As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 08, 2005


Guess who's Iraq's new best friend?

TEHRAN — Former foes Iran and Iraq said Thursday that they would sign a military cooperation agreement that would include Iranian help in training Iraq's armed forces, despite likely U.S. opposition.

The agreement marks a breakthrough in relations between the two countries, which fought a bitter 1980-88 war. And it comes in spite of repeated U.S. accusations that Shiite Muslim Iran has undermined security in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.

"It's a new chapter in our relations with Iraq. We will start wide defense cooperation," Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said at a news conference with his visiting Iraqi counterpart, Saadoun Dulaimi.

Don't tell me you're surprised by this. The Sunni boycott of the election inevitably led to Shiite domination. Amazing that Iran's "new chapter" in relations with Iraq only began once the Shiites were firmly in power there, no?

One overlooked fact of this war is how it has strengthened Iran's hand geopolitically. Controlled by radical mullahs, fresh with a new hardline President (Ahmadinejad) who won't buckle on their nuclear program, we've now given them more leverage in Iraq, furthering their Middle East coalition, which if we are to believe the 9/11 report includes al-Qaeda.

If the insurgency continues and the government feels desperate, they now have a credible reason to let Iran into the country in much the same way Syria was let into Lebanon.

That's fantastic!


A Sad Couple of Days

We just got a report here at work that the CNN Building in Los Angeles (about two blocks from my office) was evacuated due to a bomb threat. There is absolutely nothing about this on CNN or the Web, and after persisting, I learned that the source for all this was the mailman.

It's all disturbingly familiar. I can remember in the aftermath of 9/11 hearing "confirmed" reports of a hit on the Golden Gate Bridge on a day when I had to cross it. I remember the fear in people's faces and words. Now we have a series of train bombings several thousand miles away, and the fear is back, the hysteria is back. I can understand the sense of loss and compassion for the victims in London. But the whole point of defeating terrorism is to not let it run your life. Sadly, we've fallen right back into that paranoid midset.

This should be the final death blow for the ridiculous flypaper strategy as a rationale for attacking Iraq. Can we now all agree that there is not some finite supply of terrorists, that we can use our military as bait (which is totally disgusting) to draw them to a particular area? It may sound nice to say "we're fighting the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them at home," but it's not reality. The truth is that 4 years after September 11, al Qaeda is still in business, bin Laden is still alive and well, and we're still trying to find our way in this war on terror.

It's true that in free, urban societies, the notion that law enforcement can be right 100% of the time is pretty unlikely. But it's even more so when homeland security budgets are strained beyond credulity. Can we also all agree that we would gladly pay a few bucks a month to fully fund port, chemical plant, power plant, airline, border, mass transit and rail security? The beast is being starved right now. The New York City subway, home to 4.5 million riders every weekday, just had their funding cut. So did federal funds for mass transit, a mistake sure to be recitified now that the PR glare is squarely on Congress:

WASHINGTON -- Three weeks before London's bus and subway bombings, a Senate committee voted to slash spending on mass transit security in the United States, a decision sure to be reversed when Congress returns next week.

At a minimum, the Senate will restore the $50 million cut, G. William Hoagland, top budget aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Friday...

There is pressure for a lot more, though adding to rail and transit security programs means cutting elsewhere in the Homeland Security Department's $32 billion budget for next year. That places severe limits on what Congress can do _ at least if it plays by its budget rules.

Despite the March 2004 bombing of Madrid's subway system, U.S. officials have been consumed with preventing a repeat of the airliner hijackings that produced the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

In a stroke of bad timing, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted last month to slash money for rail and transit security grants to state and local government by a third from the $150 million devoted to them this year. As of May, none of the money had been distributed by the Homeland Security Department.

Can we agree that homeland security is too important not to be funded? Can we agree that it's not acceptable for our CIA Chief to say "I know where bin Laden is" but explain that we're not going to be able to get him? Can we agree that the countries that continue to fund this kind of terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia, should not be given a free pass simply because they're our purported "allies"?

These are things that I feel all Americans can agree on. We can argue about the best strategy to fight radical Islamists who have no respect for human life, but these simple truths should not be in doubt. And yet we, as a country, are not doing any of them right now. London is a tragic event, but also a sad reminder that we haven't taken the lessons of 9/11 to heart.


Thursday, July 07, 2005


We here at D-Day deplore the bombing of innocents anywhere in the world, be it Baghdad or Kandahar or Madrid or Bali or London.

More on this later, as my time permits.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

An Appreciation of Adm. Stockdale

I was in college in 1992, during the Vice Presidential Debate, and I definitely remember snickering for most of the school year about the performance of Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate. It was probably more Phil Hartman's impression of him that Stockdale himself which amused me, but 13 years later, upon hearing of his death, it occurred to me what a rare figure he struck in American politics.

First of all, the guy was a bona fide hero, and he actually would have brought to the Vice Presidency something incredibly unusual in our times: leadership skills.

A Navy pilot who commanded an aircraft carrier air group during the Vietnam War, Stockdale was shot down in September 1965 while leading an airstrike on North Vietnam.

During 7 1/2 years in captivity at a facility known to POWs as the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale was tortured, kept in leg irons for two years and spent four years in solitary confinement.

But he managed to convince his captors his willingness to suffer pain, and even death, rather than capitulate, by injuring himself and slitting his own wrists.

"He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese, who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated their employment of excessive harassment and torture of all prisoners of war," according to the citation from his 1976 Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for bravery.

Stockdale, who became the top-ranking naval officer held in captivity during the Vietnam war, also organized a secret culture of resistance among fellow prisoners, devising rules of conduct and a system of clandestine communications that involved tapping on walls in code.

He was also unconcerned with the culture of silence in the military, willing to speak truth to power about official wrongdoing:

He later faulted former President Lyndon Johnson for not using greater military power to press America's advantage during the war. He also disputed the Johnson administration's official assertion that the first U.S. strikes on North Vietnam were in retaliation for attacks on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"I literally led the initial strike of a war I knew was under false pretenses," the newspaper quoted him as having said.

Two decades later, after a career in academia, he committed the unpardonable sin in this country (in the words of Dennis Miller before he turned to the dark side): he was bad on TV. There was a really good reason for that, as Stockdale revealed to Jim Lehrer:

JIM LEHRER: What was the process that led up to the debate?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: Well, first of all, I was asked by Ross Perot on a telephone call in March of 1992 if, since he had committed on the Larry King Show to becoming a candidate for president, to get on all 50 ballots, he said, now, he said, you know, "I just now came across the information, and about half the states have to have, or demand to have the - the candidate's name at the start." Each state runs its own show on that, I'm sure. But anyway, he said, "What I want to ask you is for a favor." He said, "Would you let me put in your name as a stand-in candidate, and then as soon as I can get a real politician to join me, I'll let you know and we'll erase your name." And we got stuck in the mud somewhere.

I mean, we were just sitting back there in Coronado, and we - and pretty soon then he called up in July and said that I'm going to be going on TV in a few minutes and I'm going to say I'm resigning from the candidacy, that I'm going to get out. Well, then, I don't know where all this paperwork was - that's another thing, because the wheels were turning and I thought my name had been removed. But it hadn't, and he hadn't found anybody to run with him, as near as I can tell. And so it was - there was no preparation sponsored.

JIM LEHRER: And suddenly you were told you had to debate Gore and Quayle?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: We didn't know. Sybil and I were on the -

JIM LEHRER: Sybil's your wife.

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: Sybil's my wife, and on the first day of October, that's the first time I knew Ross was going to run.

JIM LEHRER: That he was coming back into the race. Yeah.

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: Yeah. And so Sybil said to me, whispered to me on that occasion, said, "Are you going to have to be in that - if they have a V.P. debate" - and it hadn't been really decided yet - "You're not going to have to be in that, are you?" I said, "No, everybody knows I'm not a politician." Then I started saying, "Well, let me think about that." And this was a rather short time span.

The debate popped up 12 days after that. I think that was about the date of the debate, and I sat there and I had already told her that, and then I started counting the time, and about a week before the debate I called Ross. I seldom called him, but in this case I said, "You know, I'm in luck. Nobody has ever mentioned that debate, and it's too late to invite me, and I think that's as it ought to be because I'm not a politician." He said, "Oh, Jim, I forgot to tell you. Your invitation came here about three weeks ago and we accepted for you, and I forgot to tell you." So that was the preparation.

JIM LEHRER: So you never sat down with briefing books, or didn't discuss this with Ross Perot in any way whatsoever?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: I never had a single conversation about politics with Ross Perot in my life; still haven't.

And yet, this guy still got off some of the best lines in that debate. He definitely seemed out of place, but in a good way, like a human being who just waded into a strange, inhuman setting. Nobody ever remembers anything beyond "Who am I? Why am I here," but he went on to very succinctly explain why he was there, why he felt himself capable to do the job as VP, despite being thrust unwillingly into the role.

JIM LEHRER: Do you feel that these debates should focus less on issues and more on these character kinds of things?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: Yes. I think character is permanent, and issues are transient. Half the issues they - are so polished they're talking about - are dead by the time they get into the office, and into the midst of their tour where they're really productive. So this is just a rhetoric exercise generally. This idea, as you know, that I have firm convictions that the idea of issues being a big deal where our mutual friend went back and he felt so strongly that the determining factor in electoral success should be a proven character. And you've got to design these so that everybody can somehow portray his character.

We could do worse than picking leaders for those reasons, and we could have done far worse than Admiral Stockdale.


Journalist in Jail

Not a pretty picture, although many of us on the left would have loved to see Judith "The Queen of all Iraq" Miller go to jail (albeit for a far different reason). Cooper was spared because he was given specific clearance to do so by his source.

This once again shows that Miller and Cooper were being sought by the special prosecutor for far different reasons. It now seems they had far different sources, since Cooper's source allowed him to testify, but Miller did not get the same privilege. Here's a possibility from today's WaPo:

Fitzgerald may learn more details from Cooper's notes. Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials -- not the other way around -- that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee.

Well, that's lovely. Of course there is no such thing as vertical integration in a bureaucracy as large and unwieldy as the White House, so it could be that Miller or others told government officials about Plame after hearing it from OTHER government officials.

I believe freedom of the press will eventually be helped by today's escapade. It remains to be seen whether anything will come out of this Plame story, on the other hand, though the buzzards appear to be circling in Washington.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

One Other Thing on Rove/Plame

This John Dean column from October 2003 has an interesting insight:

Why the Federal Conspiracy and Fraud Statutes May Apply Here

This elegantly simple law has snared countless people working for, or with, the federal government. Suppose a conspiracy is in progress. Even those who come in later, and who share in the purpose of the conspiracy, can become responsible for all that has gone on before they joined. They need not realize they are breaking the law; they need only have joined the conspiracy.

Most likely, in this instance the conspiracy would be a conspiracy to defraud - for the broad federal fraud statute, too, may apply here. If two federal government employees agree to undertake actions that are not within the scope of their employment, they can be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. by depriving it of the "faithful and honest services of its employee." It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so - or helped another to do so - was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.

What counts as "fraud" under the statute? Simply put, "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government." (Emphasis added.) If telephoning reporters to further destroy a CIA asset whose identity has been revealed, and whose safety is now in jeopardy, does not fit this description, I would be quite surprised.

If Newsweek is correct that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame Wilson "fair game," then he should make sure he's got a good criminal lawyer, for he made need one. I've only suggested the most obvious criminal statute that might come into play for those who exploit the leak of a CIA asset's identity. There are others.

Please recognize that this is currently Rove's ALIBI.


Rumor Mill

This is the, er, internet, where the truth can often be as ephemeral as a cool breeze in Arizona, but this poster at the conservative (linked through TPM Cafe) claims to have the inside dope:

Going on record! By: OhSure

I not only don't do this, I have never done this. But here it is;

"Karl Rove will be indicted late this, or early next week."

I'm trusting a source. So either I am made a into an overzealous horses a**, or..., I have good sources and may be more trusted to get these things right.

Entered into the D-Day record. Obviously this would be a huge blow to the Bush Administration. A felony indictment (I'm guessing on perjury, for lying to the grand jury about talking to Time Magazine, not necessarily for the Plame leak itself) would be extremely embarrassing and threaten to blow open the manhole cover on White House corruption and illegality.

Everyone got their popcorn ready?

p.s. TPM Cafe now has a great new section up called House of Labor devoted to a pet subject of mine, the labor movement.


Monday, July 04, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Possibly the blog post of the year right here. On this Fourth of July, let us not forget a word of this.


No Legislating from the Bench

As long as the focus is on the Supreme Court these days, it seems to me that the outcry in conservative circles over "judicial activism" is misnamed; they're really mad about "judicial opinions conservatives don't agree with."

I strongly disagreed with the Court's decision in New London v. Kelo (as did many legislators), but the last thing that opinion showed was an example of judicial activism or legislating from the bench. In fact, quite the opposite. The majority refused to strike down a municipal edict allowing them to give someone's property over to a private business. They were, actually, not interfering with a legislative decision. I agree fully with Matthew Yglesias' take:

If we're going to have things like House members voting "365 to 33 late Thursday night in support of a resolution expressing 'grave disapproval' at the court decision," then they should just pass some laws restricting the use of eminent domain. They're the U.S. Congress, after all; they don't need to wait for the courts to bail them out. If this ruling is a big problem, then the status quo it upheld was a big problem three weeks ago, three months ago, three years ago, and three decades ago.

In California, the law states that eminent domain takings cannot occur unless the land in question is in a "blighted area." This kind of statute could be adopted nationwide, and the Court, if they continue their non-activist stance in these matters, would not strike them down. Conservatives that are mad about this ruling should lobby their state and local representatives. I don't think anybody is really that happy about giving over people's homes to corporations, but the courts don't have to be the only recourse. The state houses and the Capitol would work fine.

Incidentally, a Yale professor has crunched the numbers and determined that Justices Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia all voted to overturn existing law the most (pretty much the working definition of judicial activism), while Ginsburg and Breyer did so the least. So much for originalism.