Faster Katrina Recriminations
Decades as the Don Juan of Hollywood and this is the best dirt they have on Warren Beatty? Maybe that's what's embarrassing. The Schwarzenegger dirt was much better. I mean worse. ... 2:18 P.M.
My favorite Paranoid Overblogging on Katrina so far: The White House is sending evacuees to Texas as part of a Rovian attempt to subtly tweak the Electoral College!
Notice how Bush, et al., are shipping the mostly black remainder evacuees from New Orleans et environs to Texas? It practically amounts to gerrymandering of a sort. Since many, if not most, of the evacuees -- certainly mostly Democratic voters -- will remain in Texas, get jobs and homes, and never return to the Big Easy, Louisiana, a purple state (Clinton '92 and '96, Bush '00 and '04) becomes redder, and Texas, a huge very red state, gains yet more population while turning only slightly less red.
Is it possible these effects are the result of deliberate design on the part of the White House political office and, namely, one Karl Rove? Otherwise, why wouldn't they be evacuating people to Memphis in purple Tennessee? Or Little Rock in purple Arkansas? [Emph. added]
Rove thinks of everything, I tell you. He's another mindermast! [Where did this appear? Kos? Atrios?--ed The GolfChannel.Com discussion board. Where the real Bush-bashers go.] 10:56 P.M.
I just saw Red Eye, the premise of which is that the Director of Homeland Security must be saved! I suspect audience enthusiasm has dropped off rather dramatically this week. ... [Update: "[I]t's the deputy secretary of Homeleand Security who must be saved"--emailer F.K. Wow. For a deputy secretary, he has a lot of security.] 10:29 P.M.
Federalism Strikes Again: As long as we're apportioning blame in the Katrina fiasco, here's another culprit: federalism, by which I mean a) the U.S.'s interpolation of an unnecessary level of government (states) between cities and the national government and b) the non-hierarchical, "sovereign" nature of this unnecessary level, so that the national government can't just give its Louisiana subdivision orders the way, say, General Motors can give its Pontiac division orders. This gratuitous complication of authority clearly crippled effective planning for a New Orleans catastrophe, as each level seems to have assumed that the other level would have a workable plan. ... And federalism is still bolixing up the relief operation, which now seems to have two bristling, competing centers of authority (the Louisiana governor and the Bush administration). From Sunday's WaPo:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night .... [snip] A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor. ... [snip] Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.
Here's a J-School question: Has the network TV coverage of the N.O. Superdome fiasco a) made the situation seem to be worse than it really was (because TV always focuses on the negative things--the crime, the snafus, the corpses and complaints, etc.) or b) made the situation seem better than it really was (because network TV didn't want to make it look as if a heavily African-American crowd of refugees couldn't behave itself)? ... I was going to guess a) until I read this [via Althousevia Slate ] and this.. 11:38 P.M. link
Faster Recriminations! Frequent kf e-mailer T. makes another good-but-impolite point about the rapidly developing storm of Katrina recriminations:
the authors of the  times-picayune series, the designers of the government desktop exercise, and all the other authors of studies on the danger facing N.O. are now as a group getting a big thumbs up for prescience from the CW. But hey, which one of them saw what was developing for 72 hours over Miami and the Gulf and sent up a timely flare last week, warning, "Hey, the levee is going to fail and N.O. will be over 50% inundated!" If somebody said it, I did not hear it. That would have been prescient. [ital added]
Maybe they did and weren't heeded. Maybe not. ... The more general, but equally impolite, point is that reporters (like the authors of government studies) are citizens and have an ongoing moral responsibility even after their pieces are published. The treatement of journalism as a "profession"--you do your job, write your article, then it becomes someone else's job--tends to obscure this. ...Backfill: On Sunday, August 28, the AP's Allen Breed was quoting N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin saying, "The storm surge will most likely topple our levee system." [Note: Brendan Loy has him saying "top," not "topple."] Once the town's mayor acknowledges the threat I suppose everyone assumes that all appropriate action is being taken. The previous week, as T. says, would have been the period when truly prescient journos and bureaucrats should have been screaming. ..
I can't emphasize enough what a bad decision I think it is for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to delay the mandatory evacuation order until tomorrow morning. and a bit later that day: Okay, so let me get this straight: the governor calls the mayor during dinner, and basically says "HEY, IDIOT, CALL THE F***IN' HURRICANE CENTER!" It took a phone call from the governor to convince him to make this call?!? Well anyway, the mayor calls the NHC, and they basically tell him, "GET EVERYONE OUT OF YOUR CITY NOW!!!" So now, finally, the mayor is apparently planning to order first mandatory evacuation in city history tomorrow morning. About damn time. And this from a day earlier, on Friday, August 26: Much of the media seems convinced that this is still exclusively a Florida issue, which is just not true. Drudge's headline is "Katrina could be Cat. 4 at second Fla. strike," which is ridiculous, considering the current expected landfall is along the Alabama/Mississippi border, and that's on the eastern edge of the computer-model guidance. That's not to say a Florida landfall isn't still possible -- it certainly is -- but people need to be making preparations RIGHT NOW all along the northern Gulf coast, especially New Orleans. UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! Also, click here to read about what the hurricane could do to New Orleans if she's strong enough and makes a direct hit on the city. Bottom line: tens of thousands could die. Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document. It should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian. ... See also this linky semi-anti-second-guessing post. ... And Loy's most recent anti-Nagin item. ... P.S.: I'm not saying Bush and the Feds don't clearly deserve major grief for not getting today's National Guard aid convoy into downtown New Orleans a couple of days earlier. Some people are probably dead as a result. But the commentators on Washington Week in Review seemed a little too happy when proclaiming this a "debacle" that will damage Bush politically for a long, long time. And I don't think they were happy just because Bush has suffered a blow. I think it's because the hurricane and its New Orleans aftermath at least seemed to solve a big problem for anti-Bush commentators and politicians. Previously, they couldn't grouse about the Iraq War without seeming defeatist (and anti-liberationist and maybe even selfishly isolationist). Even the Clintons never figured a way out of that trap. But nature has succeded where they failed; it has opened up a way out, at least temporarily. Now Bush opponents can argue, in some cases quite accurately, that without the Iraq deployment aid would have gotten to New Orleans faster. And 'if we can [tk] in Iraq, why can't we [tk] in our own South?' They aren't being selfish. They are just asserting priorities! In short, Katrina gives them a way to talk about Iraq without talking about Iraq. No wonder Gwen Ifill smiles the "inner smile."
I can't emphasize enough what a bad decision I think it is for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to delay the mandatory evacuation order until tomorrow morning.
and a bit later that day:
Okay, so let me get this straight: the governor calls the mayor during dinner, and basically says "HEY, IDIOT, CALL THE F***IN' HURRICANE CENTER!" It took a phone call from the governor to convince him to make this call?!? Well anyway, the mayor calls the NHC, and they basically tell him, "GET EVERYONE OUT OF YOUR CITY NOW!!!" So now, finally, the mayor is apparently planning to order first mandatory evacuation in city history tomorrow morning. About damn time.
And this from a day earlier, on Friday, August 26:
Much of the media seems convinced that this is still exclusively a Florida issue, which is just not true. Drudge's headline is "Katrina could be Cat. 4 at second Fla. strike," which is ridiculous, considering the current expected landfall is along the Alabama/Mississippi border, and that's on the eastern edge of the computer-model guidance. That's not to say a Florida landfall isn't still possible -- it certainly is -- but people need to be making preparations RIGHT NOW all along the northern Gulf coast, especially New Orleans.
UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! Also, click here to read about what the hurricane could do to New Orleans if she's strong enough and makes a direct hit on the city. Bottom line: tens of thousands could die.
Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document. It should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian. ... See also this linky semi-anti-second-guessing post. ... And Loy's most recent anti-Nagin item. ...
P.S.: I'm not saying Bush and the Feds don't clearly deserve major grief for not getting today's National Guard aid convoy into downtown New Orleans a couple of days earlier. Some people are probably dead as a result. But the commentators on Washington Week in Review seemed a little too happy when proclaiming this a "debacle" that will damage Bush politically for a long, long time. And I don't think they were happy just because Bush has suffered a blow. I think it's because the hurricane and its New Orleans aftermath at least seemed to solve a big problem for anti-Bush commentators and politicians. Previously, they couldn't grouse about the Iraq War without seeming defeatist (and anti-liberationist and maybe even selfishly isolationist). Even the Clintons never figured a way out of that trap. But nature has succeded where they failed; it has opened up a way out, at least temporarily. Now Bush opponents can argue, in some cases quite accurately, that without the Iraq deployment aid would have gotten to New Orleans faster. And 'if we can [tk] in Iraq, why can't we [tk] in our own South?' They aren't being selfish. They are just asserting priorities! In short, Katrina gives them a way to talk about Iraq without talking about Iraq. No wonder Gwen Ifill smiles the "inner smile."
Nicole Gelinas makes some obvious-but-difficult points about New Orleans in City Journal. For example--
The truth is that even on a normal day, New Orleans is a sad city. Sure, tourists think New Orleans is fun: you can drink and hop from strip club to strip club all night on Bourbon Street, and gamble all your money away at Harrah's. But the city's decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within. New Orleans can't take care of itself even when it is not 80 percent underwater ...
New Orleans teems with crime, and the NOPD can't keep order on a good day. Former commissioner Richard Pennington brought New Orleans' crime rate down from its peak during the mid-1990s. But since Pennington's departure, crime rates have soared, to ten times the national average. The NOPD might have hundreds of decent officers, but it has a well-deserved institutional image as corrupt, brutal, and incompetent. [Emph. added]
Biden Inside Baseball Bonus: A knowledgeable reader emails, regarding yesterday's Biden item--
All true but you missed Biden's true utility for lots of Democratic money/influence/operative types. He's a parking space! They support him, knowing he will lose, but then get better seats at the nominee's table than they would have if they had started with the nominee in the first place.
It's all about negotiating with Hillary's palace guard. Come in now with Hillary's team and you'll get jerked around and screwed over, no matter how hard you work or how much money you raise or whatever. Come in in the spring of '08 on a wave of "party unity" and your chances of getting some good real estate are much improved.
The Biden team will be heavy with guys who know how to play the game.
Maybe that's the answer Arianna's question about what Biden has to offer that Hillary doesn't. ... 12:20 P.M.
Anger=Victory? Will relatively greater Democratic intensity (i.e., anti-Bush anger) translate into relatively greater Democratic turnout in the 2006 midterms? Mystery Pollster looks at the question, and notes that anti-Bush voters were more "intense" in 2004 too--but the Dems still lost the turnout battle. But doesn't relative anger count for more in a low-turnout midterm, when mildly satisfied, non-intense voters are apt to just not vote? 2:22 A.M.
kf's "Zeta" Jones: This Autoweek report suggests GM's decision to cancel its rear drive "Zeta" cars--only to later revive them in another form--has been more damaging than I thought. It's delayed their introduction by three years--from 2007 to 2010 ("at the earliest") in the case of Buick's Roadmaster. But, hey, with a gas crisis looming I bet GM is glad it chose instead to rush its new full-size SUVs to market! ... P.S.: GM also seems to have moved even closer to killing off Saturn. The basic small Saturn sedan--the Ion--will no longer be built at Saturn's innovative Spring Hill, Tennessee plant but at GM's once-infamous Lordstown, Ohio factory, according to Autoweek. ... Update:Why is rear drive more fun? A couple of years ago I claimed that there were actually five big reasons. I was wrong. There are six! The sixth is the superior steering feel of rear-drive, which Motor Trend attempts to explain here. It involves geometry, the "scrub radius," the "kingpin axis," and the interplay of the mechanical and "pneumatic trail." I'll take their word for it. 1:48 A.M. link
'I Think I Have a Higher IQ Than You Do, Gary!' If you were entertaining the thought that Joe Biden had grown in office since 1988-- when he had to drop out of the presidential race after being caught on C-SPAN telling a voter, "I think I have a much higher IQ than you do"--you should take a look at his performance on last Sunday's This Week. (Free video excerpt available here.) Biden's unpleasant and defensive from the start, perhaps because he knows he's in the same bind Hillary Clinton is in, having voted for the Iraq war (and continuing to favor toughing it out) but now facing a Democratic primary electorate that craves a clear antiwar champion. When Stephanopoulos actually plays a clip of former senator Gary Hart calling for "one of those party leaders" who backed the war "to say, I made a mistake," the old C-SPAN Biden reappears:
First of all, for me to defend myself against Gary Hart is kind of ludicrous to begin with. I kind of resent it, to tell you the truth.
Stephanopoulos asks what's so bad about Gary Hart? Biden is so upset (perhaps recognizing that he's in the process of blowing it) that he has to stare down at his microphone to pull himself together. ... [Note: This part is at the end of the ABC video excerpt.]
P.S.: Senators rarely grow in office. Usually they just get more childish and egomaniacal! ...
P.P.S.: Biden's in less of a bind than Hillary, because as a potential presidential candidate he's not counting on the adoration of the party's left wing (or shouldn't be). Why isn't the way out of the Iraq bind, for him, to forthrightly defend the war and whatever tough-it-out strategy he favors? Where his strategy doesn't differ meaningfully from the Bush administration, say that.** It would be more honest than trying to bury his support for the war under scornful, faux-oppositional second-guessing of Bush's conduct of it. ...
P.P.P.S.: Columnist David Ignatius delivered the Beltway CW on Biden a couple of weeks ago:
The Democrats' problem is partly a lack of strong leadership. Its main spokesman on foreign policy has become Sen. Joseph Biden, a man who -- how to put this politely? -- seems more impressed with the force of his own intellect than an objective evaluation would warrant. Listening to Biden, you sense how hungry he is to be president, but you have little idea what he would do, other than talk . . . and talk.
When evaluating senators who live and work and go to dinner parties in Washington, the Beltway establishment is often right, I've found. They know these people better than the rest of us! The Beltway's especially reliable if you discount for its comical biases--e.g., treating respectable fixtures like Howard Baker and Robert Strauss as giants. Here, the obvious Beltway impulse would be to build Biden up into an admired elder statesman, and the fact that Washingtonians still think he's a middleweight blowhard has the credibility of a statement against interest. [Readers are writing to note that Biden doesn't live in Washington. He commutes from Wilmington, Delaware--ed Close enough! Maybe [the commuting] contributes to his unpopularity among the Beltway know-it-alls: he doesn't think their company is worth hanging around for.--reader J.R. Maybe he doesn't hang around because he senses they can't stand him!]
**-- Here's Biden's big Brookings speech on Iraq. The only substantial difference with Bush, that I see, is Biden's call for establishing a "contact group" with "European and regional partners." They'd be given "a seat at the decision-making table." The payoff would be that Shia politicians could make concessions to the Sunnis and then tell their Shia constituents, "'The international community made me do it.'" Arguably, that would go over better than, "The Americans made me do it." But Biden's basic strategy--stand up the Iraqi government and military, wean Sunni support away from the insurgents--is the same as Bush's. He should admit it. ...[But he also calls for "clear benchmarks"!--ed Classic makeweight Kabuki Congressional demand. When you have nothing else to say, call for "clear benchmarks" or a "new compact," or a timetable or some other gimmick. Biden has here arguably violated the Benchmark Proliferation Reduction Act by failing to append a Benchmark Proliferation Impact Statement to his speech.] 2:50 P.M. link
Stix Trix? Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska each have higher median incomes than New York? I know New York City has lots of low-income workers. Still ... Update: These are figures for household income and I suspect they're affected by differences in average household size in different states. New York's households may have fewer people in them. Still! ... [You originally dropped the "n" in "median"--ed I've done worse. A 1992 press release for my book emphasized its call for the creation of a "vast pubic sphere." They created that almost immediately! It's called the Web--ed Even outside the Internet, the policy proposal is still being implemented.] 1:54 A.M.
L.A.'s Brady Westwater finds New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's performance less-than-Giulianiesque. Or even Riordanesque. ... 1:28 A.M.
Katrina Relief List:Instapundit has posted a list of ways to donate to Katrina Relief--including helpful recommendations of efficient aid outfits from trustworthy bloggers (something you almost certainly won't find in your local newspaper). ... P.S.: I'm assuming the American Red Cross has learned the lesson of its 9/11 debacle. [See also this especially damning TNR article, and this unconvincing, contrarian defense ]... Update: See also N.Z. Bear's relief list. ... Mystery Pollster notes that the Red Cross has the big advantage of being well positioned to achieve economies of scale. ... 11:26 P.M. link
Feiler never met Google Desktop: I just installed the highly-touted Google Desktop search engine because a friend of mine told me that it will change my life. It will. My computer is now running about half the speed it used to and I'm going to lose my job! I think I will now uninstall Google Desktop. [Update: Google gone. Speed back.] ... P.S.: Good to see Google picking up--i.e. overloading Windows with features it can't handle--where Microsoft is leaving off [$]. Perhaps that's their fiendish strategy for destroying Bill Gates. ... 10:07 P.M. link
"Titan Rain"--isn't that kind of a demoralizing name to give a suspected Chinese attempt to penetrate our computers and steal our military secrets? Is there any hope of resisting something called "Titan Rain"? It could be the work of an Oriental mindermast. ... 10:58 P.M. link
Why isn't this big news? I must be missing something. It doesn't look like a hoax (though I would have more confidence if it were here). [Via Iraq the Model ]... Update: The article has now vanished, suspiciously, from Al Mendhar's site. It had said what Iraq the Model says it said--that Iraq's Ayatollah Sistani had
dropped a bomb by rejecting federalism and thus rejecting the constitution of the Kurdish-Sheat alliance putting the current ruling parties in a difficult position.
Sistani in his statement said "The Sunnis are your family. Stay by their side this time so that they stay by your side in the coming times…"
I can't find anyone else picking up on this report, so it may be epistemologically challenged. ... Wait! The Al Mendhar article has reappeared with a new URL. It's listed on the Al Mendhar home page too. But shouldn't it be a banner headline?. ... P.S.: Juan Cole is apparently alluding to that story when he writes:
Despite a poorly sourced English-language report from an Iraqi newspaper, it is certain that Sistani strongly supports the new constitution, which says that the parliament may pass no civil legislation that contravenes Islamic law.
That's not the most iron-clad refutation I've ever read. But we'll see. ... 6:26 P.M. link
Instead of just supporting often isolated politicians who are constantly under attack or fighting hopeless guerilla warfare inside bureaucracies, establishing some oil spots in big cities, winning victories, and establishing some proof points ...
Wasn't that what Milwaukee was supposed to be--the "proof point" for school choice? ... In truth, I'm not sure the oil spot strategy works that well when you are confronting geographically pervasive, deeply entrenched bureaucratic interests, as opposed to mere armed insurgents. In manufacturing, for example, the "proof point" that relaxed work rules could produce high quality American goods was supposed to be GM's Saturn subdivision in Tennessee. In fact, Saturn succeeded. But the result wasn't that the Saturn model spread to other GM (or Ford) plants. The result was that the rest of GM--union and management--mobilized to make sure that Saturn got killed off as quickly as possible, a project they've almost completed. ... Similarly, the most successful welfare reform effort of the 1990s was Wisconsin's W-2 plan, with its public jobs component. Have other jurisdictions rushed to emulate W-2--as I, for one, expected? Not that I've noticed (with the exception of Guiliani's New York). ... 2:13 P.M. link
Cheap Dates at The New Yorker: Does Malcolm Gladwell believe that all health care copayments are a bad idea--an inappropriate invocation of the theory of "moral hazard" (i.e. the idea that if you have health insurance you'll consume more health care)? Should we all have first-dollar, no-copay plans like some UAW workers? If so--and Gladwell criticizes copayments as low as a $20 copay for a doctor visit--isn't he making more than an argument in favor of universal health care coverage? He would seem to be making an argument against many, perhaps most, of the universal health care coverage systems that have been proposed, which rely on copayments and deductibles to hold down the cost--including (I'm pretty sure) Hillary Clinton's plan. Gladwell might have a) explained this to his readers and b) either pointed out that this means universal health insurance will cost much more than people currently think, or else described an alternative means of cost control. Plus, even if copayments do discourage people from seeking benefiicial care, shouldn't Democrats be happy to settle for a cheaper universal health system with copays, at least as a start? ...
On the other hand, why burden New Yorker readers with these complexities when you can just bash Bush's Health Savings Account plan?
P.S.: I'm willing to be convinced that copays discourage necessary care along with unnecessary care. But the assumption that they discourage mainly unnecessary care is not "plainly absurd," the position attributed to John Nyman, the University of Minnesota economist whose book Gladwell is discussing.** If people "go to the doctor grudgingly, because we're sick"--i.e. because we conclude we're sick--you'd think we could also conclude rationally when we're more sick and when we're less sick, when we really need of a doctor's visit (and never mind the copay) and when we have a cold we'll get over soon enough (so let's save the $20). The anti-copay argument is hardly proven by pointing out that people with full insurance don't spend all their time at the hospital, or that --as Uwe Reinhardt puts it in Gladwell's article, "Moral hazard is overblown." "Overblown" isn't the same thing as "nonexistent." ...
P.P.S.: Like many New Yorker policy articles, Gladwell's reads like a lecture to an isolated, ill-informed and somewhat gullible group of highly literate children. They are cheap dates. They won't think of the obvious objections. They won't demand that you "play Notre Dame," as my boss Charles Peters used to say, and take on the best arguments for the other side. They just need to be given a bit of intellectual entertainment and pointed off in a comforting anti-Bush direction. [Like highbrow sheep?--ed You said that.]
Supplemental reading: Here are excerpts from a Nyman article that indeed seems to be an argument against any copayment in many circumstances. Nyman also sketches some alternative cost-reduction strategies--including "global budgeting" to "slow the expansion of health care services down to levels closer to inflation and growth of the GDP." Global budgeting, at least as practiced in Canada, was trenchantly criticized in a 1992 WaPo article by ... Malcolm Gladwell. (See "Why Canada's Health Plan is No Remedy for America," Washington Post, March 22, 1992) ... .See also Gladwell's forceful, occasionally quirky defense of the American health care system in 2000. ("I don't know that young men need health insurance.") [Thanks to Dr. M]
**--Has Nyman never heard of a "gomer"?
Late hit: This is the second Gladwell article I've read that enthusiastically promotes the ideas in a book without grappling with even the obvious possible criticisms. (The other author given similar treatment was Judith Rich Harris). He's becoming the Cousin Brucie of the bien pensants! 9:59 P.M. link
Not so fast? Just when I thought the Able Danger claims might be explained by a conflation of one Mohamed El-Amir (a.k.a. Mohamed Atta) with another, come two potentially complicating developments:
1) Ed Epstein emails to say that J.D. Smith, the Able Danger contractor who made news yesterday (see below) did not say he relied on "public" information, but rather "open source" information, meaning information from sources not classified as secret. Epstein claims those sources could include airline passenger manifests and State Department visa applications. He has revised his post to argue more clearly how Able Danger might have culled Atta's name from these "open" sources in 2000. Update-Contra Epstein: A veteran reporter emails
open source info does NOT include airline manifests and credit card info, which is either protected by law from disclosure (like credit info in the US) or proprietary to the companies involved (and thus not usually available to investigators without a subpoena).
In any case, I'm told Smith was specifically asked at the Friday press conference if Able Danger had visa, credit or airplane info and he said they had nothing like that.
2) The New York Post comes up with a reason why the Able Danger contract to Smith's outfit was terminated--fear on the part of "military brass" that an unrelated chart on China-U.S. connections had put too much "focus on U.S. citizens." At first glance, the story seems to oddly shore up the Able Danger claims, by providing a good reason for a) the Pentagon's hostility to the program and b) the frustration of the Able Danger "whistleblowers" who have come forward. It also adds a slight Keystone Kops quality. (The Able Danger chart on China suggested "Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks.")
11:40 A.M. link
'Able Danger' Ball Advances: Fox News reports on this morning's press conference with J.D. Smith, the latest Able Danger figure to step forward. Smith, a defense contractor, claims Mohamed Atta's name and picture were on a chart on his wall well before 9/11. ... Bonus Value-Adding Info!Kf also hears: 1) Smith said the data mined by Able Danger was public data, which would seem to rule out the kind of searches (e.g. of "Arab males who applied for a U.S. visa with a newly issued passport") envisioned by Ed Epstein; 2) Smith acknowledged that the picture of Atta he claims to have seen on the chart was very grainy, but he says he recognized Atta by his distinctive cheekbones; 3) Smith maintains that Able Danger obtained the Atta information from a female researcher in California, whom he declined to identify; and 4) Smith didn't have a very good answer when confronted with the "Two Atta" theory first suggested by Tom Maguire--i.e. that the Able Danger people might have confused the 9/11 hijacker Atta with a known Abu Nidal terrorist with a near-identical name. ... That said, I'm told Smith seemed sincere. And if the Able Danger crew wasn't trying to talk to the FBI about Mohamed Atta, what were they trying to talk about? Were they just bureaucrats scheduling meetings to justify their existence? ... Take it away, Minuteman.
Update--the two El-Amirs: Minuteman delivers! J.D. Smith also said that Able Danger had gotten Atta's name by linking him to Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind sheikh implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But how could they have linked Atta to Rahman? Easy! It turns out, as blogger A.J. Strata discovered, that there are links--whether accurate or inaccurate [thanks--lawyer]--in the public domain between Rahman and a doctor, Magdy El-Amir--who may be completely innocent! [ditto]--but who has a brother named Mohamed El-Amir who has apparently been linked by Dateline--again, perhaps erroneously--to some intrigue or other. Mohammed El-Amir ... why is that name familiar? Wasn't that the same name used by Mohammed Atta at the beginning 2000? I think it was! In other words, here is a simple explanation for how Able Danger could have fingered an Egyptian with the name of the 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed El-Amir (whom we now know as Mohamed Atta). It was just a different Mohamed El-Amir. ... Why do I feel that through the power of the blogosphere we are asymptotically approaching the truth? ...
Backfill: Umansky flagged a possible El-Amir confusion last week. ...
[If the Able Danger project confused the 9/11 Mohamed El-Amir (Atta) with another Mohamed El-Amir, that might explain why that name would be on a chart. But J.D. Smith emphatically says they had the 9/11 Atta'sphoto. How to explain that?--ed I've been assuming that if you could account for Able Danger getting Atta's name, the photo might be explained as a case of honest memory confusion. Or maybe they managed to obtain the right photo for the wrong man!] 2:59 P.M. link
kf senses a subtle media shift against the visionary Jon Klein. This could disrupt Klein's obvious plan to secure himself a lucrative Pew fellowship when he's forced to leave CNN. ... 12:25 P.M.
The Hillary Train Wreck: Recent multiple exposures to Westside L.A. liberals confirms that (as George Will and Kevin Drum suggest) Hillary Clinton is currently heading for a much bigger train wreck in her party than anticipated--a wreck all her cautious planning failed to anticipate, and probably exacerbated.
The same press drumbeat of defeatism about Iraq that has helped bring down Bush's numbers has also emboldened the party's mainstream left base (i.e., not just MoveOn or the DailyKos crowd). They hardly care whether Hillary is a member of the DLC. But they do not want to support someone who voted for the war, as Hillary did. They might have been willing to do that in 2004, when they didn't think a majority of Americans also opposed the war. But that was then. ... What's more, they want a Democrat who is willing to break from the respectable Beltway Tough-It-Out Consensus now, publicly, in a way Hillary has been unable to do. They're so desperate for a champion they're even temporarily captivated by Sen. Hagel's mere mention of "Vietnam." Hagel/Dean for America! Or maybe Hagel/Gingrich. ...
P.S.: Hillary's dilemma is similar to the one that must have been faced by Bobby Kennedy in 1968--how to break with LBJ and the surface D.C. consensus in favor of the war. But Hillary's dilemma is worse, because Iraq isn't Vietnam and the current Beltway consensus she's being asked to denounce is a lot righter than LBJ was. Even mainstream Bush-bashing libs, in my experience, readily recognize that just withdrawing from Iraq now would be a global strategic disaster in a way withdrawing from Vietnam wasn't. That of course makes them even more determined to hold accountable politicians who got us into Iraq in the first place, and Hillary is arguably one of them. ...
P.P.S.: The obvious, crowd-pleasing Kabuki-move--which Hillary has to be considering right now--is to follow Drum's advice and come out for
a gradual, phased withdrawal based on specified interim goals and a hard end-date two years from now.
I say it's a Kabuki move because it's mainly for show: It's hard to believe that Hillary, or any leading contender, will really leave Iraq if the "specified interim goals" aren't met and two years from now it looks as if staying another year is necessary to prevent a failed, Somalia-like state. Either there will (under press questioning) be an explicit contingency escape clause to this effect or if there isn't the public won't believe there isn't. That's because sticking to a hard end date in that circumstance would be insane!**
Given this reality, there's mainly a rhetorical difference between a) setting a chronologically explicit (but actually flexible) timetable in order to get the Iraqis to "take the training of their own security forces more seriously"--what the Drum position amounts to--and b) making an explicitly flexible (chronologically vague) pledge to get out as soon as Iraqis can defend themselves, coupled with leaks about actual, planned troop reductions--which is the current U.S. position. Either way, we're getting out as soon as we can! (Or as soon as we're kicked out.) Still, in the current news climate any politician who calls for (a) will get lots of press and effectively register displeasure with the war. Hillary might not be able to resist.
**--In contrast, during the Vietnam years many on the left (myself included) were ready to withdraw even if it meant the South Vietnamese government would not survive.
P.P.P.S.: WaPo's David Ignatius laments the Democratic Party's lack of a strong spokesman who can fulfill "the role of an opposition party" in Bush's time of troubles. I'm not sure it's a big dilemma for Democrats (as opposed to for Hillary) if the party remains championless. After all, there already is an effective anti-Bush opposition party in America. It's called the media. We don't need two of them! Alert kf reader G.S. suggests leaderless Democrats take another look at that Amazing Dr. Pollkatz Polling Graphic. The only time Bush's steady polling decline stopped was in 2004, when he actually had some identifiable Democratic champions (Dean, then Kerry) to be set off against. G.S.'s upshot is
Midterm political advice for the Dems: Keep the party face-less through the 2006 races.
It's good to be kingless! ... 2:22 P.M link
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides! Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty. Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]
Photograph of John Kerry by Brian Snyder/Reuters. Still from Star Trek on Slate's Table of Contents © Bettmann/Corbis.