Sept. 11, I thought, "I wish I had done more to try to warn the country." That was the frustration I felt. Later, I got angry. ..

If you want to make a million dollars, you should write the book on the unknown background of the Iraq War. It's a blockbuster. I think Tenet's in the middle of it. Chalabi's a player. Richard Perle, Wolfowitz. All these guys. I think we went to war for reasons that were not told to the American people. And it's all going to come out. There has been a conspiracy, a plot. It's a cesspool. Tenet knows a lot of stuff he's not telling. Why he did remain in his job after Sept. 11? Because of the White House. They couldn't fire him -- he knew too much. "

  5:08:24 PM  permalink  

Darfur, Sudan:  A shocking map of the region as of August 2, 2004.  One red marker for each of 395 destroyed villages, another 121 orange markers for damaged villages, the locations of camps with over 100,000 refugees, the dirt tracks and airports used by relief workers to get there.  (The map is a poster-resolution PDF, 1.87mb, including satellite image details.)  11:10:21 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 27, 2004


We like it negative: "when we hear, year after year, that we Americans are tired of negative political ads, we just quietly giggle to ourselves. Sure, we say we're tired of them. We say we want the focus of electoral politics to be all about healthcare, education, terrorism, jobs and whatever other issues to which we supposedly devote such a large portion of mindshare.

But we lie. We love negative ads. We love the game of politics much more than the substance of the issues. We are on every level a nation of substance abusers. We abuse anyone who focuses too much on substance and reward those who can come up with a really good (and ultimately meaningless) one liner. "  Several examples supplied.

  10:30:30 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Josh Marshall writes on Bush and moral cowardice:  It was "moral cowardice that led him to support the Vietnam war but decide it wasn't for him, run companies into the ground and let others pay the bill, play gutter politics but run for the hills when someone asks him to say it to their face, those are the same qualities that led the president to lie the country into war, fail to prepare for the aftermath and then refuse to take responsibility for any of it when the bill started to come due. That's the argument John Kerry needs to be making"  1:04:11 PM  permalink  

Do You Hear What I Hear?: Nice summary of the Bush campaign distortions of Kerry's statements.   Josh Marshall shows how this runs in the family, in the Bush 41 campaigns, where George Will wrote: "Soon Bill Clinton will have to say to Bush what Dole publicly said to Bush in 1988: "Stop lying about my record.""  1:02:18 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 23, 2004


Fundrace.org: Search tool to find out information your neighbors' names, addresses, and occupations, and which presidential candidate they're giving money to.  Amazing, and a bit frightening.  9:06:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, August 22, 2004


People Should Have Been Fired: ""Intelligence reform without accountability will not achieve the objective we all share -- that is avoiding the clearly avoidable tragedy of Sept. 11 and the equally avoidable tragedy of a botched assessment of Iraq's (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities," Dr. David Kay told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence." .. He said that the most frustrating moment of his failed hunt for stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was when he learned that the nuclear analysts were to get larger performance bonuses than the chemical-biological analysts, even though the nuclear conclusion -- that Iraq had reconstituted its atomic weapons program -- had turned out to be even more drastically wrong.

Kay said that the record of the nuclear analysis was one of "abuse of authority, a failure to use expertise."  "There is nothing in that record that ... deserves a performance bonus. Nor in fact, quite frankly, was there much that deserved a performance bonus in the chemical and biological area.  "Instead of holding people responsible," he concluded, "we reward them for failure."

Former Iraq Arms Inspector Faults Prewar Intelligence:  In uncharacteristically caustic remarks about his former colleagues,.. Dr. Kay suggested that the president had come to depend too heavily on information supplied by Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, and that the president needed to reach out to others for national security information.

"Every president who has been successful, at least that I know of, in the history of this republic, has developed both informal and formal means of getting checks on whether people who tell him things are in fact telling him the whole truth," Dr. Kay told the Senate intelligence committee at a hearing called to discuss the findings of the Sept. 11 commission.

"I think this is particularly crucial and difficult to do in the intelligence area,'' he continued. "The recent history has been a reliance on the N.S.C. system to do it. I quite frankly think that has not served this president very well."  Dr. Kay added: "The dog that did not bark in the case of Iraq's W.M.D. weapons program, quite frankly, in my view, is the National Security Council." ..

"Where was the National Security Council when, apparently, the president expressed his own doubt about the adequacy of the case concerning Iraq's W.M.D. weapons that was made before him?" Dr. Kay asked.

"Why was the secretary of state sent to the C.I.A. to personally vet the data that he was to take the Security Council in New York, and ultimately left to hang in the wind for data that was misleading and, in some cases, absolutely false and known by parts of the intelligence community to be false?" he continued. "Where was the N.S.C. then?"

  11:34:27 PM  permalink  

Quite a gap (in Ohio at least): "In a survey last week by the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) led Bush among likely voters 48 to 46 percent, with independent Ralph Nader garnering 1 percent. A Gallup poll in Ohio also showed a two-point spread favoring Kerry, but when the pool of respondents was expanded to include all registered voters, not just people who voted last time, Kerry was ahead by 10 points. "  10:37:20 PM  permalink  

More on the Kerry Iraq vote:  The comments to this entry have a good suggestion: "

To win the political argument with the American people, Kerry must talk to them in simple, everyday terms using an example:  “When my children became teenagers of driving age, they understood clearly that when I authorized them to use the family vehicle, I was not condoning ignoring the rules of the road, mistreating other drivers, or other kinds of counterproductive and dangerous behavior. Similarly, when those of us in the Senate authorized the President to go to war if the nation needed to do so as a last resort, we were not authorizing him to shut down the inspections process, ignore the sound advice of our allies, rush to war with too few troops, and fail to plan for securing the peace.

Just as my son or daughter would have been responsible for a failure to obey the rules of the road in a family vehicle, and reponsible for any consequences as well, the president is responsible for abusing the authorization given to him by Congress. Those in Congress like myself who, rather than undermine the president with a no vote and potentially tie his hands, gave him the authorization to go to war are not responsible for the President’s mistakes. He alone is responsible.”"

  10:13:59 PM  permalink  

Iraqi Shiite divisions: Interesting dissection of the generational and class divisions among Iraqi Shiites, and the role of nationalism and the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini.  8:04:22 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 20, 2004


Astroturf, local edition:  Nice summary of Bush campaign tactics:  "In a nutshell, the Bush campaign: you can come hear us speak only if you already agree with us (and sign an oath of loyalty). We’ll tell you what to say to others (but let you pretend you said it on your own). And we’ll distort what others say if it helps our cause.

Think that’s what the framers had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment?"

  8:25:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Nepal in turmoil: "19 August 2004 - Threats from Maoist rebels in Nepal brought business in the Himalayan kingdom to a halt yesterday, as traffic blockades kept supplies from the capital, Kathmandu. There is only about 10 weeks' worth of food in the city, and many travellers are stranded. Army convoys escorted the few vehicles that ventured on the country's two main highways. The roads to the temple-studded tourist hub of Kathmandu, ringed by lush, green hills, were nearly empty because the rebels said they would enforce the first blockade of the capital. In Kathmandu, the management of the Soaltee Crowne Plaza hotel, which defied rebel orders to close on Monday, capitulated and shut after the building was rocked by four blasts. No guests were injured."  10:02:31 PM  permalink  

Bruce Sterling SIGGRAPH 2004 speech "When Blobjects Rule the Earth":  Fastastic speech connecting memes from all over (open production, new media, sci fi, cluetrain, sustainability) into a new techno vision.  An update of Bucky Fuller, maybe an "As We May Think" for this generation.  Too much to summarize, I'll quote just a few bits that stuck out for me. 

"We are facing a future world infested with digital programmability. A world where our structures and possessions include, as a matter of course, locaters, timers, identities, histories, origins, and destinations: sensing, logic, actuation, and displays. ..

[There were products, then gizmos, now spimes] A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.. A Spime is today's entire industrial process, made explicit. That is the whole shebang, explicitly tied to the object itself. A Spime is an object that ate and internalized the previous industrial order. Some of this information might be contained inside the Spime, and some of it might be conjured up on the Web by, say, a barcode or an RFID chip -- but in practice, you wouldn't notice the difference ..

The natural world should be better for our efforts and our ingenuity. It's not too much to ask.  You and I will never live to see a future world with those advanced characteristics. The people who will be living in it will pretty much take it for granted, anyway. But that is a worthy vision for today's technologists: because that is wise governance for a digitally conquered world. That is is not tyranny. That is legitimacy. ..

The question we must face is: what do we want? We should want to abandon that which has no future. We should blow right through mere sustainability. We should desire a world of enhancement. That is what should come next. We don't need more dead clutter to entomb in landfills. We should want to expand the options of those who will follow us."

  7:40:06 AM  permalink  

New Cooperation and New Tensions in Terrorist Hunt:  NYT reporters now say it was Pakistani, not US, sources that outed Khan as an agent.  "The release of Mr. Khan's name - it was made public in The New York Times on Aug. 2, citing Pakistani intelligence sources - drew criticism by some politicians, like Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who charged that this leak might have compromised the search in Britain and Pakistan for Mr. Khan's Qaeda partners. (No officials in Britain, Pakistan or the United States have told The Times on the record that identifying Mr. Khan had such an impact)."  Juan Cole maintains it did have an impact, and that the root cause was the administrations media efforts using Khan's information.  6:48:53 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 16, 2004


Voting machine flaw caught by paper trail:  "a Sequoia electronic voting machine suffered a very public failure last week during a live demo. The machine worked fine with an English-language ballot, but failed to record votes with the Spanish-language ballot. The mistake was detected because the machine produced a voter-verifiable paper print-out:

"We did it again and the same thing happened," said Darren Chesin, a consultant to the state Senate elections and reapportionment committee. "The problem was not with the paper trail. The paper trail worked flawlessly, but it caught a mistake in the programming of the touch-screen machine itself. For some reason it would not record or display the votes on the Spanish ballot for these two ballot measures. The only reason we even caught it was because we were looking at the paper trail to verify it."

Not surprisingly, Sequoia is downplaying the incident, asserting that it was a ballot design issue, not a programming issue. "It was our fault for not proofing the Spanish language ballot before demonstrating it," said spokesman Alfie Charles. "  Sorry, that's not reassuring...  8:13:00 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, August 15, 2004


Who are the neocons: Another excellent essay by Steve Clemons on politics within the Bush admin and its effects on foreign policy.  The commentary from other readers is worth a visit -- here's  a choice bit:  "I believe that many of the decisions [Bush] made President have turned out badly for the same reason he made bad decisions as a businessman: he's never been confronted with the consequences of failure. Every time he failed in business, family friends bailed him out, and he suffered no real setbacks. In politics, friends are still bailing him out: the excellent RNC PR apparatus is in high gear. As a result, the President seems to have developed the bad habit of making decisions based on instinct rather than careful analysis."  The commenter makes a good analogy to VC's Tim Draper and Jeff Osborn.  1:50:28 PM  permalink  

Juan cole on clans: "I think the Americans are gradually incurring feuds with all the major clans of Iraq, and this is undesirable. Americans are individualists, and don't understand clan societies. How many Americans are close enough to their cousins even to ask one for a loan? But many Iraqis would risk their lives to protect or avenge a cousin.

Ernest Gellner argued that it is industrialization that breaks up the clans. If you have factories all over the place, going in and out of business, then individuals are pulled away to them by the work opportunities. Clans and clan solidarity depend on people staying put, either on farms in villages, or in close-knit urban neighborhoods. Iraq's industrialization never proceeded far enough to really break up the clans, and many have emigrated jointly to city neighborhoods, keeping their ties even in an urban environment."  I think this applies to many pre-industrial societies, not just those in the Arab world. 

"If you want a stark visual account of what is going on in Najaf, look at the pictures at Karbala News.net. The pictures of people walking or marching show Shiites hurrying to Najaf in hopes of forming a human shield around Muqtada. Most are self-explanatory. Mostly these kinds of images are absent from US mass media reports"  1:36:00 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, August 14, 2004


Kerry's education reform: merit pay for teachers: "The candidate proposed a "new bargain"--a $30 billion, 10-year plan of federal grants which would allow districts to raise the pay of teachers whose students consistently test above average, while at the same time making it easier for schools to fire bad teachers."  The article cites research in support.  11:14:46 PM  permalink  

Pro-Resolution, Not Pro-War:  On Kerry and his vote for the Iraq war resolution.  First, Kerry's statement made on the day he cast his vote: "Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances."  The commentator concludes "In reality, Bush flip-flopped. He said the war was about WMD and both he and Powell assured congress the WMD threat was the only thing necessitating the resolution to authorize force in Iraq. Now Bush admits that was a lie. He'd have gone to war anyway.." 

More on this from Kevin Drum, quoting first from another source: "Edwards says if Kerry had been president, we would have found out Iraq had no WMD, and "we would never be in this place." Kerry emphatically agrees with this translation. "  And concluding:  You can decide for yourself whether you like this position, but it's not hard to grasp. That's especially true for the press, since they know very well that there are lots and lots of liberal hawks and other former war supporters who have exactly the same position: pressuring Saddam was good, inspections were good, and eventually war might have been good too.  But Bush blew it: he failed to rally world opinion, he failed to get the Arab world on our side, he failed to let the inspections process run its course, and he failed to plan properly for the postwar occupation. The result is a loss of American power and prestige, a diminished chance of Iraq becoming a pluralistic democracy, and an al-Qaeda that's been given a second lease on life thanks to George Bush's Queeg-like obsession with Saddam Hussein."

And an analogy from Josh Marshall:  "in most cases, when a batter steps up to the plate, he doesn't decide whether he's going to swing until he sees the pitch. Only an idiot decides in advance not knowing what he's going to face. And yet this is roughly what the Bush camp says was the only reasonable, or I suppose manly, approach to the Iraq war.

I see the war decision in very similar terms to this baseball analogy. Voting for the war resolution was not remotely the same thing as going to war at the first possible opportunity.  Forcing inspections meant seeing what inspections would yield. And seeing what inspections would yield was the best insurance against getting ourselves into the current situation and finding that the WMD, which constituted the premise for the whole endeavor, didn't even exist.

To extend our baseball analogy, Bush went to the plate knowing he was going to swing at whatever pitch he got."

  10:56:27 PM  permalink  

Al Queda on course:  Brief comment on their objectives now.  8:21:37 AM  permalink  

Dan Gillmor: Nice summary of the idea in his book, We the Media: "There are various ways to "make the news," but they're starting to blend. In the traditional sense it works this way: You can make news by doing something extraordinary (or ordinary, if you're a celebrity or politician), or by doing something evil or especially good. PR and marketing people help. We in the journalism business make the news every day, every hour, by reporting what we learn; newspapers are, in part, a manufacturing business. And "consumers" of news can make their own news reports by sifting through the growing variety of information now available to them.

Now, all of those news constituencies are starting to bleed into each other. The former audience is joining the journalism process, as is the Newsmaker who talks over our heads to the audience more directly via blogs and other new tools. The journalist has to pay much closer attention to it all, and must listen as much as lecture."

  8:01:19 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 13, 2004


What may be the beginnings of a civil war among neoconservatives: Tight reading of an interesting article, "THE NEOCONSERVATIVE MOMENT" by Francis Fukuyama, with related material.  Interesting both for the internal dynamics and intellectual failure of the neocons, and the tensions with the "traditional realists like Brent Scowcroft, nationalist-isolationists like Patrick Buchanan, or liberal internationalists like John Kerry".

  11:30:01 PM  permalink  

Transparency Begets Trust in the Ever-Expanding Blogosphere:  Why are blogs good reading?  "A survey of 10,000 blog readers earlier this year conducted by Blogads found that 61 percent of respondents found blogs to be "more honest" than other media outlets. .. [Technorati exec] Hodder gives four reasons for trusting bloggers over general-assignment reporters:

  •  Niche expertise. Newspapers try to cover the whole world, while bloggers can be experts with a deep knowledge about a topic like open-source software or micro-biology.
  • Transparency in motives. Bloggers are upfront about their biases and subjective approach.. . Most journalists are constrained by an institutional objectivity. "I often read a reporter's story and wonder, what's their experience? Where are they coming from? What's the context? What do they really think?" Hodder says.
  • Transparency in process. Bloggers link to documents, sources and supporting evidence to buttress their own authority.
  • Forthrightness about mistakes. When bloggers err, the credible ones publish a mea culpa and take responsibility, with the corrected information alongside their original posting. Not so with newspapers, whose front-page mistakes are corrected in an inside page, or broadcast news, where mistakes are almost never acknowledged.

Hodder posted a chart of the most-frequently-referenced news sources and blogs, about 2/3 mainstream (NYT, Guardian) and 1/3 bloggers.

  7:57:58 PM  permalink  

Wash Post apologizes:  "Another major publication (this time the Washington Post) has come forward to indicate that they should have been more aggressive in covering the question marks surrounding the WMD stories during the build-up to the Iraq war. Not only were they soft in their coverage of the administration's view of things. They also buried some stories that called the WMD charges into question.

Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. explains: "We were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part."

Of course, that in many ways is the nature of today's front page and cable news. All the heavy hitting is saved for the front page "news analysis" stories. Better to get to the bottom of the President's political strategy and motivations for saying or doing something than to actually see if what is being said is true. It is the nature of the beast in today's news culture. What do you know more about? The inside baseball strategies of the Bush and Kerry camps or the details about (and the holes in) the policies they push?"  12:33:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 11, 2004


The Broken Promises of George W. Bush: Nice chart.  "President Bush made a lot of promises during his 2000 presidential campaign. The record shows it was all talk"  9:05:04 PM  permalink  

Walter Cronkite | Prisons needlessly overpopulated with drug offenders:  Cronkite's syndicated column argues for reform of the 'cruel' and 'failed' war on drugs.  He's also joined the Drug Policy Alliance Honorary Board to carry the message on.  3:40:14 PM  permalink  

World Bank rejects reforms in extractive industries:  "The World Bank group rejected moves towards phasing out investment in oil and coal mining, as recommended by its own extractive industries review, this week, despite releasing a statement saying that it "broadly agreed that it [the review] represented a balanced way forward for the Bank Group." .. The Bank is also seeking to scale up its activities in the renewable energy sector by 20% annually over the next five years, bringing investment to more than US$400 million per year. This target will also be reviewed on a regular basis. It compares to an estimated annual investment of US$3 billion in fossil fuels. "  The World Wildlife Fund and others criticized the move.  "WWF says the Bank is missing “a historic opportunity to show real leadership and help guide the developing world towards a truly sustainable and clean energy future.” It wants the Bank to allocate at least $800 million of its $3 billion annual energy budget to renewables and energy efficiency, and to increase that level by 20% a year over the next five years. " The WB spin (World Bank Accepts New Oil, Gas Lending Controls) emphasises the changes in banking rules they are adopting, which basically require more reporting on where the money goes.  Full text of EIR and supporting documents are online.

  12:06:38 PM  permalink  

NKZone: Interesting "blog zone" site, where people with info about North Korea can share their stories.  Includes links to published stories on events in NK from many sources, and a Bloglines public directory on NK info.  This could be a model for the "open source intelligence" community.  11:55:50 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, August 10, 2004


Pepys' Diary: 344 years ago in London, a public servant named Samuel Pepys wrote a daily diary, lasting about ten years, with a day to day view of what life was like then.  it's now being replayed as a blog, with annotations, and even an RSS feed.  Should make an interesting contrast to today's bloggers.  9:49:01 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 09, 2004


How to build homeland security:  An NYT "OpChart" showing how the first $144B in Iraq costs might have been spent on homeland security instead.  11:44:28 PM  permalink  

Foreign Affairs - The Neglected Home Front: Comprehensive review of what has not been done on homeland security, including tracking biomaterials, cleaning up nuclear materials, improving cargo inspection, securing infrastructure, equiping first responders.  Examples: "Although the CIA has concluded that the most likely way weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would enter the United States is by sea, the federal government is spending more every three days to finance the war in Iraq than it has provided over the past three years to prop up the security of all 361 U.S. commercial seaports. This myopic focus on conventional military forces at the expense of domestic security even extends to making the physical security at U.S. military bases a higher budget priority than protecting the nation's most critical infrastructure. In fiscal year 2005, Congress will give the Pentagon $7.6 billion to improve security at military bases. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security will receive just $2.6 billion to protect all the vital systems throughout the country that sustain a modern society."  11:35:00 PM  permalink  

U.S. rapped for blowing spy's cover:  Condi Rice told reporters Khan's name and role, and blew the cover on a HUMINT resource.  "A captured Al Qaeda computer whiz was E-mailing his comrades as part of a sting operation to nab other top terrorists when U.S. officials blew his cover, sources said yesterday. Within hours of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan's name being publicized Monday, British police launched lightning raids that netted a dozen suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, including one who was nabbed after a high-speed car chase.  ..

Now British and Pakistani intelligence officials are furious with the Americans for unmasking their super spy - apparently to justify the orange alert - and for naming the other captured terrorist suspects.  Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat expressed dismay the trap they had hoped would lead to the capture of other top Al Qaeda leaders, possibly even Osama Bin Laden, was sprung too soon.  "The network is still not finished," Hayyat said. It "remains a potent threat to Pakistan, and to civilized humanity."  "It makes our job harder," a British security source said. British officials denied press reports yesterday that several suspects were able to escape the net."

Juan Cole and others cite stories of 5 suspects who were not apprehended, and provides details of how Rice was identified as the source.  Senator Charles Schumer "has asked the White House to explain why the name was leaked to the press, saying it may have hurt the war on terror, according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Monday. "  Reuters quotes Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane's Defence publications, "The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse."

  2:43:05 PM  permalink  

Kerry gets 204 executive endorsements -- inlcuding one unlikely one: "Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry released a list of 204 executives who endorse his economic policies, including .. Peter Chernin, chief operating officer of News Corp..."  Chemin was just renewed for five more years as president and COO of News Corp.  10:43:00 AM  permalink  

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall:  A brilliant blog during this political season.  A few choice bits:

  • On Bush's endorsement of the 911 Commission recommendations, followed by his proposal of a weak Director of Intelligence:" this is such a pattern for this White House that you'd think the Kerry campaign, and the Dems on the Hill, would get hold of this as a pretty manageable critique of this administration: That is, you just can't trust them. What this White House says it's doing and what it's actually doing seldom turn out to be the same thing. "
  • Press failures covering WMD: "Do not miss this very important article that not only covers the exceptionally good reportage of Knight-Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay on the WMD claims, but also the costs of aggressively bucking the administration line. "
  • On GOP ridicule (which I recall as devastatingly effective against Gore in 2000),  "aimed at mocking John Kerry as a undistinguished and risible figure. According to the Times, this will culminate at the GOP convention where Kerry will be portrayed as "an object of humor and calculated derision." .. Republicans are very good at this. And it can be a tool that is deceptively difficult to respond to or combat. Effective mockery is 'sticky', hard to shake off, hard to parry. And it appeals to people's appetite for fun and humor. Indeed, it's not just contemporary Republicans who have a knack for this. There seems to be something intrinsic to the reactionary or right-leaning mentality that gravitates toward this method of political combat. Think of the Tory pamphleteers and essayists of the 18th century in Great Britain or others of a more recent vintage in the US.  This is potent stuff. And Democrats would do well not only to be on their guard but consider applying this approach to the current president, who is more than a bit ripe for such treatment."
  12:06:03 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, August 08, 2004


Bush approval scatterplot: Quite a trendline.  9:15:33 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 06, 2004


Scripts in the media;  Krugman recommends this site, which details how the conservative message machine takes on and repeats falsehoods and spin as a "script".  The site also berates the press and Democrats for letting the script go unchallenged, and provides corrective material.  10:56:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, August 05, 2004


MY WAR - Fear And Loathing In Iraq: Men In Black: Whew, what a blog, from an infantry gunner in Mosul.  Reminds me of Dispatches.  "We were driving there on that main street, when all of the sudden all hell came down all around on us, all these guys wearing all black (Black pants, and a black t-shirts tucked in), a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere just came out of fucking nowhere and started firing RPG's and AK47's at us. I freaked the fuck out and ducked down in the hatch. I yelled "WE GOT FUCKIN HAJI'S ALL OVER THE FUCKIN PLACE!!! THERE ALL OVER GOD DAMNIT!!!" Bullets were pinging off our armor all over our vehicle, and you could hear multiple RPG's being fired and flying through the air and impacting all around us."  11:36:50 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Polio's last days: "Fifteen years ago, more than 1,000 children a day, in 125 countries across five continents, were being paralysed by polio.  In 1989, when the WHO eradication programme was set up, more than 350,000 people a year were developing polio. By last year, there were just 700 cases.

By end of this year, health experts believe they could have eradicated polio from every country around the globe. A massive, last push in the international vaccination campaign should mean that the remaining six nations classified as having endemic polio - Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt - are declared free of the disease by next year.  .. The success of the eradication programme is solely due to this 6p-a-time vaccine, which has been available in the West for 30 years, saving billions from death and disability. ..

The WHO-led eradication programme is now facing a $200m shortfall as it enters the most critical phase ..

Yesterday saw the end of a door-to-door initiative to immunise four million children in the Nigerian state of Kano in five days. Health workers administered a couple of drops of the vaccine into the mouths of every child under five. Samples were subjected to independent analysis to convince sceptics that it was safe, and health officials worked to persuade the Muslim clerics to their side. The initiative was given a boost when Ibrahim Shekaru, the Kano state Governor, administered the vaccine in the village of Takai at the start of the resumed immunisation initiative this week.

But last August, polio immunisation in the Islamic state was suddenly halted after a coalition of radical Muslim clerics and local politicians claimed that the vaccines were part of a Western plot to sterilise African girls and spread HIV/Aids. The effects were immediate and disastrous. Cases of polio in Nigeria increased from 50 to more than 250 within a year. At the beginning of last year, polio was endemic to two nations in sub-Saharan Africa; by this year, the Nigerian crisis was linked to re-infection in 10 more countries, including Chad, Ghana and Togo. The conspiracy theories about the vaccine spread to other Islamic states - Pakistan and Afghanistan. ..

In January, the WHO called an emergency meeting in Geneva. Already faced with a $100m shortfall, officials felt they had no option but to commit an extra $100m to ensure 74 million children in Africa received a dose of OPV by the end of the year. If all goes well, the world could be declared to be rid of polio by 2008.."

  5:35:44 PM  permalink  

Sadr army owns city's streets: "In recent months, [al Sadr's] Mahdi Army has consolidated its control over Sadr City - a poor sprawl of 2.5 million on Baghdad's northeastern edge - maintained control over large portions of Najaf, forced a US-backed government council in the southern city of Amara to resign, and rearmed in anticipation of further confrontation with the US.  "We're in charge here,'' says Sheikh Amar Saadi, a preacher in Sadr City and senior Mahdi Army commander.  "Our mission is to clear Iraq of evil, and that's not just about defeating the Americans." ..

Sadr officials say the group is making the first tentative steps towards becoming a political force like Hezbollah in Lebanon.  US patrols rarely venture here and the local police tend to take orders from Sadr's men rather than the other way around. Every afternoon, large queues of supplicants form outside Sadr's main office to ask for help with medical bills, schooling, and jobs. ..

By running a wildly popular anti-vice campaign in cooperation with local police, Sadr's men - and not the US-installed interim government - have taken up the mantle of chief guarantors of public order in Sadr City. Mahdi Army members have killed alleged drug dealers and kidnappers, and handed more over to the police. Local cops confirm their cooperation. "They're doing a lot of our work for us,'' says one.

Mahdi Army is the most potent social and political movement in Sadr City. The area holds about 10 percent of Iraq's electorate - a powerful bloc in a country divided between the Kurds and competing Shiite and Sunni factions. .. The thickly muscled and calm Hisham is typical of many of the army's lower ranking leaders whose commitment to the cause was hardened by their time as political prisoners under the old regime.  Now, he says, he's driven by a desire to make sure Sadr City is never subject to an outside power again, one of the reasons he's so opposed to the US presence here. Despite a day job as a security guard elsewhere in Baghdad, he spends six nights a week on the streets of Sadr City with his friends. "We don't hate American people, we just hate the policies of the US government, which wants to control Iraq," he says. "We're dealing with the criminals here, people's safety. The Americans have done nothing.""

The situation is similar in Najaf.  ""What he says is right ... the militia is protecting Najaf," says Aamer Harez Ali, a barber sniping away with his sheers. Still, he admits, if more young men had work they would be less likely to enlist in the Mahdi Army. "We need jobs," he says."

  4:38:22 PM  permalink  

Who votes: " The more wealthy you are, the more likely you are to vote. " From the 2000 election, Household Income - (Percentage that Voted):

  • Less than $5,000 - (34%)
  • $5,000 - $9,999 -   (41%)
  • $10,000 - $14,999 - (44%)
  • $10,000 - $14,999 - (44%)
  • $15,000 - $24,999 - (51%)
  • $25,000 - $34,999 - (58%)
  • $35,000 - $49,999 - (62%)
  • $50,000 - $74,999 - (69%)
  • $75,000 and over - (74%)
  4:21:39 PM  permalink  

9/11 panel dismayed by Bush's reaction, Director needs real clout, members say:  ""I know that Secretary (of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld is going to oppose [giving the new chief budget authority]," Kerrey said. "And if they [the Department of Defense] wins one more time, then next time there's a dustup and there's a failure, don't call the director of Central Intelligence up here. Kick the crap out of (the defense department) because they're the one with the statutory authority over the budget." "  DoD controls about 80% of all intelligence spending today.  10:15:57 AM  permalink  

Internationalizing Iraq: Juan Cole describes how Kerry might be able to substitute a UN command international force for US troops in 2005.  12:17:16 AM  permalink  

Iraq on verge of implode: Fisk predicts a complete meltdown, reports that no one expects elections to take place in January due to deteriorating security.  12:15:11 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, August 03, 2004


The Niger forgeries: British newspapers report that an Italian fraudster claims to be the source.  Very interesting account of how the political demand for evidence about Iraq (in this case, ironically, from French intelligence) resulted in the supply of  fictitious information.  11:52:28 PM  permalink  

Heading for trouble:  Prescient criticisms of Iraq invasion from Nov 2002 by a Reagan Secy of the Navy: "The connotations of "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad" show how inapt the comparison is. Our occupation forces never set foot inside Japan until the emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for our arrival. Nor did MacArthur destroy the Japanese government  .. The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.

In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.

Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, .. it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. One should not take lightly the fact that China previously supported Libya, that Pakistan developed its nuclear capability with China's unrelenting assistance and that the Chinese sponsored a coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965. An "American war" with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia."  12:54:33 PM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:43:12 PM.
0 page reads.