The "Two Atta" Theory
It might explain the Able Danger scandal.
Edward Jay Epstein describes how Able Danger's data miners could indeed have come up with Atta's name--the "real" 9/11 Atta's name--by cross-checking various databases in fairly obvious ways. Since much of the respectable skepticism of Able Danger centers on the question "How could they have done it," Epstein's effort seems important. ... P.S.: My own impression is that data-mining is scary-powerful. For years, Amazon.com, using only links suggested by the purchases of its customers, kept badgering me robotically about buying an album by Built to Spill. (The automated progression went something like: 'May we suggest Built to Spill' ... 'You might also like Built to Spill' ...'You're missing a big bet if you don't get Built to Spill' ... 'Buy Built to Spill this instant, you f-----g moron.') I finally caved and bought a CD by Built to Spill. I love it. .. P.P.S.: Of course, Epstein's speculation assumes the Able Danger data-miners had access to a "list of Arab males who flew to Pakistan in 1999." It's not clear they did, or indeed that anyone had such a list (though I certainly hope they do now). ... 3:12 P.M.
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the  election to Mr. Gore.
Kausfiles says not so fast! Krugman writes "full" recount. That's because there were various permutations of the media recounts, and it made a big difference if you recounted only the 61,000 undervotes (ballots where no preference registered) or if you also recounted the 114,000 "overvotes" (ballots on which more than one preference registered). It's true that the ledes of the relevant MSM stories on the media recounts both emphasized the versions of the recount that would have favored Bush. (Sample: "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush".) But those ledes, while comforting to most Americans who didn't want an election decided by the Supreme Court, were highly misleading. They reflected the undervote-only recounts. The mother lode of hidden Gore votes, it turned out, was in the overvotes, especially ballots of voters who
tried to be extra-clear in their choice and ended up nullifying the vote. They filled in the oval next to a candidate and then filled in the oval for "write-in" and wrote the same candidate's name again.
The discomfiting truth is that, if you also recounted overvotes, the NORC media recount, under several "certainty" standards, showed Gore the winner.
Using the most inclusive standards, Bush actually gained more votes than Gore -- about 300 net -- from the examination of the undervote ballots. But Gore picked up 885 more votes than Bush from the examination of overvote ballots, 662 of those from optical scan ballots.
What's more, there's strong, near-smoking evidence that if the recount had been allowed to proceed overvotes would have been counted (despite the Gore camp's revealingly obtuse, self-defeating focus on the "undervotes"). ... Sorry, J-Pod! I wish you were right. 2:46 P.M. link
Worthless! I didn't think I'd ever again have to discuss "comparable worth," one of the really bad ideas from the comic book era of interest group liberalism in the Carter years. But John Roberts' opposition to the idea ("staggeringly pernicious") is now being filed under a general "Roberts Resisted Women's Rights" headline. ... The truth is that "comparable worth" shouldn't just be opposed by those on the Right who worry (correctly) that it is "anti-capitalist." It should also be opposed by those on the Left who recognize that it's fundamentally inegalitarian and elitist. ...
Put simply, comparable worth would require that judges adjust market wages for jobs that were historically disproportionately male or disproportionately female. So you have toll collector--a historically male job. It's also an excruciatingly boring job. Or garbage collector--a smelly job. To compensate for the boredom, or the smell, you have to pay the toll and garbage collectors a little bit more in the marketplace. With "comparable worth," a judge would review the toll and garbage collectors' jobs and notice that they don't require much "skill" and "education" and actually reduce the wage (or the future increase in the wage).
In other words, it's a scheme that would take whatever meager rewards the marketplace offers to uneducated workers and nullify them, replacing the market with a bureaucratic judicial respect for educational credentials and yuppie resumes. The market already offers enough payback for education and smarts. We don't need feminists to come along and say that the credentialed deserve even more money.**
P.S.: All these arguments were made at length in neolib publications like the New Republic and Washington Monthly decades ago. Unfortunately those articles are so old they're pre-Google and pre-NEXIS. If anyone has a link it would be greatly appreciated. ... Meanwhile, here's a brief contemporary expression of liberal contempt for the "comparable worth" idea.
P.P.S.: You can tell that contemporary legal feminists are now somewhat embarrassed by "comparable worth," because the Roberts stories (in WaPoand the NYT) actually play down its salience. But the feminists should be embarrassed, because even if it's dead (and I'm not sure of that) "comparable worth" shows what can happen--what did happen--when you set up an intellectual conveyor belt that sends the latest and brightest ideas of liberal litigators and professors and their law students straight to liberal judges and their law clerks (often those same law students a year later) for quick approval. If nothing else, the madeleine-like memory of this once-celebrated "women's rights" idea should remind everyone why it's valuable to have stubborn non-progressive doubters like Roberts around. ...
** Another way to put it: Job A doesn't require a college degree. Job B does. But they both earn the same in the marketplace--perhaps because lots of young college grads want job B. Does B deserve (by court order!) to make more, just because he or she is better educated, even if nobody wants to pay him or her more for this "knowledge"? "Comparable worth" says yes--as if educated people are inherently worth more than uneducated people. That isn't equality--it's not economic equality and it certainly isn't social equality. It's a corporatist snobbery that even Richard Herrnstein might not have dared advocate. ... 12:46 P.M. link
Two Attas: "Mohammed Atta and Date Bef 09/11/01": Tom Maguire had a good idea--since Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer claims that the secret Able Danger program had mined public databases to turn up Mohammed Atta's name prior to 9/11, why not look at some public databases, like NEXIS, and see whether Atta turns up? If you send NEXIS the following request
mohammed atta and date bef 09/11/01
it will turn up a 1/28/91 Atlanta Constitution story with the following initiallly astonishing paragraph:
There was a report on "60 Minutes" in which an expert said that Abu Nidal cells were in the United States. Is that true?
Yes, In New York, Dearborn a Michigan city with a large Arab population and Los Angeles. But that doesn't mean they're terrorists. They're support groups, and for the FBI to uncover enough about them and to go through the business of trying to deport them is a long and difficult matter that is not at all easy to accomplish. In 1987, the FBI arrested an Abu Nidal organization member Mohammed Atta in New York on an Israeli warrant charging him with participating in an attack on a bus carrying civilians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 1986. They're around.
It turns out that this is not the same Mohammed Atta who flew a plane into the World Trade Center on 9/11. It's a Mohammed Atta who was (as the story says) an Abu Nidal terrorist extradited to Israel to face charges of fire bombing and machine-gunning a bus.
But the more you think about it, the more Maguire's theory--that the existence of this other Atta explains the Able Danger scandal--makes sense. Specifically, Maguire speculates that the "Atta" fingered by Able Danger was really the first, "Abu Nidal" Atta, and not the second, 9/11 "Al Qaeda" Atta. It was the first Atta's name that was on the list that Lt. Col. Shaffer remembers being shown.
Indeed, Maguires "Two Atta" scenario explains at least three otherwise puzzling aspects of the Able Danger Story:
1) Q. How did the data mining program name an obscure Hamburg grad student so efficiently? A: It didn't. It named a known terrorist--it might even have started with his name. As Maguire argues:
If you were data mining for new terrorists, mightn't you start with him and see who his friends and connections were? As Shaffer explained in an interview with Michael Savage, its all about linkages.
2) Q. What database could possibly have turned up the 9/11 Atta, whose only apparent contact witht he U.S. was applying for a visa? A: It didn't turn up that Atta. It turned up another Atta who had a longer paper trail and was actually arrested.
3) Q: Why was the Defense department so skittish about passing on Atta's name. A. That's understandable if, as Maguire asserts, the first, "Abu Nidal" Atta was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Pentagon spying on U.S. citizens was of questionable legality.
Of course, just because the Atta on the list was the "wrong" Atta, it wouldn't mean that, if the Able Danger info had been shared with the FBI, we wouldn't have accidentally stopped or caught the "right" Atta before 9/11. ...And it still would have been nice if the 9/11 Commission had bothered to clear all this up! ... P.S.: It's also possible, of course, that Able Danger's massive computer program turned up info on both Attas because it assumed, wrongly, that they were the same person. 12:23 A.M. link
Mark Kleiman detects the birth of a new "civil right to get a high-school diploma now matter how little you know, and consequently to have a high-school diploma that certifies precisely nothing about your abilities ...." Brought to you courtesy of "The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University." ... P.S.: Do you think Justice Roberts will be receptive to attempts to strike down public school exams because of "the extremely negative effects the tests are having on students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities" and their ability to "receive the diploma they have been working toward for 12 years"? Only if it's a Hogan & Hartson pro bono project! ... 3:13 P.M.
The New Scholarship on Star Trek and Pedophilia: 'Don't Let Her Touch Your Wand, Jim!' In May, Yale cyberlaw expert Ernest Miller noticed an astonishing tidbit in a Los Angeles Times story on the Toronto police Sex Crimes Unit's pursuit of pedophiles:
All but one of the [over 100] offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie.
Miller was skeptical but the cops basically stood by their story--at the least, a "majority of those arrested show 'at least a passing interest in Star Trek, if not a strong interest.'" Not just an interest in science fiction generally, mind you. But Star Trek.
The conventional explanation for this seemingly bizarre correlation was that pedophiles must simply be trying to use an interest in Star Trek as a device to lure their prey. But Ellen Ladowsky, an L.A. therapist, thinks there actually is something inherent in the show itself that makes it "irresistible to perverts.". She lays out her case in HuffPost. Sample:
[W]hen it comes to relationships off the ship, Captain Kirk displays a truly astonishing emotional poverty. He goes from planet to planet, having trysts with an assortment of nubile women, but never forms any real attachments. ... [snip] ...There's a pervasive message that women are toxic. In an episode called Cat's Paw, there is an evil sorceress who separates the crew from each other and from the starship. The perpetually indignant Dr. McCoy cautions Kirk, "Don't let her touch your wand Jim, or you'll lose all your power!["] On the very rare occasions where Kirk seems to find love, his partners quickly die off. After one of his loves has croaked, Kirk admonishes Spock "Love, you're better off without it." [Emphasis added]
Ladowsky argues pedophiles naturally identify with the crew's "utopian interracial and interplanetary world" as a model for "denial of the difference between the sexes and the difference between the generations." And then there are the monsters:
[I]f the pedophiles are identifying with the crew members, who do the monsters represent? Possibly aspects of the pedophile's mind that are split off because they are unthinkable, and projected into someone else. On the Enterprise, aggressive impulses aren't battling it out with libidinal ones as they are here on earth. In the Star Trek universe, every "bad" impulse is attributed to an external force. When it comes to sex, for example, it's always an outside influence that takes possession of the crew's minds and bodies, causing them to behave in erotically driven ways. Child molesters have a similar mechanism at work. They deny having any sexual impulses themselves; they frequently claim that it was the children who seduced them.
Ladowsky only discusses the original Star Trek series, not the Next Generation and subsequent follow-ups. But her post certainly seems a big step in the direction of an actual explanation. Give her tenure! ... P.S.: Too bad she has little hope of breaking through the Huffies' bizarre obsession with their temporary fetishistic love object, Cindy Sheehan. ... 11:24 A.M. link
WaPo's Robin Wright, who has been sneering from the sidelines throughout the Iraq war, recently co-wrote a much-noticed article, "U.S. Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq."Am I the only person who found it thin and unconvincing? When I read, in Wright's lede, that the "Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq," I expect to see a depressing Kerry-like acceptance of a post-pullout stable military autocracy or acceptance of an Iran-style religious state--something that would really suggest that the invasion wasn't close to being worth the costs. Instead, Wright tells us: 1) What we already knew--there's not enough electricity or security and unemployment is very high. Damage from looting has hurt the ability to quickly build a "robust" Iraqi economy; 2) Oil production is "estimated at 2.2 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million"! 3) the constitution will "require laws to be compliant with Islam," as if that vague requirement automatically means something horrible; 4) Kurds and Shiites are expecting "de facto long term" some sort of autonomy. (That's a bad thing?) 5) We don't expect to "fully defeat the insurgency" before our troops leave. ... There are also some downbeat, non-specific quotes from critics like Larry Diamond--who laments that we "don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned ... to build a democratic culture and consensus." And there's one anonymous "U.S. official" who says "we will have some form of Islamic republic." But there's no indication that this "Islamic republic" won't be democratic--e.g. that it will be de facto ruled by mullahs as opposed to elections. [Isn't the United Kingdom "a Christian monarchy with a state church"--reader T.N. That's Robin Wright's next piece: "Magna Carta Failing to Achieve Initial Expectations."] ... P.S.: I'm not saying the Bushies haven't drastically lowered their expectations recently. I'm saying Wright doesn't show it. ... P.P.S.: Wright also notes, without irony, that Iraq is "incapable of providing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road." [Emph. added] A "car-buying boom"--another shocking failure! Don't they know about global warming? ... 11:58 A.M. link
Just Askin' II: According to the Rasmussen robo-poll, 43% of Americans approve of how Bush is doing his job, while 55% disapprove. But what's really striking is that the disapprovers disapprove much more vehemently than the approvers approve--41% of those surveyed "strongly disapproved" of Bush, while only 21% "strongly approve." Doesn't this imbalance of fervor mean something in low-turnout elections, such as the upcoming 2006 mid-terms? Specifically, doesn't it mean the anti-Bush forces should do very well in 2006, in a mirror-reversal of the 1994 mid-terms? ... P.S.: That assumes gerrymandering hasn't made Denny Hastert a democracy-proof Speaker for Life. ... 11:10 A.M. link
Just Askin' I: I suspect Dexter Filkins (or his rewrite desk) was pessimistically hyperventilating when the NYT declared yesterday that the Iraq constitution-writing process had "descended toward paralysis." But would it really be so terrible if the Iraqis failed to come up with a new constitution and the National Assembly were dissolved and new elections held? Just asking! Presumably more Sunnis would participate in elections the next time around, resulting in a more representative constitution-drafting group--and a constitution more likely to placate Sunni dissidents (and embolden Sunnis who may be willing to risk supporting the new state). 2:43 A.M. link
Dog-Whistle Reversed: The NYT has now published an interview with Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, one of the previously-anonymous Able Danger sources. Over on the right, John Podhoretz has reversed his headlong retreat into groveling apology and is back on the offensive. ... P.S.: Podhoretz focuses his ire on the "wall" that allegedly prohibited the Pentagon from sharing the Able Danger info with the F.B.I., and he blames then deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. But my impression is that the "wall" codified in Gorelick's famous 1995 memo didn't apply to the Pentagon, only to the FBI. That doesn't mean there wasn't a mistaken culture of caution and compartmentalization of which Gorelick's "wall" and the Pentagon's "wall" and 85% of the best-resumed lawyers who graduated from Harvard and Yale weren't a part. Still, it seems deceptive to target only Gorelick, and extremely foolish to assume that all the screw-ups the 9/11 Commission may have made are attributable to some insidious desire to protect her (as opposed to, say, protecting John Kerry, or Bill Clinton, or the Pentagon, or George H.W. Bush, or the Commission's already-written story line--or to sheer negligence, lack of manpower, or excusable bad luck). Disclosure: Gorelick's an old friend of mine from college. [She's got you protecting her. Why not the Commission too?--ed They have more friends than I do! I can certainly see them subconsciously protecting all the respectable people like Gorelick who erected, amended, and defended the various walls over the years.] 6:23 P.M. link
General Motors has finally come to its senses and is planning to build and sell some rear-wheel drive cars, including sedans, according to the Detroit Freep. This apparently reverses the company's disastrous decision of several months ago. Chrysler's had a big rear-drive sedan on sale for over a year now. That means GM will still be at least four years behind the curve. ... P.S.: If there was something wrong with GM's Australian "Zeta" chassis in March (too expensive? too heavy? too wobbly?) has it been fixed? ... P.P.S.: My attempt to explain why rear-drive is better is here. ... [via Autoblog ] 4:19 P.M. link
You might expect a conservative Friedmanite economist like Thomas Sowell to be part of the Wall Street Journal "open borders" faction when it comes to immigration. You would be wrong! 3:41 P.M.
Strange New Retreat: Right-wing bloggers (John Podhoretz, Jim Geraghty) now appear to be in semi-full retreat on Able Danger (i.e., on whether a secret data-mining program had in fact fingered Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11.) Podhoretz, who only last week wrote "This is clearly becoming the biggest story of the summer" now says:
none of this passes the smell test. And an apology is due the 9/11 Commission staff at the very least ...
And here we all thought Andrew Sullivan was excitable! ... I claim to have been skeptical of Doug Jehl's initial NYT front-page report making the charge--but I'm also skeptical of the sudden right-wing pullback. Maybe Atta's name was on a huge list of false positives. Maybe not. Don't we want to find out--and shouldn't the 9/11 commission have wanted to find out, and at least dropped a footnote mentioning the program (and the sensational charge made to the Commission by at least one officer that Atta had in fact been identified)? Rep. Curt Weldon doesn't seem to be Mr. Credibility on this issue, but the Department of Defense--the apparent source for Geraghty's "guy I trust"--may have its own reasons for wanting to snuff out inquiries into Able Danger--for example, covering up its own mistakes. ... Andy McCarthy, who's skeptical but hasn't heard the GOP dog-whistle sounding retreat, appears to have the better of the argument for now. ... Update: At least one of the previously unnamed "intelligence officials" who've been sources for the Able Danger story now appears to have come forward. ... And he's been commenting at Phil Carter's Intel Dump! (That post now seems highly significant, what with its aspersions cast at the Pentagon's overly protective lawyering.).... P.S.: McCarthy notes that according to the Wash Times Pentagon officials attempting to tamp down the story say there may be (in the Times' paraphrase) "a few intelligence analyses that mention [Atta's] name[.] …" Yikes. 12:40 P.M. link
Now even Rasmussen's robots appear to be falling in line with the general Bush declining-approval trend. ... 10:20 A.M.
Still the easiest way I can think of to become the richest person in the world: Buy one of the two weak U.S. brand names General Motors is reportedly thinking about killing off--that would be Pontiac or Buick--and start making Pontiacs (or Buicks) in China for sale in North America. ... Update: Malcolm Bricklin has a head start, without the brand name. But he's close--he plans to import a car called the "Chery," which GM is not happy about).[Via Autoblog] ... 10:05 P.M.
David Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy: Addressing the problem of "what to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here," David Brooks writes:
We're not going to deport 11 million people, many of whom own homes and businesses. But normalizing their status is a question of balance. If we treat them too punitively, we'll just push them further underground. On the other hand, they broke the law, and they have to pay. McCain-Kennedy would lure them into the sunlight with the prospect of normalization, but would make them pay all back taxes and a $2,000 fine to become regularized, and they'd have to get in the back of the line. That's a start, but the penalties will probably have to be a bit tougher to be politically palatable. [Emph. added]
Brooks here seems to assume there is some "balance" to be struck--some Archimedean point between pure amnesty and draconian penalties--that will both lure illegals out from underground and punish them enough to deter more illegals from following in their footsteps. Washingtonians always assume there's some compromise deal that can be cut--the Bob Dole Fallacy. But sometimes there isn't; the relevant preference curves don't intersect (or however you'd express it graphically). And it seems very likely that this is one of those cases--that any penalty a) sufficiently harsh to deter future illegal immigrants (who, after all, get to live and work in the U.S. while those who play by the rules wait their turns) will be way too harsh for b) existing illegals to voluntarily accept. A $2,000 fine ain't going to be enough for (a), and may already be too high for (b). ... The only way to change the preference curves, it seems to me, is to make it more unpleasant to live as an illegal in the U.S.--so that both the penalty due upon surfacing becomes relatively more acceptable and the prospect of becoming an illegal becomes easier to deter. ... 10:49 P.M.
Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, leaders of the 9/11 Commission, say their report ignored the Able Danger program because it "did not turn out to be historically significant." Well of course it didn't! But maybe it would have turned out to be historically significant if it had been nurtured and not legalistically confined. That's the issue, no? ... There's something circular about Kean and Hamilton's rationale--this data-mining program didn't become a big deal compared with other "policy and intelligence efforts" so we don't have to look at why it didn't become a big deal. But did it fail to become a big deal only because its potential was misguidedly nipped in the bud? In a self-righteous 9/11 inquiry that turned into a festival of second-guessing and what-iffing, why not second-guess this what-if along with all the others? ... P.S.: We now think we know the answer to the Eric Umansky Question--how big was the list of names that Atta's was on? Answer: 60, according to the ubiquitous" former defense intelligence official" who is the source of the report that Able Danger had in fact fingered Atta a year before 9/11. ... 12:22 P.M.
Are you a New York Times writer facing a government subpoena? Hint: Those who don't go with Floyd Abrams as their lawyer tend to stay out of jail! 3:15 P.M.
"Why am I here?" Courtney Love picks up where Admiral Stockdale left off. ... Tinseltown Spywitness has some details of her depressing Comedy Central appearance that Page Six left out. Good to see you can write that someone "appeared increasingly toasted" in at least one L.A. newspaper. ... 9:17 A.M.
Bruce Reed wisely avoids bloggish obsession over the fine points of the Able Danger story--
If the Times account is accurate, the Pentagon's failure to act on Able Danger operatives' findings spared FBI operatives the embarrassment of failing to act on those findings. ...
P.S.: Reed has at least one other good, cynical Washington Monthlyesque rim shot ("a Pentagon spokesman says 'it would be irresponsible for us to provide details in a way in which those who wish to do us harm would find beneficial,' but he fails to say whether he's referring to the FBI, the CIA, the White House, or Congress.") ... P.P.S.: For a solid survey of the bloggish obsession, see Maguire and his many links. ... P.P.P.S.: Or you could just think about how this A.P. lede from today would have looked, say, in the middle of the 2004 campaign, when the Sept. 11 commission was a major pro-Kerry factor:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Sept. 11 commission knew military intelligence officials had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a member of al-Qaida who might be part of U.S.-based terror cell more than a year before the terror attacks but decided not to include that in its final report, a spokesman acknowledged Thursday.
Yikes. J-Pod has the Maximum Conservative Reading. But we do need to know how big the list with Atta's name on it was. ... 12:53 A.M.
Are We Spain? If Peggy Noonan is right that Bush's support depends crucially on the "second bookend"--that
America has not been attacked on its soil again. We have not been airplaned, nuked, bio'd or suitcase bombed
doesn't it mean Al Qaeda could effectively bring down Bush's presidency with one deadly attack, maybe even a fairly simple attack? In other words, we are in the position of Spain on March 10, 2004. Don't tell Zawahiri. ... 12:25 A.M. link
Share Jon Klein's Joy, Part II! Dana Stevens has a thorough grokking of The Situation Room, Jonathan Klein's epochal achievement, the symbol of CNN's "newfound dedication" and as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall and an Eve after the fall! ... Today, anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Bill Clinton. Stevens says:
It was a standard puff-piece interview, somewhere between public-service announcement and campaign stop, which made it all the odder that Blitzer chose to end the encounter by flashing up an old picture of Clinton White House situation room. Describing the picture to the president, Blitzer asked, "You're now in another situation room, at least via satellite. How does it feel?" Clinton seemed confused for a fraction of a second before responding with a laugh, "I liked being in the other situation room, but I like this one better. There's less pressure and more freedom. And I know I can walk out on you—I couldn't walk out on the other situation room." As the show prepared to cut to a commercial, the giant screens showed a suddenly tired-looking Clinton, waiting for an aide to remove his body mic. He seemed eager to get away from the delusional Blitzer and back to his real life. From where I sit right now at 5:15:04 p.m. ET, heading into my third straight hour of real-time data collection, I'm inclined to agree.
Stevens gets in some other good shots. ... P.S.: She also says it's "a colossal bore." ... P.P.S.: But she likes Cafferty. ...11:04 P.M.
Here's an answer to a question that bugged the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (the mysteriously declining age of menarche) ... 10:17 P.M.
Gutfeld, Gutfeld. You shot and missed! Anti-SUV activists Laurie David and Arianna Huffington will be happy to denounce private jets. What you need to do is try to get them to renounce private jets! That one would be tougher for them. ... P.S.: According to Gregg Easterbrook, a single Gulfstream G200 flight across the country consumes as much fossil fuel as driving a Hummer for a year. ... [Gutfeld's item's still funny, for "Deepaking" alone. Do you think it has any chance at becoming one of HuffPo's front-page "Featured Posts"?--ed He'll never break through the Wall of Sheehan! ... To enjoy HuffPo you have to ignore the "Featured Posts." Go straight to "The Blog." How many times must I tell you! "The Blog" is all Sheehan too--ed. What happened to Judy Miller?] ... P.P.S.: As if the Gutfeld double-secret hidden blog wasn't enough, there's this. ... 5:51 P.M.
"You're calling me 'jejune'?" James Wolcott shows he's one of the most june guys in all the blogospheres in a brilliantly imaginative post that begins by pretending Jeff Jarvis said "clap" instead of "crap"! ... And they say he's lost the magic! ... 5:53 P.M.
Kleinenfreude! Harry Shearer says "The Situation Room," CNN president Jon Klein's afternoon masterpiece, is
watchable only for those devotees of train wrecks who used to love that mid-day talk-show on CNN -- the place Bobbi Batista went to die -- that smooshed together email, phone calls, and live guests in the CNN Center in front of an audience that looked more like hostages. ... [emphasis added]
The ratings suck too. I say give the dynamic Wolf Blitzer time to find his voice! ... P.S.: But should present trends continue, I am not worried about Klein. His whole strategy--leading with his lip, playing to the respectable media-crit claque by trashing his own people, giving dozens of interviews and speeches in which he makes a grand show of saying nothing--seems designed not to help his network but to make sure that by the time he definitively fails at CNN and has to leave he's enough of a big-deal TV network name that he can get a good job somewhere else! ... P.S.: Don't worry: No doubt Klein employee Howie Kurtz will eviscerate Klein in WaPo! [Once he's safely out the door--ed You said that.] ... P.P.S.: Isn't Jack Cafferty's loose "Situation Room" sniping kind of ... good, though? Maybe the Post could hire him too! ... 4:44 P.M.
The epistemological status of Doug Jehl's report--that a Pentagon data-mining progam had fingered Mohammed Attta as Al Qaeda in 2000-- remains unsettled. Maguire has the state of play. A key issue: the "former intelligence official" who has come forward with the story says
he had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta in the briefing [to the 9/11 commission] as a member of the American terrorist cell.
But those who were briefed don't seem to remember the name, which you'd think they would. ... So does the NYT believe it's own report? Did it have it nailed down when it ran with it? Or are Jehl & Co. asymptotically approaching the truth, bloggy-style, by publicizing an uncertain story and initiating what is in effect a dialogue with those who have additional, clarifying information to offer? ... Not that there's anything wrong with it! ... 3:54 P.M. link
"[T]he software put them all together in Brooklyn." The NYT reports on its front page that over a year before 9/11, "a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States." How did the military intelligence unit do it? Readers who made it to the middle of page A-14 of the Times learned the answer: data-mining. ... Does this seemingly stunning proof of data-mining's efficacy mean the NYT will ease its staunch editorial opposition to the technique, which the paper has breathlessly said
could mean that F.B.I. agents will show up at the doors of people who order politically unpopular books on Amazon.com or make phone calls to organizations critical of the government.
P.S.: The most consipicuous battle over data-mining was NYT columnist William Safire's successful crusade against Admiral John Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness" plan, which was a data-mining project. Safire characterized it as an "Orwellian" enterprise in which
every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend. . . . will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
Anti-"privocrat" Heather Mac Donald took on Safire's alarmism in a 2004 City Journal article:
It's okay for Home Depot to buy my digitized credit-card receipts, says the privacy "community," to see whether I would be a soft touch for a riding mower. But if government agents want to see who has purchased explosive-level quantities of fertilizer, they should go store to store, checking credit-card receipts. Data-mining opponents would deny terror investigators a technology in common use in the commercial sector, simply because they think government should be kept inefficient to limit its power ....
Mac Donald also made an astonishing and suddenly eerily resonant claim:
Had a system been in place in 2001 for rapidly accessing commercial and government data, the FBI's intelligence investigators could have located every single one of the 9/11 team once it learned in August 2001 that al-Qaida operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 suicide pilots, were in the country. [Emphasis added]
It's been obvious for a while that if we're going to match the terrorists in the cyberspace race we'll have to give up some of our privacy. Letting a government supercomputer scan my credit card receipts and Amazon searches seems a relatively inoffensive place to start.** It beats torturing people. ...
** Don't forget my library books! (Do you have an expectation of privacy when you check out a book from ... the government? I don't.)
Backfill: Umansky is skeptical of the whole story. ... Phil Carter beat me to the data-mining defense and has comments from actual government data miners--or their lawyers, anyway. ... [via JustOneMinute] 3:13 A.M.
I'm baffled by the heavily-advertised decline in Bush's popularity, which began not when the war in Iraq was dicey and bloody but when it seemed to be going well, with the successful elections in January. ... Mystery Pollster helps by pointing to the "amazing Professor Pollkatz graphic." It shows Bush in steady, secular decline, punctuated only by small event-related upticks, since 9/11--suggesting that, like a hitter who regresses to his "natural" career average after a hot streak, Bush is simply returning to the level of popularity he would have had if 9/11 hadn't occurred. It's not Schiavo, or gas prices. It's just Bush's natural approval rating. ... P.S.: Except among Rasmussen's robots. They still like Bush! Bush even rose in the Rasmussen poll in the first half of the year. Mystery Pollster can't completely explain it and neither can I. ... 2:23 A.M.
Hitchens, OBE: Dr. Alaa Tamimi, the Giuliani-admiring mayor of Baghdad lauded by Christopher Hitchens only yesterday, appears to have been deposed via seemingly extra-democratic means by a Shiite group led by the elected president of the city council. Iraq's prime minister seem ready to ratify the ouster by accepting Tamimi's previously-offered resignation. ... Since Tamimi was chosen, as the NYT previously reported, "not by a direct election but by a vote of local leaders who were carefully chosen by the American occupation," this may be less of a setback to democracy than it appears, though it will be lamented by those who doubt the decisive virtue of elections alone if they bring to power strict Islamist parties. (Lee Smith, in the course of expressing those doubts in Slate, found even Tamimi too Islamist. One wonders what he thinks of Tamimi's successors.) ... 1:49 P.M.
Barbara Ehrenreich once famously remarked that the only institution left that reliably mixes the classes is the DMV. I spent most of today there, and while I did not see David Geffen or any famously rich locals it seemed to be fulfilling its leveling mission. I have since learned that I was a fool--smart Californians never go to the DMV! They can do all their DMV-related bureaucratic chores more efficiently at a local branch of the Auto Club. ... Can special concierge service for busy studio execs be far behind? ... P.S.: I don't think the decline of the DMV as a class-mixer is something for social egalitarians to lament. It hardly provides a boost to civic equality if the only egalitarian experiences average citizens have are tedious and time-wasting. ... Anyway, the real class-mixer in my neighborhood is the 7-11. ... 1:03 A.M.
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]