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:: Saturday, August 07, 2004 ::

Ohh! Mail!

You know, it's a wonderful feeling to know I've made a difference. Somewhere, somehow, I pissed a guy off today...and that really makes me happy. Now, I know you're wondering: What if you pissed off someone you'd like? Someone you'd rather have a discussion with? Well, thankfully, the man's email renders that moot:

clicked over to mediamatters and read a few of your
posts,I figure your about 22 living at home with
momy,daddy left cause he couldn't stand you or the
bitch,and now your life consists of jerking off and
sitting in front of the screen and thinking you know
more about the world and war than those of us who have
been there.click back to your porno kid,and stay the
hell out of discussions you don't have a clue about.

All spelling and punctuation are reproduced exactly, and I've clipped the entire email for you. Isn't it wonderful?

My brother bet me 20 bucks that writing that many sentences probably strained this guy's congnitive faculties to the limit. I think he can do better. (Although it's rather obvious he didn't wander the site. The sheer amount of bitching I've done about my wife's job situation would be hard to miss!)

As for reading about me at Media Matters, I have no idea what he's talking about....I, obviously, have no affiliation with Media Matters, and I've not noticed any traffic from them. They might have comment boards somewhere, but if so, I'm not on them.

I did email them a bit about Thurlow yesterday, since that sort of "Hmmmm...." bit is the kind of thing they specialize in.
:: Morat 10:13 AM :: ::

:: Friday, August 06, 2004 ::

Allow me to cut to the chase..

Here is the entire Swift Boat Controvery, which I -- at great personal effort -- stuck in bullet points. (You can also check out Snopes on it).:

  • Kerry enlisted in the Navy in 1966. After his first tour of duty, he re-upped and requested assignment on the Swift River boats.
  • In the four months he commanded a boat, he collected three Purple Hearts, one Bronze Star and one Silver Star. His third purple heart allowed him to transfer out of Vietnam.
  • During the four months he commanded a river boat, he received glowing reviews from his commanders.
  • Upon returning to the US and being honorably discharged, he became active in the Peace movement and seriously irked Richard Nixon. (This, by the way, was not hard to do).
  • Richard Nixon found a guy named John O'Neil, and sicked him on Kerry, culminating in a big "Veteran's debate" over the issue of the Vietnam war. O'Neill continued to pop up to attack Kerry over the next 35 years, each time working for a Republican.
  • Kerry runs for President in 2004, and accepts the nomination. Supporting him are the 5 remaining members of his Swift Boat crew, and the guy (not a member of the crew) he pulled from the water while injured (and weathering enemy fire), thus earning his Bronze Star.
  • The "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" arrive. They claim that Kerry is a big liar, that his medals were unearned, and that he's just a big ole' phony. They do not explain (1) Why they kept quiet for 35 years. (2) That none of them, in fact, served under Kerry, but were -- at best -- fellow officers at roughly the same time. (3) Why Elliot, Kerry's commanding officer, defended Kerry's record in 1996 but attacks it now.

Which brings us to the question of "Whom to believe". We have two choices.

  1. Believe Kerry. Kerry's story is supported by his military record, the reviews of his commanders, and the men under his command, as well as the soldier Kerry pulled from the water. All of them tell the same story, and have for 35 years.
  2. Believe the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". Their account is contradicted by Kerry's service record, by several of their own statements over the years (and the fact that one of them received a Bronze Star for the same incident Kerry did), and by Kerry's crewmates. Their story didn't appear until after Kerry became a public figure after Vietnam, and has been kept alive by Republican money, and their entire organization is heavily funded by conservatives. Oh, and just for giggles: Several of these men (especially Thurlow) would have had to file reports on incidents Kerry was involved in, in order for him to get a medal. The question now becomes: Why did those involved in the incidents in 1969 lie about it back then? Was it some vast swift-boat conspiracy to award Kerry medals?

It appears both groups are heavily political. The deciding factor appears to be Kerry's military records, which upholds Kerry's story. Kerry's records are complete, they show uniformly glowing reviews from his commanding officers, and it's a real stretch to believe that -- at the tender age of 22 -- John Kerry could somehow convince every officer he ever served under to lie for him, put him up for medals he didn't deserve, and generally "cook the books" so that, almost four decades later, he could run for President.

George Bush, whose dad had a hell of a lot more pull than Kerry's family, couldn't manage to paper over some huge gaps in his service record, much less get even decent reviews. I find it unbelievable that Kerry managed the far more difficult feat of conning glowing reviews and medals out of his officers.

:: Morat 12:12 PM :: ::

The Right Rev. George W. Bush

Suellentrop has a new Slate piece, on how well Bush's is doing on the stump:
After last week's Democratic convention, I felt that John Kerry had become the favorite in the presidential race. Now, after only two days with President Bush, I'm not so sure. He's that good. Unlike many people, I'm not threatened by the president's religious rhetoric. It must be the Midwestern Catholic in me. Like the people in the audience, I find it familiar and comforting. I can see why so many people believe the president is "one of us," no matter how rich or how elite his background. And I can see that Kerry will have a tough time besting Bush in all three debates.
See, because I know about the Bush/Cheney loyalty oath (if you want to see them speak, you have to sign an endorsement of Bush/Cheney for President), I know that Bush isn't speaking to the undecided...he's speaking to the faithful.

Given that widly-reported tidbit, and the religious tone that Suellentrop talks so much about, why didn't he make the obvious connection? Bush was preaching to the choir.

Suellentrop had a chance to make a rather important point, one that the religious tones of Bush's speech would have all the more vivid.

:: Morat 10:58 AM :: ::

Economic woes..

It appears the July numbers are pretty bad.
U.S. employers added a paltry 32,000 workers to payrolls last month, the government said on Friday in a startlingly weak report that led Wall Street to forecast a slower pace of Federal Reserve interest-rate rises.

The Labor Department also cut its tally of job growth in May and June by a combined 61,000, adding to the weak tenor of a report that came as unwelcome news for an election-bound President Bush.
I suppose this does support Billmon's theory. On the other hand, I think it far more likely that the market knows what most of America suspects: The economy isn't running strong because we've got an idiot driving.

:: Morat 9:02 AM :: ::

More Swift Boats

This is somewhat tangential, but I'd like to note the trolls are out in force. (Check the comments of this thread from Political Animal for a lovely example).

One thing that stuck in my head was that some of the trolls were really upset that Kerry talked about "atrocities" committed in Vietnam (basically Kerry's references to the Winter Soldier testimony). And what was really funny was that they seemed to think he was lying.

I thought that, bluntly put, it wasn't really a matter of debate that the US did some nasty stuff in Vietnam (My Lai, to name one). Are there really people out there who still believe that a bunch of pissed-off draftees in a guerilla war were a bunch of noble warriors?

:: Morat 8:09 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, August 05, 2004 ::

All you need to know about the SBVT

Just read this diary from Kos. But to help out, play compare and contrast (the American History magazine link comes from the Kos diary). Here's the UPI, and Thurlow's story today:

Hoffmann, Thurlow and other Swift boat veterans have compiled a thick stack of documents, including copies of official Navy papers, they say point to discrepancies in Kerry's official recounting of combat exploits, especially the incident of March 13, 1969, on the Bay Hap River in South Vietnam.

According to Kerry and accounts in official biographies, Kerry suffered shrapnel wounds to his left buttock and injuries to his arm when a mine exploded under another patrol boat while on a mission. Despite his wounds, Kerry rushed to save a Special Forces soldier who had fallen into the water from his own boat, ignoring heavy enemy fire and his injuries, including a bleeding arm, the official biographies say.

That soldier, Jim Rassmann, supports Kerry's presidential bid and appears with him at campaign events. He was a main speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week and part of Kerry's outreach to former service personnel for the November vote.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, however, in signed affidavits now in UPI's possession, say Kerry's shrapnel wounds were self-inflicted earlier in the day when he tossed a grenade into a sampan carrying rice and that there was no enemy fire at Kerry's boat or others involved in the incident. They point to mentions of the buttock wounds from the grenade and flying rice grains that appear in a number of stories by Kerry or about him in earlier articles and books, in contrast to his account for the casualty report.

(Bolding mine) Got that? They're talking about the incident on March 13th, 1969. The one where Kerry got a bronze star and a purple heart.

Thurlow claims there was "no enemy fire" when Kerry got the Bronze Star. Now, read this from American History Magazine:
The March 13 mission, Kerry's last in Vietnam, was no exception. By the time it was over, he would have earned a Bronze Star, plus his third Purple Heart, and with it the last punch on his ticket out of Southeast Asia.
Finally PCF-94 arrived at the opening to the small Dong Cung canal, where it was to rendezvous with the Swifts skippered by Lieutenants Skip Barker, Don Droz and Larry Thurlow, who would join them bearing the South Vietnamese Popular Forces members (called "Ruff-Puffs") they had picked up in Cai Nuoc.
Kerry, thanking God the scramble nets were over the bow, struggled to get Rassman on board. "It must have looked like a comedy," he recalled. "Jim was exhausted from swimming and my right arm hurt and I couldn't pull very hard with it. Everyone else was firing a machine gun or something, except for Sandusky, who was maneuvering the boat, trying not to run over Jim but also trying to get near him as quickly as possible. Christ knows how, but somehow we got him on board and I didn't get the bullet in the head that I expected, and we managed to clear the ambush zone and move down near the 3 boat that was still crawling [on] a snail-like zigzag through the river."

Thurlow was struggling to get PCF-3's wounded gunner out of his hole and onto the deck when the damaged Swift ran aground hard on a shoal on the right side of the river, sending Thurlow somersaulting into the water. At the same moment, the five Swifts came under fire from the right side again, and Kerry remembered thinking that was it -- they were going to get completely cut off and annihilated in a crossfire.
Got all that? Now, here's the kicker at the end of the article (and major Kudos to DCBlues at Kos for seeing this)
Kerry and the other wounded men received medical attention aboard a Coast Guard cutter, which was the closest ship capable of treating them. Along with a third Purple Heart for the injury to his right arm, Kerry was also awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery, as was Larry Thurlow.
Someone, and I'm looking straight at the fucking media needs to ask a few questions. For instance: "How the hell can Furlow claim "There was no enemy fire during the incident" and that Kerry's Bronze Star is thus bogus AND have personally received a Bronze Star for bravery under fire for the same incident?

Anyone care to answer?

:: Morat 2:14 PM :: ::


Oh god this is such a great political move. I've got to give props to the Kerry campaign. They're using Dean in precisely the right way:
Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean asserted again Wednesday that "ample evidence" exists that President Bush was playing politics when he approved raising the terror alert level Sunday -- a contention Bush administration and campaign officials deny.
"In the last two days since I made this charge, they've been covering their you-know-what's and trying to come up with additional information," Dean said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
"There have been some commentary from some of our critics -- Howard Dean comes immediately to mind -- saying somehow that this is being hyped for political reasons, that the data that we collected here, the casing reports that provided the information on these prospective attacks, is old data, four or five years old," Cheney said.
"That just tells me that Howard Dean doesn't know anything about how these groups operate."
In his interview Wednesday on CNN, Dean was unbowed -- and unrepentant.
"If it took three weeks for them to get this information, then they're not doing their job protecting the United States of America," Dean said, pointing to the fact that Khan was arrested in mid-July.
"There's one of two possibilities here. One, we need a new president so we can really take care of intelligence needs and the defense of the United States of America against terrorism. Or two, they're playing politics with their timing of the release of these documents," Dean said.
That, my loyal readers, is a thing of sheer beauty. They turned this whole story -- one that should have reinforced the only area Bush is strong in -- on it's ear, in a way that has the GOP scrambling.

They took Dean, whom the media can't resist covering, but who has a reputation -- undeserving, in my mind -- of being a loose cannon, and used him to push the meme that the timing here is awfully convenient.

Dean, because of his reputation, has both the platform (the media can't resist showing him) and Kerry deniability (he's not on the ticket, and you know how crazy ole' Howard makes those gaffes!) to play attack dog. He speaks his mind, Kerry distances himself from Dean....and the new meme is out there.

It's the sort of "attack by proxy" the GOP has excelled at for years. The Vice-President has been forced to attack Dean -- who isn't running for office -- while Kerry and Edwards can play "Presidential and Nice" on the sidelines. Bush showed -- in 2000 -- that these sorts of things can alter the coverage of the entire story, changing it from damaging to favorable almost overnight. And Iowa showed that attack politics, in the McCain-Feingold age, have a greatly increased risk of blowback. The GOP has to send out Cheney, because they lack anyone else (aside from McCain, who I doubt would do it) with enough media stature to do it.

And best of all....this "Are the timings political" story is going on three days now. Which means that the groundwork for handling an "October Surprise" has already been laid. Every time Bush mashes the "terror" button, every time he pulls out a "surprise" out of his hat....the Dems can use it to reinforce the "He's not serious, it's all for show" meme. And each time, it'll get stronger.

I am impressed. Deeply impressed.

:: Morat 10:03 AM :: ::

Just a note:

To the -- several -- people who have arrived here via search engine: I'm not sure why you think both Tom Ridge and John Kerry are crossdressers, but it's pretty amusing that you're looking.

Neither would be terribly convincing, though. If you want a politician who could pass try Rick Santorum. He's got the right build, the right bone structure.....and the sheer amusing irony of it would make me happy.

:: Morat 8:28 AM :: ::

Libertarian Woes...

I've noticed that my libertarian friends -- all three of them -- have been pretty agitated over the upcoming election. Given they normally have a laid back view on elections, I figured I'd ask them what had them so upset.

They don't like Bush, and don't like Kerry. Which isn't unusual. They're libertarians. They vote third-party. Not liking the Democrats and the Republicans is just part of the package. They constantly complain about how neither the Democrats nor the Republicans ever really "represent their views" and how they're all just a bunch of partisan idiots, yadda-yadda-yadda.

So why all the drama? I had to dig a little, but boiled down: They have a hard choice and it's personally upsetting to them. (None of the three plan to vote Libertarian this year).

You see, most elections, they just vote for the Libertarian candidate or -- failing that-- vote Republican. After all, the Republican candidate will try to cut government and lower their taxes, or at least prevent the nefarious "liberal" expansion of government. Oh, sure our example Republican will probably also try to outlaw abortion and gay sex, but the Democrats will keep that under control.

In short, as long as they voted Republican they could rest assured that liberal programs would be kept stamped down,and they'd get tax breaks and the Democrats would keep the GOP from trampling too many civil liberties. And, from their point of view, it's all good. They can praise the tax cutting, decry the civil liberties crushing, and generally absolve themselves of all blame, because no one represents them.

It was a fairly perfect world. Both sides kept the other side "in check", and my libertarian friends could happily state that any problems weren't their fault, they voted for the enlightened third party and if only their guy had one, all would be a free-market paradise. (Reminds me of the Naderites, personally).

So the problem this year? Those pesky Republicans are having too much success. They're running roughshod over the Democrats, and the GOP isn't even trying to cut government anymore. So voting third-party doesn't mean they'll automatically get gridlock that tends to lead to lower taxes, smaller government, and protections from civil liberties. If they're not careful, a third party vote can lead to some nasty places.

My heart bleeds for them. They're being forced to come down and actually choose between two candidates instead of making a protest vote that absolves them of responsibility.

Actually, I don't feel pity. Choosing between the lesser of two evils, choosing which policies and which issues mean more to you than others...basically being forced to pick a shade of grey, because black and white don't exist is something I do every four years. I don't have a lot of sympathy for them.

I did have a bit of advice: It's time to decide what you really value, and vote accordingly. And yes, it's going to be a hard choice. And yes, you're going to have to accept things you don't like along with it.

But you know what? Millions of voters survive the same thing every year. Heck, look at the Greens....yeah, they screwed up in 2000, but they seem pretty content with their choice this year. Maybe you can learn something from them.

:: Morat 7:27 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 ::

So Hersh was right...

I had honestly hoped Hersh was wrong. That this actually happened....winning "hearts and minds" my ass. Last I checked, the route to your heart didn't lead through your ass.
The new classified military documents offer a chilling picture of what happened at Abu Ghraib -- including detailed reports that U.S. troops and translators sodomized and raped Iraqi prisoners. The secret files -- 106 "annexes" that the Defense Department withheld from the Taguba report last spring -- include nearly 6,000 pages of internal Army memos and e-mails, reports on prison riots and escapes, and sworn statements by soldiers, officers, private contractors and detainees. The files depict a prison in complete chaos. Prisoners were fed bug-infested food and forced to live in squalid conditions; detainees and U.S. soldiers alike were killed and wounded in nightly mortar attacks; and loyalists of Saddam Hussein served as guards in the facility, apparently smuggling weapons to prisoners inside.

The files make clear that responsibility for what Taguba called "sadistic, blatant and wanton" abuses extends to several high-ranking officers still serving in command positions. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who is now in charge of all military prisons in Iraq, was dispatched to Abu Ghraib by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last August. In a report marked secret, Miller recommended that military police at the prison be "actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees." After his plan was adopted, guards began depriving prisoners of sleep and food, subjecting them to painful "stress positions" and terrorizing them with dogs. A former Army intelligence officer tells Rolling Stone that the intent of Miller's report was clear to everyone involved: "It means treat the detainees like shit until they will sell their mother for a blanket, some food without bugs in it and some sleep." In the files, prisoner after prisoner at Abu Ghraib describes acts of torture that Taguba found "credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses." The abuses took place at the Hard Site, a two-story cinder-block unit at the sprawling prison that housed Iraqi criminals and insurgents, not members of Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. In one sworn statement, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, said he witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. "I saw Abu Hamid, who was wearing the military uniform, putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Hilas testified. "The kid was hurting very bad." A female soldier took pictures of the rape, Hilas said.

During the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, Hilas saw Spc. Charles Graner Jr. and an unnamed "helper" tie a detainee to a bed around midnight. "They . . . inserted the phosphoric light in his ass, and he was yelling for God's help," the prisoner testified. Again, the same female soldier photographed the torture.
The classified files also show that intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib felt pressured to produce results. "Sir," Lt. Col. Jordan told Taguba, "I was told a couple of times . . . that some of the reporting was getting read by Rumsfeld, folks out at Langley [the Central Intelligence Agency], some very senior folks."

In May, after photos of the torture were published, Rumsfeld declared that he would take "all measures necessary" to ensure that such abuse "does not happen again." But the defense secretary had already sent a clear signal to commanders in Iraq about his position on the proper way to interrogate prisoners. In April, Rumsfeld transferred Gen. Miller from Guant?namo to Baghdad, putting him in charge of all military prisons in Iraq. Instead of court-martialing the man who authored the plan to subject prisoners at Abu Ghraib to harsh abuses, Rumsfeld has left him in charge of the facility.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have changed this," Miller told reporters in May. "Trust us. We are doing this right."

:: Morat 10:52 AM :: ::

And Slate pays these people?

So Slate has a lovely new article up, a modest proposal to go ahead and use racial profiling to screen passengers, but pay them for the inconvenience, which somehow is a fair trade for all involved. What a phenomonally stupid idea, certainly worth a decent fisking Lan writes:
Is it worth detaining 14 people (or an entire planeload of people) on every flight to see what's in their McDonald's bags or to question them closely about their reasons for traveling? I honestly don't know. But this I'm sure of: If you're going to detain 14 people, they should at least be the 14 people who are statistically most likely to be worth detaining.
And the terrorists will be stupid enough to continue using people who fit this racial profile? Because terrorists, if anything, are complete and utter morons and wouldn't notice us searching all the Arabs and no one else.

As we all well know, all terrorists are Muslim, and all Muslims are Arabic, and there's no way a non-Arabic fellow could possibly be a terrorist.
Second, just because you detain particular people, it doesn't follow that you've got to treat them unfairly. Being detained and questioned is a burden; it's inconvenient and it's demeaning. But there's no reason that burden has to be borne entirely by the detainees. To spread the burden, all the airlines have to do is give each detainee a $100 bill for his trouble. If Northwest had had a policy like that on Annie Jacobsen's flight, it would have paid out $1,400 to the 14 Syrians. Assuming there were another 200 passengers on that board, they could have covered that cost with a $7 hike in ticket prices.

I am guessing that Annie Jacobsen would have been thrilled to pay a $7 surcharge for the comfort of knowing that her Syrian co-passengers had been thoroughly vetted before takeoff. The Syrian musicians, in turn, would have picked up a hundred bucks apiece in exchange for, oh, 15 minutes or so of answering questions. How many musicians do you know who would turn down a gig at that hourly rate?
Jacobsen's problem wasn't that they hadn't been searched (they had been). It was that she hadn't seen it. Are we going to make them all wear little symbols to denote they've been searched? How will all those passengers paying 7 bucks for "peace of mind" know who's been searched and who hasn't? Are we going to strip search them in front of the entire plane? If so, I'm guessing we'll need to pay them more than a C-note apiece....

And, if they're not the world's stupidest passengers, how do they know that guy in 17C who wasn't searched isn't a terrorist? And how do they know that someone working for the airport didn't smuggle clever gear into the plane for nasty people to assemble into weapons?

You don't know that. And this plan wouldn't let you know that. If this "plan" had been standard procedure, Annie Jacobsen still would have been frightened out of her wits, and the only way to have prevented that is to not allow anyone that Annie Jacobsen is afraid of --rationally or irrationally -- to fly on Annie's plane. Because the problem here wasn't "airport security", which had apparently scoped these guys out on their initial flight. The problem was Annie's paranoia and her fear, which even the presence of air marshals couldn't abate.

And I'm not paying 7 bucks a ticket extra for that, because maybe Annie will find out I'm voting for Kerry, which to some people (Freepers, at least) tends to mean "on the side of terrorism", and hyperventilate because of me.

:: Morat 10:22 AM :: ::

Stern and politics...

Howard Stern is finally on the air in my area. I've never been a fan of the show (from what little I've seen, it's pretty juvenile...although the man has a great voice for radio, I'll grant him that) but since I seem to hit the local stations "30 minute commercial breaks" every day on my "less-than-thirty-minute-commute" I have to listen to something.

So it's either commercials, the inane "Morning Show idiots" on the regular channels, or Stern. In practice, I flip between the three hoping to God I'll settle on, you know, music I want to hear.

So since Stern is on the air, I figured I'd catch bits of his show. His anti-Bush crusade is certainly making waves, and I was curious what Stern was going to focus on. So, politically, what have I heard at least twice in the last week (and I listen to perhaps 5 minutes a day of his show)? Stem-cells.

The Democratic Party's one real wedge issue (IE, an issue designed to split the other party in half...not one designed to divide the electorate as a whole), and Stern's hitting it hard. paraplegics, guys who survived cancer.....and over and over the refrain of "Why does Bush want cripples and cancer patients to die? Doesn't that make you angry?" (not stated so bluntly, but pretty close).

I wonder how much Stern's going to bleed Bush over the next few months.....

:: Morat 9:02 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, August 03, 2004 ::

Dean was right...

I noted, with interest, how Dean was piled onto for stating that it was difficult -- these days -- to tell how much of these terror warnings were real, and how much was political. It reminded me of the pile on (although with less 'friendly fire') back when Dean stated that "capturing Saddam Hussein didn't make us safer".

And I note, today, that despite being right, Dean's not getting any apologies. Of course, he didn't get any over that "spiderhole of denial" thing either. (Heck, some liberals even accused him of "undermining Kerry". They obviously don't understand the role of "attack dog"-- something Dean is good at, and they've got a pretty solid 'fall in line' view towards Ye Olde Rank and File).

I've come to the conclusion that Dean gets all this grief because he directly challenges the 'conventional wisdom'. To the talking heads, that's tantamount to insanity. After all, the CW is the "truth of the day". You can't contradict it. Everyone has agree that the CW is "true". It's the narrative on which the whole story is based. Directly contradicting it is -- to the talking heads -- heresy.

Dean refuses to grant the media the basic assumptions they rely on, and they punish him for it. The only thing that saves his butt -- time and again -- is he's generally right. He's just two or three days "ahead" of the CW.
:: Morat 8:59 AM :: ::

Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say

I'm really not sure what to say:
Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

Seriously, George. This might have been good intel to have. Three years ago. When they were thinking about it. Now we know what they were considering three years ago. The relevant question is "What are they thinking now?".

It's nice to see that sinking poll numbers finally got you off your ass. It'd just be nicer if "Threat to America" rated higher than "Threat to my second term". I realize it's a bit unfair to ask you, the President, to place America's problems above your own. It's just a thing I've got. I just can't help but prefer a President who actually gives a shit about America.

Update: Does the timing of this strike anyone as interesting? Not Bush's political timing, but the timing of the intel. "Three to four years old" and "attacks on major financial institutions". Doesn't that sound like this was intel gathered for the 9/11 attacks? They hit the WTC and the Pentagon, but that doesn't mean they weren't casing other places.
:: Morat 8:11 AM :: ::

Fact, Fable, and Darwin

I found this little gem when wandering through Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Now, DfCW does a nice job dismantling this thing, and I don't really have anything to add. I just thought I'd reproduce one the more idiotic sections of the article (it's written by a sociologist at Baylor) to point out the sheer stupidity biologists have to deal with. It's written by one Rodney Stark (email address: socstark@aol.com, if you care to point out some of the more serious flaws in his piece), a sociology professor at Baylor University. Stark writes:
By Darwin's day it had long been recognized that the fossil evidence showed that there had been a progression in the biological complexity of organisms over an immense period of time. In the oldest strata, only simple organisms are observed. In more recent strata, more complex organisms appear. The biological world is now classified into a set of nested categories. Within each genus (mammals, reptiles, etc.) are species (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.) and within each species are many specific varieties, or breeds (Great Dane, Poodle, Beagle, etc.).
Now, Stark is a sociologist. He -- for reasons known only to himself -- feels that a doctorate in Sociology somehow qualifies him to make expert commentary on biology.

It doesn't. The man considers "mammals" to be a genus. He thinks "elephants" are a species. Man, I learned -- in fourth grade -- that "mammals" are considerably higher up the taxonomic tree than that. (For the record, they're a class. It's the equivalent of claiming the USA is a small city).

The piece itself starts off disingenuously (yes, he is a Creationist. Yes, he says he's not. He's lying or deluded), contains basic scientific errors so egregious as to make you doubt the man ever took a high-school level biology class, and relies mainly on quote-mining (stripped of context, the debate over PE and gradualism, and the debates over cladistics can make great fodder for Creationists. Beware the ellipses....) and dark conspiracies of militant atheists.

And this man actually teaches at a college. Baylor should be ashamed. Not for hiring a Creationists (he doesn't teach biology, after all) but for hiring such a poor thinker. It's not even well-written, much less well-argued. The man didn't even bother to do the most basic fact-checking. Throw in a few random misspellings, and you'd swear it was a talk.origins drive-by posting.
:: Morat 7:49 AM :: ::

:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::

Crying Wolf

I guess Bush never heard the one about the boy who cried wolf:
Ridge on Sunday raised the terror threat level for financial institutions in the three cities to orange, or high alert, the second highest level on the government's five-point spectrum. Elsewhere, he said, the alert would remain at yellow, or elevated.

'Iconic economic targets are at the heart of (the terrorists') interest,' Ridge said.

There was no obvious boost in security at the White House, where defenses were stiffened after the Sept. 11 attacks. Pennsylvania Avenue, the street in front of the White House, has been closed for months because of a huge construction project to turn the roadway into a pedestrian boulevard. On the west side of the White House, truck traffic has been barred for some time along 17th Street.

The fresh intelligence did not give crucial details about when, where or how terrorists may strike, Ridge said, but government analysis indicates terrorists may favor car or truck bombs or other means to physically destroy targets.
See, here's the thing. I don't believe it. I simply don't. Bush has hit the terror button too many times, at too many politically opportune moments. I look at this and all I can think is "Bush's internal polls must really suck.".

It doesn't matter what information they release. I can't help but believe he's spinning it and exaggerating it for purely partisan purposes. Because, in essence, that's all he's done since 9/11.

I wonder what Americans will see, if terrorists do strike. Will we see a bold leader? Or the boy who cried 'Wolf'?

:: Morat 8:18 AM :: ::

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