2.28.2005

The Debate About Patrick Fitzgerald

The Chicago Tribune Magazine features a cover story about Patrick Fitzgerald. Kirsten Scharnberg writes about his career as a prosecutor working for the Department of Justice.

She depicts Fitzgerald as a workaholic describing the story of his New York City apartment lacking natural gas for the entire length of his lease - several years. His work schedule is hectic. It's difficult to explain why it is not hectic.

Fitzgerald has been the go to guy for the government in prosecuting terrorism cases. He prosecuted the landmark sedition case against the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, based on a 200 year old statute. He prosecuted the landmark RICO case applied to terrorism financial networks in Chicago.

He's not batting a thousand, but he's pretty dang close. Right now he is the appointed special prosecutor investigating the alleged crime of blowing the cover of a Valerie Plame, an alleged covert agent working for the CIA. Of all his cases, this one is the most explosive one national political grounds.

2.24.2005

Chris Bowers: The TV Edition

Chris Bowers reacts to his appearance on the new MSNBC show "Connected: Coast to Coast".
I just saw the tape--really, I'm not that ugly in person. I now have a newfound respect for anyone who says anything on television. When those lights came on, and I was looking at nothing but two huge lights and a blank wall, I instantly forget everything I had planned to say. To make matters worse, I knew people were looking at me, but I didn't know how I looked, and I was unable to adjust. I also guess I was looking up too high--everyone else was looking straight at the camera, but I looked smug. Live and learn I guess. Still, the "twenty second" comment worked well, I thought.

I watched the segment and thought he did a good job.

2.23.2005

They're Here

Jeff Gannon and the South Dakota Senate Race

It seems that there are many people that are not up to par on the facts ot the South Dakota Senate Race. Jeff Gannon did file stories on this race that included some charges about the independence of Daily Argus Leader political reporter David Kranz. Gannon's reporting, as is everything Jeff Gannon, is now being questioned by bloggers and their readers.

It is important to gain an understanding of the events in the SD Senate Race because Jeff Gannon is merely a reporter of the David Kranz story. Jon Lauck, editor of the Daschle v Thune weblog, did the initial research on the memos from the archives of former South Dakota pols. The memos revealed that the SD Democrat campaigns relied on David Kranz to print their oppo research.

The entire story is interesting. It is best told by Jon Lauck himself.

Daschle v. Thune: The Argus Leader and the Degradation of American Democracy

2.17.2005

The Middle Ground of Politics: Pro-life/Pro-choice

New Donkey reacts to some commentary from Noam Scheiber and Kevin Drum pointing out a NY Times story addressing the National Right to Life Foundation's reaction to Senator Clinton's so called "middle ground" speech on abortion.

The New Donkey is trying to analyse the center of politics of abortion. He concludes that in the center, like the right and the left, there is real desire to decrease the number of abortions. He points to the opinions of the National Right to Life Foundation in regards to contraception options.

The short short version of the "decreasing abortion rate" debate is that the best way to decrease the number of abortions is to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. Comprehensive sex education, condoms, birth control and the "morning after pill" are the most commonly cited methods of decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

This isn't really disputable. The facts are clear on these items. They, like many objects, have a rate of failure, so they are not perfect.

The fundamental issue for Pro-Lifers - like me - is that we want to decrease the number of abortions. However, the differences between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice are biological and ethical. Pro-Life advocates seek to identify when life begins. In biology, this question is already answered. Life begins at conception. Ethically is where the divide begins.

Pro-Lifers are trying to seek protections for the unborn. They want to end the "property" status of the baby that makes up the standing for "privacy". We witness the animosity for any laws that grant legal standing for a fetus in the Congress. "Lacey and Connor's Law" was opposed by the the Pro-Choice organizations. Any citation in the law that makes it a crime to harm a fetus creates the grounds for the people to petition their government for redress of grievances.

The other aspect to this debate is the commercial interests. Abortion is an industry. Inaccurately categoerized as "Healthcare", Abortion has become a major fundraising issue for Progressives. That money comes from people genuinely interested in maintaining the property status of a fetus. But we cannot ignore the commercial interests that need abortion. If the fetus were treated under the law as a person then the sociological results of permiscous sex with multiple partners could accurately be addressed by the people.

The Adult Erotic Entertainment industry is a major contributor to Pro-Choice organizations. Their profits are linked to the law. If abortion is outlawed then their balance sheet will feel the effects. People will have to consider their options more carefully. Spontaneous sexual encounters would carry a much higher risk.

Even Senator Clinton recognized that Pro-Life supporters that want to end abortion derive their ethics from religion. She understands that decreasing the number of abortions isn't the only motivation of Pro-Life supporters. They also are concerned about the cultural norms that have shifted radically over the last 30 years.

2.16.2005

Syria, Iran to Build 'Common Front'

Reuters reports that Iran and Syria have agreed to form a "common front" to confront attacks against the two countries. The announcement came from the Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref.

No more than 5 minutes after this report hit the wires, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, appeared on CNN and questioned the existence of this "common front". Reuters is quoting the Iranian Vice-President exiting a meeting with the Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari.

Odd, isn't it, that the Syrian Ambassador to the United States was not aware of this agreement? He neither confirmed, nor denied the the pact, but he clearly acted like he knew nothing of its plans.

US Withdraws Its Ambassador To Syria

Wretchard, over at The Belmont Club, offers his take on the withdrawl of the US Ambassador from Syria.

"The Curtain Rises"

I view the withdrawl of the US Ambassador a little differently.

I see this as the United States yielding to the Europeans on this matter as it relates to Syria. As it likely will, relative to the Syrian intelligence and security apparatus operating - likely controlling - the spook community in Lebanon, the Europeans will be seeking answers from the Syrians rather than an admission that is unlikely to come.

Remarkable as it sounds, the United States and France worked together to pass UNSC resolution 1559 in September 2004. It passed with nine votes in support and six abstentations, among them were China and Russia. Lebanon objected to the resolution, but France continued to press for it.

The resolution called for 'support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence.'

It is a wonder why Lebanon would object to this, but it is especially ironic that 'foreign interference' did in fact occur. The chief critic of the interference was Rafiq al-Hariri.

It's important to note that the abstentations were explained as objections to the resolution addressing domestic political concerns of a member nation that had not officially requested the resolution. China and Russia could have vetoed, but declined.

These indications lead me to believe the US wants Europeans to try their hand with Syria, but I still think the hit was an Iranian job. Iran was the most protected of the parties that could pull off this job. It's negotiations with the Euro trio are too engaged for the Europeans to abandon. Iran is calculating that Europeans are too implanted against hard power for their governments to implicate Iran in the assasination.

Debka and Larry Johnson both say Syria, but this strike would make Syria the Prophet of Idiocy.

2.15.2005

Rafiq al-Hariri Assasination: Editorials and Arab Press Roundup

The NY Times, Chicago Tribune and Daily Star in Lebanon all have editorial reactions to yesterday's bombing.

NY Times: "Hit Job in Beirut"

Chicago Tribune: "The Other Occupation"

Daily Star: "On The Brink Of An Abyss"

Getting the picture? The LA Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have yielded to haste perhaps to see more information before they publish reactions.

More good information comes courtesy of UPI International. They have a roundup of Arab Press reactions to the bombing.

2.14.2005

Beirut Bombing Claims Life of Former Prime Minister

Rafiq al-Hariri was killed today by explosives targeting his motorcade.

Al Jazeera has a report asking who killed Rafiq. They question three middle east analysts on the subject.

Rime Allaf is skeptical on the the benefactor of this attack.
"What exactly would the Syrians gain from this? Precisely because most people would say that this is the Syrians who have done this. It doesn't make any sense," Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, UK, said.

"The first people who will be hurt by this is Syria. Given the chaos in Lebanon and the rising anger between the factions, analytically Syria loses a lot by this," Allaf told Aljazeera.net.


Murhaf Jouejati thinks it would be crazy to think the Syrians did this.
Murhaf Jouejati a Syrian analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Aljazeera.net that it was too early to accuse anyone of being behind the killing.

"This is not good news. The Syrians are not crazy and they are not going to be assassinating Lebanese officials," he said.

"They (the Syrians) have been engaging in dialogue with the opposition ... I think there are many local parties who would have an interest in the destablisation of Lebanon."


Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star had this to say.
"It may very well strengthen the opposition to the Syria presence. There will be a fierce reaction from the Sunni community. I think the government is very embarrassed. They may have to pay for the backlash," he told Aljazeera.net.

Young said Damascus may be blamed for the killing and that this would have an effect on Syria's already tense relations with the US.

"It becomes a question of how much the US and France want to escalate against Syria. The Americans will hold Syria directly responsible. They will not seek conciliation over Resolution 1559. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen was seeking a delay in its implementation, but now I think there will be no delay," he said.


The magnitude of the blast had local Lebanese commentary pointing the finger at an intelligence agency. Reuters reported that the bomb was sophisticated enough to jam communications devices in the area.

A group contact Al Jazeera to claim responsibility for the attack. Al Jazeera is quoted in a report by the Tehran Times that the caller was not a native speaker of Arabic. They claimed the event was a "martyrdom attack" which would be in line with Islamist terror tactics. However, early reports suggest that nearly 500 lbs of explosives were used.

Predictably, regional governments condemned the attack. But the also mentioned in the Tehran Times story are comments from Iranian officials.
He[Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi] said there is no doubt that such a terrorist act which targeted the Lebanese national sovereignty and territorial integrity would only benefit the Zionist regime.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said that only well-organized terrorist organizations such as those by Zionist regime have the potential to do such a massive terrorist act.


Michel Aoun, the exiled political leader of Lebanon, didn't stop short before blaming Syria. Aoun announced that the Syrians run the security and intelligence apparatus in Lebanon. His exile was the result of the Syrian military offensive.

Rafiq al-Hariri was not a political figure without controversy. He resigned in protest in late 2004 as a result of Syrian domination of Lebanese politics. It is no secret that Syria has engaged Lebanon as a quasi-proxy state to carry out its militant efforts against Israel. Lebanese politicians have complained for years that Syria is not welcome in Lebanon.

Syria rebuts that the Lebanese government wants them in Lebanon. Hariri could have been targeted for his more outspoken criticism of Syria. Clearly he was not a close ally to the Syrian government and his actions were outside the interests of Syria.

The United States stopped short of blaming Syria. Though, they did join France in calling for an investigation into the responsibility for the attack. France and the United States have been seeking reform by the Syrian government through diplomatic channels and the UN Security Council. Together they worked on the passage of UNSC resolution 1559[UNSC Res 1559: PDF]. It calls for an immediate withdrawl of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon territory.

2.13.2005

The Last Samurai

I watched The Last Samurai again last night on HBO. This truly is a great film depicting the sociological emergence of a nation as it struggles with it historical cultural connections and the coming wave of modernity.

Rarely does a picture tell the story through song and music. However, Hans Zimmer's scores do in fact connect you to the story through song. As I listen to the soundtrack I can close my eyes and see Katsumoto, played by the excellent Ken Watanabe, observing Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise, struggling to defend himself in battle from an inevitable death. As the events pass, Katsumoto witnesses the next phrase of his yet unfinished poem.

It is rare for me to enjoy a Tom Cruise film. I usually come to the conclusion that the films he stars in are great films, yet suffer as a result of his acting. Though, in "The Last Samurai" Cruise excels as an fortunate soldier that seeks death, not through battle with a human enemy, but a battle with his own demons of sorrow and guilt. His emotions only controllable in battle, Cruise discovers a life in the Samurai that impresses him. He connects the dedication of the Samurai to his own dedication. Where the two tales clash, Cruise discovers where his path took a wrong turn.

Edward Zwick directs a picture that I think was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the category of best picture and direction. Perhaps because this film was a Warner Bros release and Mystic River was also released by Warner Bros it did not crowd the nominations with two Warner releases.

2.12.2005

527s: Bye Bye

Andrew Stuttaford has a little brief over at the Corner about the new crackdown planned for 527s. You'll recall that 527s raised amazing amounts of cash in the most recent election cycle as a result of the effects of McCain-Fiengold, or as the supporters of the bill refer to it - BPCRA(Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act).

Andrew refers to some McCain-Fiengold opposition that is getting behind the new crackdown on 527s.

I understand his criticism. I didn't like McCain-Fiengold. I think Senator Mitch McConnel had the right position on the bill on the basis of a violation of the free expression clause. Unfortunately, SCOTUS only found a few provisions guilty of a violation of first amendment rights.

But upon review of the 2004 general election I have to conclude that 527s were a vital aspect to telling the stories of the candidates. As they hire operators to market only those aspects of the candidate that they want to release, the 527s were there to talk about everything else. The most effective of these was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They absolutely hammered John Kerry during a critical month long period that was the gap between the end of the Democrat Party National Convention and the Republican Party National Convention.

Even today, their impact continues to be felt. The SBVT caught the interest of Anneberg Fellow Thomas Lipscomb. He followed the accusations in order to trace the timeline and veracity of John Kerry's depiction of his activities in Vietnam. As recently as a few weeks ago, John Kerry was on "Meet the Press" again changing his story about the "Christmas in Cambodia" event. He went so far as to say he was running guns on classified CIA missions to the Khmer Rouge. It was another Kerry shocker that had the blogosphere again questioning the judgement of John Kerry.(You can read Lipscomb's latest piece in Oregon Magazine)

The 527 organizations were performing a task that politicians have attempted to avoid - those events that do not make them look like the upstanding citizens they campaign as. While this new opposition is accurate in depicting a 527 organization as having the potential to swoop into your district, in the final weeks, and flood the airwaves with ads paid for by billionaires like George Soros and Peter Lewis, so as to change the election outcome, McCain and other propose we just get rid of the 527s.

A better method is real time disclosure of financial contributions for all political activity. Freshman Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana came as close to this as he could come when he ran for governor of his state. His turn around was about 2 business days for reporting all contributions to his website where anyone could view the data. Jindal barely lost that election, but it didn't take him very long to win another.

Column: Ward Churchill Colorado Media Wrap

Instapundit links to a Dave Kopel piece in the Rocky Mountain News that rounds up a lot of the Ward Churchill controversy.

Among other things, Kopel questions the coverage of the story done by the Denver Post, pointing to the January '87 Denver Post profile of Ward Churchill that I blogged about previously.

Eason Jordan Issues a Statement

Jay Rosen, over at Pressthink, has a post that includes a statement released by Eason Jordan regarding his comments at Davos.

PressThink: Eason Jordan Resigns
While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the U.S. military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that U.S. military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been.

I hope this emphasized statement is accurate. A release of the tape to the press would be the best way to authenticate the veracity of Jordan's statement.

The Diana Oughten Story

In following up on the reactions to Ward Churchill I read that David Horowitz highlights that Churchill's book, "Pacifism as Pathology", is dedicated to Diana Oughten. Horowitz mentions that she is one of the three casualties of the accidental explosion in the Weathermen bomb factory in a Manhattan condo in Greenwich.

Wanting to know more about Diana Oughten's role in the Weathermen I did what any Internet junkie would do - Google it. One hit is a fascinating read from UPI's history archive. It is a 6 part story about the metamorphisis of a small town girl from wealth to radical aligned with the destruction of American Society.

United Press International - 1970 - Diana Oughton story - Part I

Eason Jordan Submits Resignation

Tips and praise to the team over at "Easongate" for their efforts to try and tell this story. As veterans they were on this story from leveled accusation to acceptable conclusion.
Easongate: The Price of Slander

They're still one piece short of a completely assembled puzzle. They are calling for a release of the Davos video tape. As veterans, they probably can make a case to the World Economic Forum on behalf of active and retired members of the United States Military. I hope they are successful.

2.11.2005

Saving Lives With Toys

Army vet Blackfive has a must read story from a Marine in Iraq that requested toys from American citizens to hand out to Iraqi children. I refuse to tell the story because it must be read.

The Heart of America (Follow Up) And Journalists

The story is from December 2004.

Ward Churchill: Weather Underground Explosives Instructor?

Over at LGF there is yet another discussion about Ward Churchill. Among the comments is a link to 1987 Denver Post article that says Ward Churchill came back from Vietnam and traveled to Chicago to instruct the Weather Underground on explosives.
But the Weather Underground knew more about Marxism than about bombs. Churchill briefly taught the Weathermen and Weatherwomen how to make bombs and how to fire weapons - "which end does the bullet go, what are the ingredients, how do you time the damned thing."

Apparently, Ward Churchill's name comes up in COINTELPRO documents obtained by defense counselors for criminal targets of the domestic intelligence operation. He wrote an acclaimed book about the subject after deep discussions with the attorneys that defended the COINTELPRO targets.

I have not ventured deep into this information, though, it does seem odd that the author of an informative book happens to be one of the people investigated by the FBI.

Does North Korea Have Nuclear Weapons?

Selig Harrison writes in Foreign Affairs that the North Korean nuke evidence may not be as concrete as previously reported.

"Did North Korea Cheat": Jan/Feb-2005

Mitchell Weiss and Robert Galluci respond to Harrison in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

"Red Handed" Mar/Apr-2005

Tip: Dan Drezner

2.10.2005

Bait and Switch: Progressive Catholic Style

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. This marks the start of Lent, the 40 days and 40 nights of mourning the death of Jesus, for Catholics. Believe it or not it always held on a Wednesday.

I went to church with my folks to receive our ashes. To our surprise the service was led by a visiting Augustinian priest. His name is Fr. James Friedel. He gave a good homily about the gospel message of piety and the resistance of fame and accolades.

But the service was supposed to end there. Ash Wednesday is not a day to celebrate Mass. Fr. Friedel continued the service by moving on to celebrate a full mass. Both of my folks glared awkwardly as the service continued into a mass.

The usual short service to receive ashes proceeded to a 95 minute mass. At the end of the mass we received an explanation. As it was revealed the priest decided, with the blessing of the progressive "employees" of the church, the service was extended as the final Lenten retreat mass called "Becoming Aware". The full-time employees of the church organized a special Lenten retreat that consisted of three days of special prayer and town hall style gatherings. Widely unpopular and sparesly attended they chose to make the last Ash Wednesday service the final Lenten retreat mass.

The evening treat was 30 minutes of Liberation Theology from Father Friedel. We learned about the roots of terrorism; poverty.

First, I asked my folks about this irregularity and they said this was the first time in their 50 some odd years of Catholic practice that they had received communion on Ash Wednesday. But the roots of terrorism were enlightening. One of the wealthiest men in the world is the most wanted terrorist in the world and he shuns the wealth in order to live in poverty by choice. Sounds like a plan for a life of hardship, strife and angst.

I'm waiting everyday for the Latin American immigrants to detonate their bombs. Clearly the poverty they face in their hometowns is the reason they have come to the United States. We are just waiting for their terrorism to start.

Oppo Research

I don't find this subject to be particularly difficult. Essentially it is more or less about exposing people for either misleading, lying or failing to disclose information that may change your audience perspective.

For a composition assignment I wrote a guide to find out that the progressive website "Buzzflash" is nothing more than an astroturf stadium for the public relations firm Mark Karlin & Associates. Mark himself is an avid gun control advocate but I figured it was odd to read a site that interviews George Soros and Bill Moyers and the reader has no clue as to who operates, edits and owns Buzzflash.

Even in the Internet realm I believe in a formal introduction.

Gotcha Journalism for Dummies

Talon News White House correspondent Jeff Gannon abruptly resigned his post in the aftermath of oppo digs by folks on the Internet. In an interview today with Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Gannon explained some of the missing details.

His real name is JD Guckert(rhymes with Rupert). He uses the name Jeff Gannon for this very reason. It is a simple name that is difficult to misconstrue. While the use of a psuedonym as a White House correspondent seems irregular I don't know enough about the history of White House reporters to say it is wrong.

Nonetheless, Gannon told Wolf that he resigned because the nature of his work was sparking communications with members of his family. People were contacting his extended family to inquire about information into his previous business relationships as well as his background. To me this is more than reasonable to resign. Once you become the story then your reports are suspect to irrational scrutiny.

What I do witness in this story is the fervor that players on the Internet employ when they want to know more. I knew Jeff Gannon from the White House daily press briefings that are shown on C-SPAN. Other people were not as familiar with him or Talon News. It got bad once I started seeing his home number posted. Then other people were conducting background searches using "People Finder". Then the blogger "Billmon" posted a tax lien form copy for JD Guckert. Thankfully he did black out the social security number, but it didn't take long for that to be cleaned up to reveal his social security number.

The good news from this story is that we know a little more than we did the day before about the requirements to enter a White House press briefing. Apparently almost anyone can get in the room by meeting quite minimal requirements.

Now to work on the process of getting Scott McClellan to call on you.