Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Sunday, March 28, 2004
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Condi's Political Apothegm


Atrios is as indignant as I am about Condi's excuse for not testifying before the 9/11 panel. I wanted to blog about it since Weds, but haven't had the time. Allow me to expand on a comment I left on Eschaton...

Condi said on Weds:

I have a responsibility to maintain what is a longstanding separation — constitutional separation between the executive and the legislative branch.

This body is — the commission is a body under Article II of the legislature, and so I have to maintain that separation.


Uh, WTF is "Article II of the legislature"? "Article II of the Constitution" establishes the Executive branch. And nowhere do I see anything in the doc that states the Exec can't talk to the Leg. In fact, members of the Exec--e.g., Cabinet member Rummy--did last week. And while powers are indeed explicitly separated in the Constitution, it is for the purpose of checks and balances. For me, Federalist 481 boils it down exactly:

An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.

In other words, the Leg has a duty to limit the overreach of the Exec. And Rice is full of it.

ntodd

1 - Aptly titled "These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other".

[Update: FAS has a PDF of a Congressional Research Service report called "Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees: A Brief Overview" (this is what informed Josh Marshall's posting on the subject last week). Some snips:

Congress has a constitutionally rooted right of access to the information it needs to perform its Article I legislative and oversight functions. Generally, a congressional committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter, which is conducting an authorized investigation for legislative or oversight purposes, has a right to information held by the executive branch in the absence of either a valid claim of constitutional privilege by the executive or a statutory provision whereby Congress has limited its constitutional right to information.
...
Executive privilege was invoked during the Nixon Administration when congressional committees sought the testimony of a White House aide at a Senate confirmation hearing and the testimony of the White House Counsel at Senate committee hearings on the Watergate incident and related matters.
...
[E]xecutive branch officials who may appropriately assert executive privilege...and the circumstances under which they may do so, remains unresolved by the courts,and is a matter that may be determined by case-by-case accommodation between the political branches. Some guidance in this regard was offered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, when he was Assistant Attorney General in the Nixon Administration. Rehnquist distinguished between "those few executive branch witnesses whose sole responsibility is that of advising the President," who "should not be required to appear [before Congress] at all, since all of their official responsibilities would be subject to a claim of privilege"...

Why is Nixon always the common thread in all such shenanigans?]


['nother update: In light of the CRS report above, it's interesting to note this tidbit from the ROAD MAP FOR NATIONAL SECURITY (PDF) produced in February 2001 by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (aka the Hart-Rudman Commission):

We recommend...that the President's National Security Advisor and NSC staff return to their traditional role of coordinating national security activities and resist the temptation to become policymakers or operators...The higher the profile of the National Security Advisor the greater will be the pressures from Congress to compel testimony and force Senate confirmation of the position.

Condi's certainly had a high profile in the administration, and in all her public spin appearances.]


[Last one: On April 12, 2003 during a forum on the role of the National Security Advisor, Andrew Goodpaster, who served under Ike, said:

Going back, particularly to the Eisenhower time when he really established in modern years the idea of executive privilege and the idea of confidential advice that the president is entitled to receive that need not be reported in any other place. Now, so long as it's advice, that works...When you come to the Congress, it's a little different. There is such a thing as accountability in our government, and the national security advisor is either the top advisor to the president or among the top two or three advisor to the president on foreign policy. Why should not a national security advisor, who holds this position, not be directly accountable to the American people through the Congress?

A lot of it comes down to whether the NSA should be confirmed by the Senate, and how that might change the role. The whole discussion is very interesting.]
 
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Credibility Gap



Rose Mary Woods demonstrates how she accidentally erased the Bush administration's credibility.

ntodd 
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Mudseason



Mudseason means lots of muddy tracks in the driveway...they also make their way into our house.

ntodd 
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Memo To Condoliar


Here's how you do it, Condi:

MR. RUSSERT: [T]o be clear, Mr. Clarke, you would urge Congress, the intelligence committees, to declassify your sworn testimony before the congressional inquiry two years ago as well as your testimony before the September 11th Commission?

MR. CLARKE: Yes, and those documents I just referred to and Dr. Rice's testimony before the 9-11 Commission because the victims' families have no idea what Dr. Rice has said. There [sic] weren't in those closed hearings where she testified before the 9-11 Commission. They want to know. So let's take her testimony before the 9-11 Commission and make it part of the package of what gets declassified along with the national security decision directive of September 4 and along with my memo of January 25.

In fact, Tim, let's go further. The White House is selectively now finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed were covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press. Let's take all of my e-mails and all of the memos that I've sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11 and let's declassify all of it.

Remember, this is OUR government. It's supposed to be transparent. And if you want to run on your "war" record, you've got to lay it on the table.

ntodd 
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Saturday, March 27, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Howl



to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent
and shaking with shame,
rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time...


ntodd 
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Bush's Weak Numbers


Gallup:

[T]he current president is -- at the moment -- in a generally more propitious position in terms of his re-election probabilities than was his father at this point in 1992...There are still two concerns for the current president. First, despite his relatively more positive positioning compared with his father's situation in 1992, none of the election indicators for George W. Bush are strongly positive. His numbers are, in short, weak, but not as weak as his father's. Second, the current president has been behind his probable Democratic opponent in Gallup's trial heat ballots over the last month, a contrast to the fact that his father was ahead of Clinton in the same ballots in the early months of 1992.

ntodd 
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Fake And Scathing


Business 2.0:

CNN and MSNBC have gotten used to losing to Fox News. But during the Democratic primaries, an unexpected foe stole the ratings crown from all three. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a mock news program airing on Viacom's (VIA) Comedy Central, attracted more viewers at 11 p.m. than any of the cable news channels in the last two weeks of January, outdoing Fox by 20 percent even as the news network was running live campaign coverage. Stewart's fake news show has won ever-growing audiences with help from real politico guests like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.

Watch Jon Stewart do the headlines, and you'll see why the Daily Show is the best source of news in America today.

ntodd 
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The March To International Crime


I continue to be amazed by Bush's audacity. Here he is in New Mexico yesterday:

[O]n your TV screens you saw the words "Marching to War." I don't know if you remember that or not. As we were trying to get Saddam to disarm peacefully through the United Nations, and the collective will of the world, you see "March to War," that's hard if you're a business person. It's hard to risk capital or expand your business when the country is marching to war. It's not a good thought.

Or if you're a consumer, maybe thinking about buying a house, if you look on your TV screens that say "March to War," you're not so sure you want to buy the house then, because you're not sure what the consequences of marching to war will be.

Once again, the "not my fault" excuse--the media kept pushing this war thing, and that hurt the economy. Wonder why we saw "March to War" on our teevees all the time? A few quotes from Bush:
And remember the basis for our march to war? July 14, 2003:

[T]he intelligence I get is darn good intelligence.

That wouldn't be the same intelligence that didn't detect an imminent attack on the US in 2001, would it? No, it's the stuff that came from our man in Baghdad, Ahmed Chalabi:

A June 26, 2002, letter from the Iraqi National Congress to the Senate Appropriations Committee listed 108 articles based on information provided by the INC's Information Collection Program, a U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq.

The assertions in the articles reinforced President Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein should be ousted because he was in league with Osama bin Laden, was developing nuclear weapons and was hiding biological and chemical weapons.

Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq's illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.

In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, weren't confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.

(via Kevin at Washington Monthly)

Perhaps a reminder about intelligence from someone who knew a hell of a lot more about war than our "war president" is in order. Clausewitz wrote:

It is much worse for the inexperienced when accident does not render him [a certain balance of probability], but one report supports another, confirms it, magnifies it, finishes off the picture with fresh touches of colour, until necessity in urgent haste forces from us a resolution which will soon be discovered to be folly, all those reports having been lies, exaggerations, errors, &c., &c. In a few words, most reports are false...

Yup, that about sums up the intelligence capabilities of BushCo. And all of this bad intel formed the foundation of their oft-repeated lies used to justify their march to war. Apparently BushCo is really good at the repetition thing:

''This business of saying the same thing over and over and over again -- which to a lot of Washington insiders and pundits is boring -- works,'' [Reagan PR man, Michael Deaver] said. ''That was sort of what we figured out in the Reagan White House. And I think [the Bush] people do it very, very well.''

Hmm...where I have I heard of this technique before? Ah yes, Mein Kampf, Volume I, Chapter VI:

[T]he most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unfiagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.

In the end, I don't care if it was "darn good" or "freaking impeccable" intelligence. I don't care if BushCo simply got hoodwinked by Chalabi. I don't even care if they knew Saddam had no WMD. For me it all comes down to what Justice Jackson said about the Nuremberg War Trials on August 12, 1945:

[W]e must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

I therefore want to make clear to the American people that we have taken an important step forward in this instrument in fixing individual responsibility of war-mongering, among whatever peoples, as an international crime.

The war-mongering Bush is not a miserable failure: he's an international war criminal. No amount of repeating the "march to war" propaganda and blaming the media is going to change that fact.

ntodd 
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The Sun Also Rises At 10,000 Feet



The view across the aisle from seat 2B as we're climbing out of DFW at about 6:15AM Central.

ntodd 
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Friday, March 26, 2004
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In Case You Didn't Know


Republicans are indeed stupid.

Ann Coulter on Richard Clarke:

Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy. Maybe even as dumb as Clarence Thomas! Perhaps someday liberals could map out the relative intelligence of various black government officials for us.

Novakula is also running that "Clarke is a racist" meme to discredit his obviously damaging 9/11 testimony:

NOVAK: Congressman, do you believe, you're a sophisticated guy, do you believe watching these hearings that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman Condoleezza Rice?

EMANUEL: Say that again?

NOVAK: Do you believe that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman Condoleezza Rice?

EMANUEL: No, no. Bob, give me a break. No. No.

I watched the exchange and couldn't freaking believe it. And to top it all off, the GOP accuses Stephanie Herseth of collecting campaign donations from a "secret" web page:

Republicans have accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Stephanie Herseth of maintaining a secret Web page to receive campaign donations raised from ads on liberal groups' Internet sites.

But a Herseth campaign official scoffed at the charge, saying the Web page is not secret and can be found easily with a standard search of the Internet.

(via dKos)

I don't know whether this makes me feel more or less hopeful about November...

ntodd 
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Empty Nest


It's funny, when I'm done teaching at the end of the week and my students are gone, I get an empty nest feeling. So here are some birds keeping me company in Dallas:


A female boat-tailed grackle wonders why I'm still bothering her when I should be home.


A male throws his head back in song: "School's out for summer!"

Non-photo blogging to come...

ntodd 
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Final Postcard From Home



Sam still loves the step halfway between upstairs and downstairs. And he still wonders why I keep taking pictures of him.

No blogging tomorrow morning, unless I get stuck in the Red Carpet Club again. I've got a 6AM flight. Ugh. Upside: I'll be home by noon if all goes well!

ntodd 
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Howie Endorses Kerry


CNN:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was back on the campaign trail on Thursday after almost a week on vacation, picking up a key endorsement from a formal rival.

At a rally at George Washington University, Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pledged to put their sometimes-bitter primary fight behind them.

"Howard and I understand this election is not about us," Kerry told the cheering crowd.

"It's not about a party. It's about our country. It's about you and your future."

Now give Kerry some coin!

ntodd

PS--We're $92,000 short of Atrios' fundraising...

[Update: should've mentioned that we're up another 25 bucks to $550. Thank you!] 
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Burn The Tapes!



A grumpy Condoliar Rice gets ready to face reporters and rebut the damning testimony Richard Clarke gave during yesterday's 9/11 hearings.

Observation: Clarke made his charges under oath; Rice won't testify. Who's got more cred?

Now that Kerry's vacation is done, maybe you should give him some money to keep the fire lit under BushCo's ass...

ntodd

[Update: speaking of the contrast between Clarke and Rice, Josh has some interesting info/perspective on the "precedent" Condoliar keeps referring to as her excuse to not testify under oath. (via Tena over at Eschaton)] 
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Thursday Postcard From Home



Sam thinks he still fits in the same spots he used to six months ago. He's right in this case...barely.

ntodd 
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
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There Is No Barn


I have nothing to add to the 9/11 discussions happening everywhere else in the blogosphere, so here's a picture from this weekend:


A barn swallow takes care of hygiene on the balcony outside my hotel room window.

ntodd 
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QOTD


Richard Clarke in his opening statement to the 9/11 Panel:

To [the loved ones of the victims of 9/11] who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask -- once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and for your forgiveness.

Thus far the only person to take responsibility and apologize for the failures of the Bush administration.

ntodd 
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Wednesday's Postcard From Home



Saffron has retreated to the shoe rack in the mud room, and is staring at the door in the hopes that it will open so she can escape outdoors and away from Sam.

I'm just a couple days away from escaping Dallas...

ntodd 
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
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Postcard From Dallas


Sorry sports fans, no blogging tonight. I wanted to post on today's testimony by Rummy et al, but I'm wiped. Please accept these pictures in lieu of thoughtful comment:


I think this is a Great Blue Heron. It hangs around the terraced pond behind the training facility, and is the main reason I brought my cam on this trip. Took this on my evening walk after dinner.


Tonight's sunset.

G'night.

ntodd 
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Tuesday's Postcard From Home



Here come the goats!


March Madness hits the barnyard.

ntodd 
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Monday, March 22, 2004
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Holy F'ing God


Yeah, nothing like making martyrs. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Read what I wrote last fall at OSP.

ntodd 
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Monday's Postcard From Home


I've got some pics from the last few weeks that I haven't posted yet. Since I'm on the road, I figured I'd send myself a daily postcard...


It's overcast here in Dallas right now, so a little dose of Sam sunbathing should brighten the day.

ntodd 
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Sunday, March 21, 2004
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Deathmatch: US vs. AQ


In light of recent combat with AQ in Pakistan, I thought this was appropriate. Last week Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS was part of a panel discussing the fallout of M-11 (transcript PDF):

[W]e need to remember that because it's an umbrella organization it doesn't really ultimately matter that much whether bin Laden is captured or al Qaida's key cells and leadership are destroyed. This movement will reemerge and mutate again and again. It will be seen over a period of a decade or more and the forces inside this region are forces that will not go away.
...
[F]rom al Qaida's perspective they can make a claim that they are in fact winning, not losing, the war on terrorism. The victory we have won in Afghanistan is tenuous at best. It is more Kabulstan than Afghanistan. The fighting goes on. The United States is tied down there. The problems of Central Asia continue.

As a result of 9/11 the United States has been pushed away from its traditional Arab allies. There are great tensions between the United States and the Arab Islamic world, partly as a result of our reaction to those crises.
...
From al Qaida's viewpoint Iraq is by any standard not an American victory as yet. We have seen a contained secular movement replaced by deep divisions within the Islamic world and Islamists emerging as a serious threat within Iraq. Al Qaida has so far done more to dominate the Arab media than the United States. The U.S. effort to win the information battle and hearts and minds has been sufficiently inept so it gets condemned even in the Jerusalem Post. We need to be very careful about what has happened there. We have found our calls for democracy and reform often seen in the Arab world and not without support from or encouragement from al Qaida and imperialism, as trying to dominate the region, as overthrowing the regime. We have seen what are often good initiatives twisted and turned into what appears to be the U.S. enforcing its own dual standard.
...
This does not mean we are losing the war on terrorism and al Qaida's perspectives are not the perspectives we have in the United States and the West. But I think it is very important in looking at what is happening here to see not only how al Qaida may view this but other Salafi Islamists and other extremists and terrorist groups throughout this region.

I should mention one last point. The Arab-Israeli conflict remains an open wound amid all of this. A wound that divides us from Europe as well as from the Arab world. A wound which threatens Israel. And it is a wound which more and more if you look at Islamist extremists is one which they have picked up. On 9/11 it seems fair to say that the Arab-Israeli conflict was largely ignored by these movements and it was also seen at best as a secondary priority. Since that time they have capitalized on that as they have on Iraq.

Echoes some things I've said here recently, and over the past year. I'm too busy to add anything of substance right now. Just thought people should see Cordesman's analysis, which I think is spot on (again).

ntodd

[Update: ATimes has an article about blowback, and offers a little more on the Salafist movement Cordesman alludes to...] 
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Check, Please!


Now Rook's gone and done it...

ntodd 
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The Horror


At the box office his weekend, a horror flick about dead people who rise up beat out a horror flick about a dead guy who rose up. I want to see the former, but have no interest in the latter...

ntodd 
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The Joys Of Travel



A line forms at the gate in Burlington where our 2:46PM flight was s'posed to depart (it finally did at 4 o'clock).


Getting close to overcast Chicago, with the sun trying to break through (there was no sun when our 4:50PM flight to Dallas got off the ground at 8 o'clock).

ntodd 
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Saturday, March 20, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Spring Chorus


"Rejoice! Spring returns,"
exalts the blackbird chorus.
Yet a light snow falls.

ntodd

Note: I'd planned to publish this on 3/20, but weather and mechanical delays conspired against me, so I arrived in DFW very late. Anyway, I decided to back date it even though this is appearing on 3/21. And yes, it really was snowing as I departed on the Vernal Equinox. 
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New Year


What's a year of war in human lives? 577 American soldiers. ~10,000 Iraqi civilians. And many more from other countries.

Year 2 of George's Iraqi Disaster begins...

ntodd 
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Friday, March 19, 2004
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Since Kevin Won't


Here's some cat blogging for Friday:


Sam The Boneless Wonder attacks his scratching post. Below his rear leg you can see evidence that he doesn't actually use his scratching post for scratching.

ntodd 
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Find Your Happy Place



Unhappy with a bogus "coalition" that's coming apart at the seams, his falling poll numbers and a bad hair day, President Bush tries to center himself with some Tai Chi on the South Lawn.

ntodd 
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Way Better Than Atrios


Okay, so Atrios has raised $72264.09 for Kerry thus far, compared to $525.00 from DM readers. As my wife observed, if you look at his daily traffic versus mine, it turns out that my readers have given 2 times more money on average. Excellent job, everybody!

ntodd

PS--A little more couldn't hurt...

[Update: oops, major typo. 2 times, not 21 times. But what's the difference?] 
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Democracy For America


Ho-ho today:

We will begin with this proposition. In 2004, to start taking back America, we must take back the White House. We must expose and defeat George W. Bush and his radical agenda. Our new enterprise will help in every way possible. We intend to focus on key battleground states, mobilizing our national network of supporters and the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign. We will help some with support through our political action committee. I will travel to speak on behalf of candidates. We will put to work our national grassroots network and organizing tools to help candidates win.

And with that, Democracy for America launches...

ntodd 
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Good Employment News In VT


Our already relatively good unemployment situation is gradually improving here. The labor force grew from 353,400 people to 353,800, and employment went up from 339,990 to 340,700. All told, our unemployment rate dipped another 0.1% to 3.7%.

It's unclear if people are getting good jobs or not. It also appears that temp work accounts for increased employment in professional and business services, which seems par for the course during this "recovery". All that said, I'll take this as a positive sign. Would that the rest of the country was doing better.

ntodd 
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Moral Conflict


NYTimes:

A bomb exploded today outside a hotel in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and guerrillas and American forces exchanged fire west of Baghdad, continuing the violence that has marked the first anniversary this week of the Iraqi war.

More violence in the clusterfuck known as Iraqi Freedom, which wingers like to conflate with the "war" on terror. Alas, they're now probably right to do so since our illegal invasion has only fostered conditions for even more terrorism. This guy is on the right track:

I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he's done too little. When the focus of the War on Terror was appropriately in Afghanistan and on breaking al Qaeda, President Bush shifted his focus to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. He's pushed away our allies at a time when we need them most. He hasn't pursued a strategy to win the hearts and minds of people around the world and win the war of ideas against the radical ideology of Osama bin Laden.

Kerry hits an important point: this "war" at its heart is about ideas. We can't win if we give bin Laden perfect material for his recruitment videos while we fail to provide a positive alternative. Further, BushCo keeps referring to how many al Qaeda leaders we've captured or killed since 9/11, but that sounds chillingly similar to body counts during Viet Nam, and is about as productive. In that vein, G.I. Wilson, a retired a Marine Corps Reserve Colonel, has this to say:

This enemy cannot be overcome by simply killing them. Their deaths mean martyrdom. Where they fall, dozens or hundreds spring up to take their places. They cannot be overcome solely through firepower attrition, because all death caused by the West accrue to this enemy's benefit, proving their thesis that annihilation is still King in all struggles for power. Waging conflict with massive firepower and high technology are the hallmark of the great Satan to them.

As in all conflict the aftermath is not pretty and we need to recognize with Iraq that "the baby is ugly". Wehave violated General Zinni's twenty principles* of humanitarian operations. However, we still have a window of opportunity to make a dramatic difference if we work hard at creating Iraqi jobs, get Iraqi security forces firmly in place, establish venues for free press, provide extensive internet and media access to the Iraqi people, enhance the infrastructure, and control the borders of Iraq.

Yet a year into the conflict, Iraq's infrastructure is a shambles (e.g., electricity production is still below pre-war levels), and Iraqis throw stones and yell at us to leave whenever another bomb goes off. Small wonder Spain wants to withdraw their troops if we still are in charge of the mess.

The late Colonel John R. Boyd, the brilliant strategist who introduced the concept of the OODA loop1, put a lot of thought into the type of "highly irregular warfare" that we're encountering in Iraq, Spain and elsewhere. First we need to look at the essence of moral conflict, as practiced by our opponents, which is based on three elements:
We've certainly got all that in spades. Boyd observed that we need positive counterweights to the negative side of moral conflict:

[W]e find that the counterweights to menace and uncertainty are not at all obvious unless we start with mistrust and work in the reverse order. Proceeding in this way we note that...[t]he presence of mistrust implies that there is a rupture or loosening of the human bonds or connections that permit individuals to work as an organic whole in harmony with one another. This suggests that harmony itself represents an appropriate counterweight to mistrust.

Harmony for Boyd was defined as interaction of apparently disconnected events or entities in a connected way. To me this all fits in with the Spanish elections and our fight against al Qaeda.

First of all, the conflict is not just about the United States and al Qaeda, but involves other entities including our allies. It also includes civilians, not just members of the military, for we are both victims of terror attacks and part of the defense against them. Civilians in a democracy are key to success, so any government that wants to defeat al Qaeda must engage the people constructively.

The conflict is also not as simple as "they hit us, we hit back". It involves diplomacy, economics, culture, and myriad other factors. We must be aware of these diverse element and understand that not everybody is going to perceive the problem or the solution in the same way. To assume that Arabs want their country to be an American-style capitalist democracy is unwise. Similarly, to dismiss Spaniards as cowards or appeasers does nothing to bring about harmony.

As I've said before, it's clear that the greatest impact 11-M had on the electorate was not the attack per se, but the government's reaction (i.e., misleading the public). I suspect the PSOE still might've won, judging by the polls, but it was the atmosphere of mistrust that sealed the PP's fate.

Mistrust is exactly what hinders us the most in this struggle. It's mistrust between people and their government, and mistrust between governments. That's probably the biggest negative consequence of the missing WMD in Iraq: the US made terrible weapons out to be the basis for the war, and whether it be through willfull deceit, disastrous incompetence, or a combination of both, BushCo sowed the seeds of mistrust themselves. With more Americans doubting the case for Iraq2, and allies such as Spain and Poland feeling deceived, we lose the necessary counterweight of harmony and are in grave danger of losing this moral conflict.

So what can the Bush administration right now do to be truly "tough on terror"? There's one lesson they should really take from Spain: come clean. The American people are sensing the deceptions used to get us into Iraq, and the adminstration is getting publicly caught in their lies and exaggerations2. In the end, the truth will out and we will punish those who misled us, just as the Spaniards did. It would be much better for BushCo to be up front about their mistakes, truly cooperate with the 9/11 and Iraq Intel commissions, and support a full accounting of what happened.

Beyond any political considerations, being truthful is an absolute requirement for us to defeat al Qaeda and their ilk. If the US government cannot be honest with its own people, then it is clearly not capable of being honest with its allies, nor with the people whose hearts and minds we need to win over if we wish to succeed in this moral conflict.

ntodd


1 - Boyd spelled it out in Patterns of Conflict, available in complete form as a PDF. The file is a couple meg and is essentially a scan of Boyd's typewritten monograph. For ease of excerption, I'm linking to another site which has distilled the concepts in HTML in a discussion on business strategy.

2 - See MoveOn's Caught on Video for but one example.

3 - PDF of a March 17th poll by Annenburg.

[Update: fixed a couple of things, including my misordered footnotes.] 
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I Was Right


The other day I observed that the PP was losing ground in Spain before 11-M, and that if anything, the governments lies about the attacks were just the last straw. The UPI appears to support my view:

Islamist fundamentalists may well think they have won, and that Thursday's slaughter moved the Spanish electorate to vote the way they intended them to. However, believing that would be wrong.

Independent polls carried out on Wednesday, the day before the bombings, showed the Socialists ahead with a slight majority.

A poll carried out by Noxa Consulting on Wednesday gave the Socialists less than a 2 percent margin, putting them, nevertheless, in the lead. A similar poll conducted Friday -- a day after the attacks, gave the Socialists an even greater lead. The big difference -- and the clear reason of the Socialist victory -- was the nearly 3 million votes the Socialists added while Aznar's now not so Popular Party lost about 690,000 votes.

One also must take into consideration the millions of young protestors who took to the streets of Spanish cities in the days before the start of the Iraq war a year ago this week. They were expressing their opposition to Aznar's policy of allying Spain with the United States in the war effort. Then, many were too young to vote. This year they voted.

There ya go, wingnuts. But please, do carry on with your rants about al Qaeda winning and how Spainiards are appeasers.

ntodd 
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Winds Of Change


Whoohoo! We won all three of our v-ball games tonight. The secret: only 6 people from our team showed up, so we didn't have to rotate anybody in. That always kills our chemistry. Oh, and we got our serves in consistently, and played very well overall.

I was extremely pleased with how I played. Some monster spikes, a few nice blocks, and my serve was really on. I served for 7 points in the 1st game, 6 in the 2nd, and served out the last 5 in the 3rd. Nice to be on the other side of a sweep for a change.

ntodd 
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Life Imitates Snark


A statement from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, who claims responsibility for 11-M, was released today (via Atrios):

The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

So will the wingers now say we should vote for Bush because the terrorists want him to win? The battle of wits has begun:

Me - Now a clever terrorist would endorse the man they don't want to win, because he would know that only a great fool would vote for whomever AQ endorsed. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the candidate AQ endorsed. But they must have known I was not a great fool, they would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the candidate they did not endorse.

OBL - Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

Wait till I get going! Where was I?

ntodd 
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Mass Casualties In Iraq


CNN reports:

A powerful explosion, apparently from a car bomb, went off in central Baghdad today, killing 27 people and wounding 40, according to senior U.S. military officials. The blast destroyed the Mount Lebanon Hotel and damaged nearby houses and offices. "It's a scene from hell here," CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf said.

According to Brookings' Iraq Index, it's a scene that has been more or less repeated 61 times since August, 2003, killing a total of 722 people, and wounding 1849. While there have been fewer "mass casualty bombings" this month than in February, the insurgents appear to be getting more effective at killing and wounding:



Is the tragedy in occupied Iraq only going to get worse? A year after the war began, I'm more pessimistic than ever.

ntodd

* The Iraq Index was complete through 3/15, and I added today's reported casualties when making the chart. 
   |


Happy St. Pat's Day


BushCo and their hit squads must've gotten into the sauce a little early this year1. How else to explain the latest wacko lies and smears?

Josh over at TPM (via BBWW) addresses the latest Bush ad:

This one uses last year's $87 billion Iraq supplemental, and the fact that Kerry voted against it, to accuse him of voting against each of the various line items for troop funding included in the bill. Now, this is inherently misleading since I believe Kerry, like many other Dems, voted for an alternative bill which would have funded these needs by rescinding part of Bush tax cuts.

As I observed over at Mustang Bobby's, Josh is sorta right. Kerry was co-sponsor of the Biden amendment (S.Amdt. 1796) that proposed to "provide funds for the security and stabilization of Iraq by suspending a portion of the reductions in the highest income tax rate for individual taxpayers." That would've been tacked onto the Emergency Supplemental (S.1689) that was eventually passed, but the amendment was tabled.

Here's what Kerry said on the Senate floor on October 17, 2003 (PDF of CR page S12816):

I have said many times, and I will say it again, it is critical that we succeed in Iraq. But it is equally important that we do the job the right way--the way that best protects our troops on the ground, enhances our security, and shields the American taxpayer from undue burden. President Bush's approach fails this test.

I support our troops in Iraq--and their mission. I believe we must do our part to reconstruct Iraq and make it a force for peace and stability in the region. I am prepared to spend whatever it takes to win the peace. But I want to spend that money responsibly and effectively--pursuant to a strategy that will maximize our prospects for success through greater internationalization and burden sharing and provide the transparency and accountability that American taxpayers expect and deserve when we spend their hard-earned money. I want to be sure that the financial costs are distributed, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, among those Americans who can best afford to pay. Unfortunately, the President and his advisers disagree.

I cannot vote for the President's $87 billion request because his is not the most effective way to protect American soldiers and to advance our interests.

Kerry had 5 objections to the bill, which I'll summarize:

  1. The reconstruction portion was clearly padded with unnecessary spending.

  2. Halliburton got billions of dollars in a no-bid contract.

  3. There was no specific spending plan for 20 billion in reconstruction dollars.

  4. There was no plan to pay for it all. That's where the Biden amendment came in.

  5. There was no urgency to pass the bill since there was already money allocated. Kerry wanted to take the time to get more contributions from other countries.

All very reasonable issues to bring up. Kerry concluded his remarks:

[I]t is incumbent upon us to ask what needs at home are underfunded? The answer is: plenty, including health care, education and homeland security.

The President must be held accountable and he must change course. While he may still salvage success in Iraq, the question we must ask is: at what cost--in terms of dollars and lives? We should do this the right way. We can win the peace in Iraq but we cannot--and should not--do it alone. Our troops on the ground deserve a strategy that will take the target off their backs and bring them home more quickly. The American people deserve a strategy that decreases the bill, pays our costs fairly, and makes America safer. We must have a new approach, one that maximizes international cooperation and burden sharing and minimizes the risk of failure. If the President adopts that new approach, I will gladly support any proposal that funds it.

In short, Kerry supported our troops, reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and winning the peace. He voted against a bill that he (rightly) felt was ineffective and incorrectly funded, but in BushCo's binary world there are no alternative approaches: it's either the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Act, 2004, or the highway.

Josh has more:

[T]he commercial highlights three budget items, each of which were ones the president opposed and had to be bullied into supporting -- by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The text narration says: ""No body armor for troops in combat. No higher combat pay. No to better health care for reservists and their families. No -- wrong on defense." What's most bracing about this narration is that this is actually a pretty factual statement if the target is the president, not Kerry. Now, one claim really stands out here. The ad says Kerry voted no to "higher combat pay." This is truly a milestone in the long bilious history of gall.

Read the whole post to see BushCo chutzpah in all its glory. And if that isn't enough to get your blood boiling, check out another wonderful smear that Hesiod debunks (via ODub):

Now the fuckers are saying that John kerry ignored a warning about lax security at Logan airport in 2001, which directly led to (ta! da!) the 9/11 attacks!

I hope Kerry fights back quickly, and hard, against this bullshit. He'll need money to do it--thanks very much to all of you who have helped him out thus far.

ntodd

1 - In all fairness, they might've started partying for St. Urho yesterday, just as we did. 
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Speaking Of Kevin Drum


He's moved into his new digs over at The Washington Monthly.

ntodd 
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My Protest Worked!


Clearly changing my blog's name to The NTodd Times really got The NYTimes' attention according to CalPundit:

Yesterday the Times withdrew its objection and sent Cox the following email:

Thank you for responding to our complaint. By adding the bold-faced disclaimer at the top of the faux Columnist Corrections Page, you are no longer confusing readers and as a result of this change, we agree that the page is now a parody which is protected under the First Amendment. We are copying Verio on this e-mail in order to inform them that we no longer have any objections to your site.

...I got an email from their new Public Editor (or, rather, from "The Office of the Public Editor") telling me about their change of heart. Presumably they sent this email to anyone who blogged about this...

Okay, so my lark actually meant nothing, nor did I get an e-mail from the Times. Sigh. Well, at least the right thing happened (note the passive voice).

ntodd 
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Battle Of Wits


Norbizness at Hapless Mangy Kitten Lying Press Conference1 tells us that David Frum is as insane as David Brooks:

[T]he terrorists want the political parties of the pro-American right to lose, as they did in Spain. Logically, then, that implies that the terrorists want the parties of the anti-American left to win.

Jesse at Pandagon helps us understand Frum's babble:

If someone attacks the U.S. successfully before the election, it's evidence that we need to reward the people who failed to prevent the attack. Failure to prevent terrorist attacks necessitates a reward so that the terrorists don't know that their successful mass murder affected us at all.

Kevin over at Lean Left also translates for us:

In other words, Frum has said, in print, that the American people should not under any circumstances vote for who they think would be the best candidate. No, instead, they have an obligation to try and figure out what the terrorists want us to do and then do the opposite.

To be fair, Frum doesn't come right out and say we should vote for Bush if there's an attack, and a vote for Kerry is a vote for Osama bin Missing, but that's clearly the subtext. It all comes down to our assumptions about what the terrorists want.

I saw on CNN that al Qaeda planned "terrorist attacks to oust Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Partido Popular from power and replace it with the Socialists."2 So in the winger world, Spain should have voted unanimously to keep the PP in power because that's exactly the opposite of what the terrorists wanted! Why does the "battle of wits" in Princess Bride suddenly spring to mind?

Now a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

In all seriousness, doesn't all this stuff sound like a bunch of reverse-reverse-reverse psychology? That's why we must safeguard our democratic processes more than ever and vote for whom we want, not for the candidate we think somebody else doesn't want. Otherwise, the terrorists have already won the battle of wits.

ntodd

1 - Sorry, but I didn't feel like coming up with a new nickname.

2 - How much credence do you give information that came from an Internet discussion board?

[Update: I changed HFPST's name, per norbizness' exhortation. I also added a link to a page with the full "battle of wits" exchange.]

['nother update: see my post about about how Life Imitates Snark.] 
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Who Won In Spain?


I'm only going to say this once: The Spanish election results are not a victory for al Qaeda.

While clearly the 11-M attacks had some impact on the election, it was not the only factor in the outcome. Many wingers claim that the PP was poised to win 'handily', and thus the terrorists swayed the election the other way. But if you look at the polls leading up to the election, you can clearly see that support was already falling away.

Here's a report from 3/4:

Support for the Spanish People's party government is ebbing away as concern about terrorism and separatism dominates the general election campaign, according to opinion polls published yesterday.
...
Nine days before polling, its lead over the opposition Socialists has fallen to 5-7 points.
...
Two months ago some polls gave [the PP] a lead of almost 11 points.

And a day before the election:

Before the attacks, polls gave [the PP] a 3-5% point lead over the Socialists...

So there was a already a downward trend for the ruling party, and its fate seems only to have been sealed by the Spanish government's bumbling attempt to pin blame for the attacks on ETA and not al Qaeda:

A lot of people were already angry with the goverment before the 11-M, but many of them didn't feel happy with the socialist party either. But it's true that after the bombs, and when the spaniards realized that it was not ETA, and after the way the government handled the situation, many people decided to vote against the goverment. It was a punishment to the goverment more than a reward to the socialists.

In other words, the democratic process worked. The people were already down on the folks in power, turned out in record numbers, and voiced their displeasure with a government that defied their will, was not effectively dealing with terrorism, and lied to them. Democracy won.

That's what is supposed to happen, although you'd never guess it from what fascist savants like David Brooks write:

[I]t was crazy to go ahead with an election a mere three days after the Madrid massacre.

So after 9/11 we were told to go shopping and go about our lives as normal because otherwise "the terrorists have already won." But heaven forfend that an election in a democracy could go on in the wake of an attack--that's just crazy talk! There's more:

If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party?

Ah, now I see where the wingers are heading: the Spaniards might have been foolish voting after a tragic failure to prevent terrorism, but we won't make the same mistake. Might as well cancel the election because we know Bush will win. And thus, so will al Qaeda.

ntodd 
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None In The Paw, One In The Bush



A chickadee outside the bedroom window held Sam's rapt attention for several minutes.

ntodd 
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Monday, March 15, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Kerry Core


In comments below, faithful reader andante noted that she just gave another 50 bucks to Kerry. Thanks! So how are we collectively doing compared to the big guys' fundraising efforts?
Ahem.

ntodd 
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Perspective On 11-M


ATimes:

The Madrid bombings were timed for just three days before the general election. The Aznar government fell into the trap and immediately blamed ETA, without any evidence or investigation. Already by Thursday night it was leaked that the Foreign Ministry had ordered Spanish ambassadors around the world to blame ETA. Then the global jihad started unleashing its second artillery barrage: al-Qaeda and/or affiliates started claiming authorship by e-mail and video, as clues were progressively "dropped" around - the van with the detonators and the Koran tape, the dynamite backpack linked to a cellular phone. For its part, ETA vehemently denied any involvement - twice. The ruling Popular Party may have seen it coming by Saturday, when a real "SMS revolution" - as the word in Barcelona's streets goes - launched a series of spontaneous political demonstrations against the government's "lies" and "manipulation".
...
Barcelona took to the streets in force on Saturday - again displaying countless badges and flags first used in February 2003, when the city was in the frontline of the demonstrations against the coming war on Iraq. Meanwhile, in the Basque country, solidarity with the victims in Madrid soon merged with deep anger. "To see the word 'Basque' assimilated to this barbaric act, this creates a shock beyond anyone's ideology. We defend our identity and our culture, but no one is ready to pay such a price," said Panpi Dirassar, a spokesman for Batasuna. The crowds in Bilbao were furious that "the Basques had become the new Jews of this century".

The Aznar strategy totally backfired. According to numerous polls, as many as 70 percent of Spaniards consider Aznar, Bush's and Tony Blair's "third man in the photo", an "arrogant and intolerant" character. During his second term (2000-04), he personalized authoritarian, centralized Castile almost to cartoonish proportions, fighting against Basque and Catalan nationalism (no wonder both regions voted massively against the PP).
...
Only one day before M-11, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had finished the simulation of an Islamist attack against a Dutch chemical plant, leaving 200 dead. But what really happened the day after was even more unprecedented: the global jihad directly influencing the outcome of a general election in a Western democracy.

ntodd 
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Beware The Ides Of March


Another move, another play by Shakespeare.

ntodd 
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Don't Change Horsemen Mid-apocalypse




Putin wins a landslide and the Manezh burns down. I'm sure it's not an omen or anything...

ntodd 
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William Safire Is A Thief And A Liar


Safire in the NYTimes today:

Senator John Kerry, campaigning last week in Chicago, let loose with his opinion of Republicans opposing him as "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."
...
Was it wise for a candidate for president to characterize Republicans — tens of millions of American voters, including even veterans — as thieves and liars?

No duh, it's not wise to charactierize tens of millions of Republican voters as thieves and liars, which is why Kerry didn't do that. And Safire knows it, as you can tell by his first graf: Kerry's comment was about the "Republicans opposing him". In other words, BushCo.

The full quote, told to a supporter, was about carrying the fight to the GOP this year:

Let me tell you, we've just begun to fight. We're going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen.

The supporter agreed, saying, "It's scary."

It certainly is scary, and it certainly is nice to see that Kerry won't make the same mistakes Dukakis and Gore did. He's not going to allow the GOP to frame this debate and stick negative labels on him: he's fighting back. I think that has unsettled BushCo and apologists like Safire, so they are printing more and more fallacious tripe in their columns, working themselves into a fit of faux pique about an imagined insult against millions of Republicans. Proof positive that the wheels are flying off the winger machine.

The next 8 months are going to be nasty, but I suspect also quite entertaining.

ntodd

PS - Did I mention that William Safire is a thief and a liar? Yeah, he's a thief and a liar
   |



My brush with insanity at The NTodd Times is now history. Dohiyi Mir has returned...

ntodd 

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Sunday, March 14, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Act 3, Scene 2


Up to the breach, you dogs! avaunt, you cullions! Rook stages a strategic retreat in Bloggers Chess...

ntodd 
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Spanish Voters Issue Warning To Bush


CNN:

In a dramatic rebuff to the ruling conservative Popular Party, Spain's Socialists have claimed victory in Sunday's national elections.

With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, the Socialist Workers Party is on track to win 163 seats in the country's 350-seat parliament, just shy of an absolute majority.
...
Turnout was high at 76 percent with voters seeming to expressd anger with the government, accusing it of provoking the Madrid attacks by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which most Spaniards opposed.

Spain's general election was thrown wide open by a reported al Qaeda claim that it was responsible for Thursday's Madrid train bombings to punish the government for supporting the Iraq war.

Before Thursday, the Popular Party had been favored to win by a comfortable margin, making its leader, Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister.

ntodd

[Update: since my predictions are usually pretty bad, I'd like to point out that I speculated the PP would lose over at dKos today:

I can't think that any attack helps incumbents at this point.

It's cliched to say 9/11 changed everything here, but it certainly did in this sense: we learned how vulnerable we were, and the American public turned to the only guy available to protect us. If an attack happened on US soil any time leading up to our election, I have to think that people would view it as a definite failure of BushCo. He got a pass because he was newly installed when 9/11 happened, it was such a shock, and nobody at the time knew just how badly he fucked things up before then. Now after years of hearing Bush say we're "safer, stronger", an attack would pop that balloon really fast. No chance to blame Clinton this time.

I think there could be a similar, but even more intense reaction to Aznar. Voting ends at 1900GMT, so I guess we'll know in a few hours.

Some folks over at CalPundit are declaring the Spanish results a victory for Al Qaeda. I disagree: this is a repudiation of failed policies, and victory for the democratic process. If anything, AQ should be worried that the people aren't willing to continue trying the same old, wrong crap.]
 
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Iraqi WMD: Bush Administration Competent, Credible


Condoliar on MTP today:

The president wants to know, as much as anybody, and probably more than anyone else, what became of the weapons of mass destruction. We were all somewhat surprised that we have not yet found them.

"Somewhat surprised"?!

ntodd

[Correction: Oh, forget it...] 
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US Safer, Stronger Under Bush



"We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent (ready) and God willing near." (via Kick the Leftist)

Without the steady leadership of George W. Bush, "Winds of Black Death" would be 100% ready.

ntodd

[Correction: It's clear that Bush's policies haven't done a damn bit of good. And while the NTodd Times obviously cannot determine if the message is authentic, it does give the editors a bit of a the creeps (aside: did you know that if you enter 'heebiejeebies' at MW.com, one of the suggested words that comes up is 'Wahhabis'? Coincidence? I think not.) Does the strike name refer to a dirty bomb? A biological attack? Is it just a psyop? Will a Kerry presidency be able to defend against terror any better than BushCo? How? What do you think, readers?]

[Further correction: Analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute concludes the letter is not from Al Qaeda. The editors at The NTodd Times are not sure if that makes us feel any better.] 
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Bombings In Madrid, Iraq Prove War On Terror Succeeding


NYTimes:

Spain's interior minister said early Sunday that a videotape has been discovered claiming that Al Qaeda carried out train terrorist attacks on Thursday that killed hundreds, but that its authenticity could not be confirmed. Several hours earlier, Spain arrested three Moroccans and two Indians in connection with the bombings.

With Al Qaeda on the run and completely incapable of conducting terrorist activities, I think we can safely declare victory now, just as we'll be able to soon in Iraq:

Bomb attacks in Baghdad killed four U.S. soldiers, the Army said on Sunday, bringing to nine the number of troops killed in Iraq in the last four days by explosives planted by guerrillas to target American patrols.

While there was no mention of WMD being found, which would completely justify the soldiers' deaths, I'm sure the New York Times' Judith Miller will find something soon. But whatever--clearly our fly paper strategy continues to be effective.

ntodd

[Correction: Al Qaeda apparently is capable of conducting terrorist activities, and no WMD will ever be found in Iraq.] 
   |

Saturday, March 13, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


In Peace There's Nothing So Becomes A Man...


No modest stillness and humility as I FINALLY make my next Bloggers Chess move.

ntodd 
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Cow 54, Where Are You?



One of the cows down the road. They're all very friendly. Cairo is deathly afraid of them.

ntodd 
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President Admits His Economic Policies Are A Miserable Failure


Mr. Bush's radio address today:

Some politicians in Washington see this new [economic] challenge, and they want to respond in old, ineffective ways.

While the President criticized protectionist policies, he neglected to mention the steel tariffs his administration imposed in a cynical political gambit to secure votes in Rust Belt states. Mr. Bush went on to say that his tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly flat job growth despite administration claims that they would create millions of new jobs, should be made permanent. He then called Senator John Kerry, his opponent in this year's presidential election, a poopy head.

ntodd

[Correction: It has been brought to the editor's attention that Mr. Bush in fact did not call Mr. Kerry a poopy head. The NTodd Times regrets the error. Sorta.] 
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Why I Hate The DMCA: Reason# 314


It has pretty much destroyed the concept of "fair use", and bullies like the NYTimes wield the act to bludgeon free speech with reckless abandon. Maybe the big bloggers like Kevin and Atrios should sponsor a "Talk Like The Times Day" or something. I think I'll rename my blog NTodd Times and start publishing wildly inaccurate information...

ntodd 
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Shorter Brooks


Nuance? Shades of grey? Third options? I hear the words but I don't understand what you're saying.

ntodd 
   |


Heartwarming


WaPo:

A string of glaring missteps by President Bush's economic team has raised alarm among the president's supporters that his economic policymakers may have lost the most basic ability to formulate a persuasive message or anticipate the political consequences of their actions.

In recent weeks, the White House has had to endure its chief economist's positive comments about job "outsourcing," or sending work overseas; controversial passages in the annual Economic Report of the President; questions over the legitimacy of Bush's 2005 budget; a California swing in which Bush bragged about the possible addition of two or three jobs to a 14-person business in Bakersfield and a flap over a job-creation forecast that not even the president could stand by.
...
"Clearly, the machinery's not working very well," said Bruce Bartlett, an economist with the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, who noted that this White House has been known for its discipline on message.
...
[O]utside the White House, allies are worried. The recent losing streak has the administration "on its heels," said Daniel J. Mitchell, an economist at the Heritage Foundation.

There's still a long way to go, so let's not get cocky. But damn, it's nice to see the administration not get a free pass for its gaffes. They clearly assumed they could get away with anything because the press has been so compliant since the 2000 election--I wonder if they can adjust their strategy to take the new Democratic spine and a questioning media into account?

ntodd 
   |


Good Night, Bad Night


Very fun poker night yesterday. I missed our last session, so it was great to see everybody and get back into it. After a few hours of playing very well and being up quite a bit for the night, I had a wonderful hand and totally misplayed it, and it was downhill from there. Oy, I lost 16 bucks in the end. What are the odds of that?

ntodd 
   |

Friday, March 12, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Standing For What's Right


So the CA Supreme Court has halted gay marriages in SFO. Bad news, not unexpected, and not a show stopper. Let's keep the faith. There was a rally in response, and I virtually attended (look in the red circle!) with some other folks you know from the blogosphere:



Thanks, Houston, for carrying the banner for us.

ntodd 
   |


Five Percent For Nothing1


WaPo
:

"I think considering the possibility of extending unemployment benefits is not a bad idea," Greenspan said in response to questioning at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He added that he has supported such extensions before, "in times like this."

This makes a lot of sense, so our compassionate conservatives in charge are falling all over themselves to immediately implement this sound advice, right? Here's yesterday's WH press gaggle:

Question: Scott, one other question. Mr. Greenspan, this morning, before a House Education Committee, endorsed an extension of unemployment benefits. The administration has been opposed to that so far. Is the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't -- I think that -- let me correct the premise of your question. Where has anyone ever said -- made such a statement?

Question: Well, do you endorse what Mr. Greenspan said?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to be talking about our economy today. The President is optimistic about the direction our economy is moving. And the best thing we can do for those who are looking for work and cannot find a job is to continue taking steps that create as robust an environment as possible for job creation. You heard the President talk yesterday about how we are an economy in transition. And you heard him talk about the trade adjustment assistance we have provided. You heard him talk about the job training resources that we have provided. And you heard him talk about the importance of acting on his 21st century initiative to make sure workers have the skills to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

Obviously, we've always said that -- in terms of the question that you asked -- that we will continue to work with Congress on those issues. But I think that the best way to help those who are out of work is to create an environment for robust job creation. So we've added jobs now for six straight months. The unemployment rate is below the average of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. We've seen a sharp decline in the unemployment rate. But this President recognizes there's more to do and that's why he's continuing to advocate the policies he talked about yesterday.

Question: So what about Mr. Greenspan's comments on supporting extension of jobless benefits?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've expressed our view.

You certainly have expressed your view, Scotty. You pulled out the tired "when did we ever say that" crap and evaded the question. Further, when you claim BushCo will "work with Congress" it is clear that you don't want to extend benefits at all. Sen. McConnell said this the other day* in the Senate (PDF):

[A] 5.6 percent jobless rate was the best of times under President Clinton and now it is the worst of times under President Bush. It's the best of times under President Clinton, worst of times under President Bush. This is spin. That is all it is. How can at one time 5.6 percent be considered the sign of a healthy economy and at other times not?

We see the same kind of spin on policy. Under the previous administration and when the House and Senate were controlled by our friends on the other side of the aisle, temporary unemployment compensation benefits were allowed to expire at 6.4 percent unemployment. Again, temporary jobless benefits expired when the jobless rate was at 6.4 percent and not a word of complaint was heard from our friends on the other side of the aisle in 1994. It was the best policy back in 1994 to allow temporary unemployment to expire at 6.4 percent. That was the policy back then. Now 10 years later, when the same temporary unemployment compensation benefit expired because the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, the same policy under a better economy is called an outrageous act.

Sen. McConnell and his friend Sen. Santorum had a nice little repartee in which they expressed great confusion over why 5.6% unemployment today isn't the same as it was in 1996. To them, things are rosy and thus unemployment benefits should not be renewed during the Bush Jobloss Recovery, just like during the Clinton Boom. They doesn't read too good, does they?

First of all, we can't really compare apples to apples because we only have 2 months of data for 2004, with a steady 5.6% unemployment rate2. In 1996 that rate actually was as low as 5.1% during the year, and fluctuated quite a bit between 5.2 and 5.4%. Jury's still out on this year, but given our practically nonexistent job growth it's hard to see the situation really improving. However, there's one thing that has helped keep the rate artificially low: people falling off the labor radar screen.

The labor force participation rate dropped to 65.9% last month, which is lower than at any point during 1996. This is happening because we only count people who are actively looking for work, and there are no jobs to be found so people are just giving up. According to the Economic Policy Institute, if we count the "missing labor force", the unemployment rate would actually be 7.4%. Folks, that would put us at exactly the same politically deadly figure as we had in 1992!

In other words, the situation is bad and lots of people are hurting. The average duration of unemployment is now a staggering 20.3 weeks, which is significantly higher than the 16.4 week average at the same point in 1996. It's unconscionable that Bush and GOP Congress members have refused to extend unemployment benefits, justifying their actions by trotting out the canard that unemployment isn't so bad.

One of the reasons Bush I lost his job in 1992 was that he appeared to minimize the economic pain people were enduring. He was "out of touch" and thus seemed to lack compassion. At this point, I can't accept that these guys are ignorant about the differences between 1996 and 2004, so I can only conclude that they are in fact heartless bastards and spinning madly in a desperate attempt to confuse the public, hoping we'll yet again vote against our own economic interests.

Another thought occurs: what if the Republicans are holding back on benefits in an effort to keep the unemployment rate low? If you pass another extension, people will start getting counted again as being in the workforce because you have to be "available for and actively seeking work" to get benefits. With no jobs being created, this would boost the size of the labor pool without a corresponding increase in the number of people employed. The unemployment rate would balloon, perhaps up to that very high, unspinnable 7.4% level. That would be as bad for Bush II as it was for Bush I, so clearly this must be avoided at all costs, even if it means pain for average Americans.

Or perhaps I'm being too cynical...

ntodd

1 - A million bonus points for anybody who guesses the significance of the post title.

2 - All of my unemployment data comes from the BLS monthly "A" tables.

* [Update: oops, McConnell was talking on 3/9.] 
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More Medicare Mendacity


'member how a few days ago I talked about Mark McClellan? I'm astounded to find that BushCo's arrogance, deception and bully tactics know no bounds:

The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.

When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.

Imagine that: Bush and crew feel they have a right to withhold crucial information from Congress and the American people, threaten to fire someone if that person dares tell the truth, and think that nobody will find out. I know I should no longer be surprised, but still, my mind boggles...

ntodd 
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Thursday, March 11, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Eight Months...


...of this crap:

Bush, shrugging off recent criticism for using images from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in his campaign ads, traveled to New York to appear at a groundbreaking ceremony for a 9/11 memorial, bowing his head in prayer and calling it "a devastating blow."

Bush launched his campaign's first attack ads, accusing the Massachusetts senator of planning to raise taxes by $900 billion, weaken the Patriot Act that expanded law enforcement powers and seek U.N. approval for defending the United States.

Give to Kerry so we can fight back against Bush's photo ops and lies. It's going to be a long slog...

ntodd 
   |


There Is No Spring


dirty snow patches
islands in a sea of brown
mud season returns

ntodd 
   |


Shadows


Thought this picture was appropriate for today:


Sam finds some sunlight in the living room this morning--that's hard to do in Winter when Sol is so far south.

A reminder that we always emerge from darkness...

ntodd 
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Spain's 9/11


By now all of you have heard that there were multiple bombings in Madrid, Spain, causing at least 190 deaths. Proportional to Spain's population, that's a little more than twice about half as deadly as 9/11*. Absolutely monstrous, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

Speculation would be dangerous at this point, but it seems most likely that ETA is to blame. However, there are reports of evidence that could point to an AQ connection. I recall all sorts of information in the wake of Oklahoma City that indicated Arab terrorism when domestic terrorists were responsible, so who knows so early in the investigation.

The current CNN Quickvote asks "Is the U.S. prepared to stop the kind of terror attack that happened in Spain?" Quite frankly, I'd say no. I mean, really, with BushCo only paying lipservice to domestic security, occassionally jacking up the alert color, and ignoring root causes of terror, how on earth can we prevent any motivated group from committing such crimes on our soil? As our wise VP himself said, I think it's only a matter of time before another attack happens here. I hope against hope that it won't be the case, and that we can overcome this global scourge, but I'm not going to be all that optimistic until we install some sane leadership.

ntodd

PS--A wingnut commenter was whining over at Calpundit that "nobody on the Left" was blogging about Madrid (ignoring that Atrios, a little-known blogger, had first thing this AM). Well, I just have. Satisfied? I didn't think so...

* [Update: crap, I inverted the numbers: 9/11 was twice as bad. Horrific all the same. Appropriate corrections made.] 
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I See Dead People


Cadavers are every where:

* The man who allegedly illegally sold body parts from cadavers donated to UCLA apparently netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for his work, according to documents provided to CNN.

* Seven cadavers donated to Tulane University's medical school were sold to the Army and blown up in land mine experiments, officials said Wednesday. Tulane said it has suspended dealings with a national distributor of donated bodies.

* And Stef and I saw a dead deer on the side of the road last Saturday (not for the faint of heart).

Small wonder that a remake of Dawn of the Dead is coming to a theater near you (ooh, I can't wait!).

ntodd 
   |

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.


Their Finest Hour


The other team's finest hour, that is: we got slaughtered in v-ball. That said, it was a fun night, and we actually played well--we were just up against a far, far superior team.

And now I'm as tired as these two:



ntodd 
   |


Great Paley's Ghost!


In his 1802 book Natural Theology, William Paley wrote:

[S]uppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place...when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive...that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it...the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker -- that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.

Paley's watch is the quintessential example of the teleological argument for the existence of god. This is sometimes called the "argument from design", and today's so-called "intelligent design" (ID) is essentially the same argument with a veneer of science. I see today in the good old Toledo Blade1 that Ohio is preparing its kids to live in a world as enlightened as Paley's:

The State Board of Education gave final approval yesterday to a model lesson plan for the study of science in Ohio's 613 public school districts...provisions of the lesson plan entitled "Critical Analysis of Evolution - Grade 10" [include] requiring students to critically analyze evolution, Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that life on Earth evolved over time from a single-cell organism.

Critics, many of them university science professors, allege that the language of the lesson plan closely corresponds with writings about intelligent design, the concept that some intelligence had to play a hand in guiding the myriad of conditions that came together at the right time to create life.

Once again, I direct my readers to Jay Bullock's excellent piece on ID over at Open Source Politics:

The arguments for ID boil down to a handful of pseudo-scientific games with wordplay and ill-informed inference...We cannot allow pseudo-scientists and their right-wing allies to jeopardize the education of our children. They want "Intelligent Design" included in school curricula to undermine evolution, yet they claim only to want debate. Let the children decide, they say, after the "evidence" is presented for ID and the facts for evolution. In fact, when school districts decide against including ID, it is called censorship, and a violation of academic freedom. They want schools to say, in essence, that we don't know what, in fact, we do know. The time spent "debating" ID and evolution would be better spent teaching the kids science.

You'd think after 200 years we'd have exorcised Paley's ghost...

ntodd

1 - I used to deliver the rag, billed as "One of America's Great Newspapers", when I was a kid. 
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FAIR AND BALANCED

Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards

A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.

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