Friday, October 21, 2005

Attention Math Geeks

As most of you probably know, I'm very much into odds and handicapping and the like. I got into an argument with a random stranger about the Pick 3 lottery on the bus, and it was very maddening because I found that while I am absolutely convinved that he is wrong and I am right, I cannot actually demonstrate this because I lack the probability background.

I won't describe the argument itself for fear of prejudicing you, but here's the question:

If I run the "Pick 3" experiment over and over again, eventually I will observe every possible outcome from 000 to 999. The question is, how many times, on average, should I expect to have to run the experiment before I have observed all those results? Or, to put it a different way, what is the percentage chance that I will achieve all 1000 results before I have run the experiment 10,000 times?

I can actually come up with a pretty close approximation of the answer to this question by writing a program that defines an array with 1000 entries in it with all of the entries set to 1 initially, and whenever the test returns a number, the corresponding spot in the array is set to zero. The program terminates and reports on its results once the sum of all the numbers in the array is zero.

So I'm actually less interested in the actual answer to the question as the "how" of answering the question. I need to know the formula that an actual probablity person would use to determine this algebraically.

At issue is the correctness of my guiding maxim as a gambler, that no betting strategy can give a series of negative expectation bets an overall positive expectation.

New Spam Technique

One of the most interesting things to me about the Internet is the struggle between spammers and end-users who don't want to get spam. There is a lot of good spam filtering out there now, but in my opinion we will never significantly reduce the nuisance of spam until we come up with a new mail transfer protocol that can actually verify the sender somehow. I'm working on this along with I assume the rest of the population.

In the meantime, the back-and-forth is fun to watch. One new technique I'm noticing is that you'll get a spam email that is basically just text pulled from some news site, and the link to whatever site they are hawking is just there in the middle.

This is a neat innovation. Annoying, but neat.

Judy May Be Going Back To Jail

Now, people do forget things. But I would advise any of my readers who ever find themselves before a grand jury to avoid the following situation:

Prosecutor: Ms. Blogreader, did you have a meeting at the White House with Wesley Wrongdoer any time before July of 2003?

Ms. Blogreader: No, Mr. Prosecutor, I don't recall any such meeting.

Prosecutor: Are you sure? Think hard.

Ms. Blogreader: No, Mr. Prosecutor, I have no memory of any meeting at the White House with Wesley Wrongdoer before July of 2003.

Prosecutor: 'Cause see, I have this Secret Service log book here, and here's your name, and the time you arrived, and the length of your meeting with Wesley Wrongdoer. And it's signed by you. Twice.

Ms. Blogreader: Oh, THAT meeting.

Like I said, people forget things. But exchanges like this, well, they just don't go over well with perjury juries.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More Popcorn! More Popcorn!

This exchange actually occurred today. Repeat, this is not a parody. This exchange actually occurred in the White House briefing room.

QUESTION: Is it true that the President slapped Karl Rove upside the head a couple of years ago over the CIA leak?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Are you referring to, what, a New York Daily News report? Two things: One, we're not commenting on an ongoing investigation; two, and I would challenge the overall accuracy of that news account.

QUESTION: That's a comment.

QUESTION: Which part of it?

QUESTION: Yes, that is.

QUESTION: Which facts --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying -- no, I'm just trying to help you all.

QUESTION: So what facts are you challenging?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: You can't say you're challenging the facts and then not say which ones you're challenging.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, I can. I just did.

Now, this is funny stuff. But there's an interesting backstory developing here. The report being discussed is this one from the Daily News, which is not the most well-respected paper. Even so, this is the first story of its kind, that connects Bush directly to the Plame leak, albeit after the fact. Up until now it seems like most of the stories coming from "sources with knowledge of the case" have been talking up Cheney's involvement.

This could be a shot across the bow of the White House from Cheney's people, saying "don't forget we're all in this together."

Fitzgerald in the Windy City

Uncle Kevin is skeptical that Fitzgerald would really indict that many people. Let me start by saying he may be right. However, it's definitely worth remembering that when Fitzgerald took on the Daley political machine in Chicago, he did not use a "tread lightly" approach.

Instead, he just threw everybody in jail.

Thirty people were indicted in the case, and twenty-two were convicted of crimes.

I should also note, though, before we start salivating too much, there was a long lag between when the first indictments handed down in that case and when Daley, the head guy, actually started feeling the heat. So it may be some time before Bush's or Cheney's own feet are held to the fire.

Has The CIA Morphed Into a Liberal Think Tank?

See, when I headline a post like that, it's obviously funny. Because I'm not, you know, a complete nincompoop.

What's really strange about this piece is that it makes a lot of sense, if you ignore the title, and the fact that the erosion of the capabilities that the author quite rightly calls the CIA's appropriate core competency has been 100% the fault of the Bush White House and their asinine approach to intelligence-gathering as a means to advancing predetermined policy goals rather than as an end unto itself.

Thus the article serves as a nice reminder that Bush defenders aren't stupid, they're just locked into a reality framework that does not allow them to question whether the Bush administration might be the problem rather than the solution.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blast from the Past

Longtime readers may remember a DU article by a dashing, massively sexy columnist (who has since given up the virtual ghost) which made mention of a man named Larry Johnson, a "former" CIA analyst who was spearheading a counterattack of the Bush administration by current and former CIA pros outraged over the outing of Valerie Plame.

If you've ever seen Johnson on TV, he is one scary fucker. His eyes are like blacklights.

Anyway, LJ apparently had lunch today with somebody who has knowledge of the Fitzgerald probe and he is saying there could be up to 22 indictments coming. Here's the post in its entirety:

Had lunch today with a person who has a direct tie to one of the folks facing indictment in the Plame affair. There are 22 files that Fitzgerald is looking at for potential indictment . These include Stephen Hadley, Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney, and Mary Matalin (there are others of course). Hadley has told friends he expects to be indicted. No wonder folks are nervous at the White House.

Emphasis mine. If 22 people including the vice president are indicted, I think we can officially call this whole thing a pretty big deal.

In related news, there are apparently unsubstantiated but widespread rumors floating around that a hasty exit for Deadeye Dick may be in the offing. The US News piece makes it clear that these are just rumors, percolating among junior staffers. But it's not completely beyond the realm of possibility that there might be some truth in there.

Speaking from experience, let me caution everyone to take it easy and not expect this all to happen fast. We may not have any indictments at all until next Friday, and even then the GJ could be extended. But this is definitely the strongest sense I've had since back in the heady days of 2003 that strange things are afoot at the Circle K. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Not with a bang, but a whimper.

CIA leak probe 'widening to include use of intelligence.'

Translation: Patrick Fitzgerald is now investigating the Bush White House for lying the nation into war.

Pop some popcorn.

Hey Sports Guy - Rate this on the UC Scale!

I'm sending this in an email to Bill Simmons. Boy howdy, this is some funny shit.

There's plenty here, but if you're in a hurry, this one sentence is really all you need.

Now, at this point, it is customary for women to immediately reject any assertion that women's rights are wrong as the Talibanistic ranting of an embittered man who has been denied ready access to attractive women's bodies. In the interest of dismissing this red herring, I merely note that few men fortunate enough to possess a turbo Porsche and a record contract at 23 have any reason to be bitter about the hand that life has dealt them.

Yep. He has a Porsche, so there's NO WAY he's got a chip on his shoulder about his ability to attract women. NO WAY.

Conservatives Gearing Up the Waterworks

Here's another up-is-down sort of piece from the roots conservative online presence, echoing a lot of the same arguments we saw in the American Thinker piece a week or so ago. This one comes from The American Daily; as far as I know the two outlets are not affiliated.

One interesting note before we get into the actual text - the author of this post is part of "Accuracy in Media," which tries to bill itself as the conservative answer to FAIR, which is perceived by archconservatives as being an unltraliberal group.

So this is a glimpse of sorts into just the sort of "accuracy" Accuracy in Media is interested in.

The case has been a revealing and disappointing look into how Bush administration officials tried to work with various reporters, in order to counteract false accusations about the administration’s Iraq policy that had appeared in the press. In the end, they failed. It’s a failure that demonstrates the folly of trying to curry favor with the liberal press.

The only "accusations" material to this case are that the Bush administration overstated the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. It is now known that there was no such program. In what way, then, were these accusations false? Accuracy in Media doesn't get into that.

In the same way that Democrats still call the shots on Capitol Hill, despite a Republican Senate majority, the Times and other liberal media forced the Bush administration to agree to their demands for an investigation in the CIA leak case.

Here's the chronology being described here. Robert Novak, a conservative columnist, leaks the name and occupation (CIA operative) of Valerie Plame in a column. Then the CIA demands an investigation, and John Ashcroft, a Republican, recuses himself from the case. Jim Comey, a Republican, appoints Patrick Fitzgerald, a Republican, to head the case going forward.

Even if we accept what you might call this very strange description of the facts of the case, the logic of the article is extremely tortured. In what way does Miller's testimony "exonerate" administration officials? If we take the most generous view possible, we could say that Miller's testimony may offer some mitigating circumstances. But none of it changes the fact that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove disclosed the identity of a CIA operative to the press in an effort to take heat off the White House, then repeatedly lied about it to a grand jury and, at least in Libby's case, tried to put pressure on Judy Miller not to reveal the substance of her conversations with Libby.

These are crimes. Once the indictments come down (especially if Cheney is somehow mixed up in all this) you can expect conservatives to try to draw a parallel between the current investigation and the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. But the piece of the Clinton situation they conservatives were never able to accept is that when you file secondary charges like perjury and obstruction of justice, it really does matter what sort of behavior was at the root of the initial investigation. Obstructing an investigation into a campaign of intimidation by the White House against a administration critic is fundamentally more serious than obstructing an investigation into a President's reputation as a playboy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Note to All

I posted a comment to this effect on someone else's blog during the Katrina debacle, and I'd like to reiterate it in a more general way here.

While I'm alive, and in great danger, honor and respect me by coming to save my ass. In exchange, after I'm dead, you can take all the fucking pictures you want.

Robert Fisk puts it differently.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Antiwar correspondence

I've written some emails in the past couple of days that deal with issues that, for whatever reason, I've had trouble putting into words on the blog. It's about the nature of the resistance to the Iraq war, and also anger at the folks who probably could have done something to stop it, but didn't.

I thought I'd post them here because although I would like to write something that sums all this up and that's designed specifially for blogorific consumption, I doubt that will ever happen. So here are the emails; see what you can get from them.

The first one is to Josh Micah Marshall, and in copying it over I noticed some editing errors. The version here makes more sense than the one he actually received.

The second is an email to Ethridge in response to a link he sent me to this Rolling Stone article about the peace movement.

Dear TPM:

If I really did materially misstate your position, I apologize. I consider that a very serious charge and I hope you believe me when I say that is not and was not my intention. It's a hard accusation for me to deal with because I don't have anything concrete from you. As I said I know you don't have a lot of time to devote to this and I'm truly not simply trying to demand your attention; I know you must deal with that almost constantly.

I don't expect you to look at this today, but even though it's long I'd respectfully ask that you find some time in the near future to at least look at it and consider my attempt to provide you some background on why I wrote what I did, and why this means so much to me, both on a personal level and because of the very real and destructive division in the Democratic party of which this dispute is symbolic.

First of all, I said I'm a longtime reader of TPM and I am. It's not because I like to torture myself; I think you're one of the great young minds in the Democratic party and if the Washington Post swapped you out for absolutely anybody on their Op/Ed page I would consider it one of the great moves in the modern history of opinion journalism. That probably comes across as flattery, and I guess it is, but to mitigate that I'll tell you I have a real low opinion of the Post's Op/Ed page. :-p

Back to February 2003...

I was supposed to attend the Valentine's weekend protest in New York, but I had a German national staying with me who was nervous about getting arrested (and he had a back injury, or claimed to), so we stayed in the District. I remember you posted a
picture of the snow in Dupont Circle and I felt a real kinship with you because not only had you posted something vaguely laudatory of the protests (focusing mostly on the international protests, which were very large) I was out there walking around Dupont in the snow that day, and I had this feeling that we really were going to stop the war. It seems silly now, with things so far along at that point we were going to war no matter what, but I felt like it might really happen, the war might really be averted. I remember that Sunday night it was so quiet and you could look out into the blackness of Rock Creek and see the boughs heavy with snow, all the way back to the vanishing point. War felt so far away, so crazily wrong that it could never come to pass. I had just gotten engaged the previous weekend and I felt indestructible.

About a week later you ran I think the second piece of your Ken Pollack interview where the two of you were sitting around worrying about whether things had gone a little pear-shaped and maybe this wasn't such a good idea. You didn't express any reservations about the positions the two of you had taken in the interview, particularly Pollack's assertion (hard to square with the actual document) that the Blix report was a "smoking gun" proving Saddam was hiding a major weapons program.

I remember reading this and actually getting teary. It took a while for me to really place what hurt so much about reading this and realizing that you weren't going to change your position on the war, that at best you would concede not that it was wrong for the world's hyperpower to launch an aggressive war on a defenseless, poor country, but that maybe it might cost too much or something.

The reason I felt all this betrayal at the writings of someone I didn't know was because it became clear in that moment not only that yes, we really are going to do this, to make this horrible mistake, but also that it wasn't going to be solely because of the right's control of all three branches of government, their essentially unchecked power to do whatever they want. We were going to war in Iraq at least in part because the people that I considered my allies had spent months pushing the storyline that the only serious position on US/Iraqi relations was supportive of some sort of war aimed at deposing Saddam Hussein, and that no one had ever made a convincing case for any reasonable alternative, despite the fact that I'd spent the past six months reading about seven hundred versions of exactly that, all of which made a hell of a lot more sense to me than Ken Pollack's book, which I had read on your recommendation. I felt like someone dying in a room full of doctors, trying to scream and no one can hear him.

Again, let me make it clear this isn't just you. It's dozens of liberals at Slate, The New Republic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, everywhere. And now there's this tension in the Democratic party between people like me and those we count on to be our voice in the mass-media discourse (not to mention our elected officials, but I'm still naive enough to believe they basically go where we lead them.)

It's very hard for us to square our respect for our opinion leaders with the fact that we were let down on what is without any question the defining issue of our generation. And it's been even harder to watch as they've all found numerous creative ways to avoid admitting what is so obvious to anyone who will look at what they wrote from June 2002 to March 2003, that despite some whimpers at the end about how badly Bush was blowing the runup to the war, they spent that critical time mostly carrying water for the bad guys.

I completely understand your protestations that you have to call them like you see them. That's the piece of all of this that's very hard to articulate. I'm glad you call them like you see them. I don't want you crafting analysis of real-world policy questions based on what you think will be good for the Democrats, and bad for the Republicans. Leave that kind of crap to Instapundit.

What I need you to hear from me is that you saw this one wrong, and for reasons that go deeper than just a simple error in judgment. A tie goes to the runner, and a shaky case for war, even a very slightly shaky case for war, is no case at all. It is much worse to get it wrong when you're wrong in calling for the destruction of another country. I want to understand that you understand the gravity of that reality.

Now as I conceded in an earlier email, it's possible you actually have come clean on this and I just missed it. But the tone of the recent writing that I have read from you on the matter certainly suggests otherwise.

Again let me reiterate that I am only writing you this because I respect you, and I want to understand with clarity what your feelings really are on this subject. But this is bigger than just you and me having an argument over email. Obviously I'm a very small fish, and you're a very big one. The steel cage match between What I Think and What You Think is moot, because what you think actually has an influence over people with power, whereas What I Think influences the 50 people who read my blog and the Democratic Underground front page articles, a grand total of probably five hundred people.

This exchange is emblematic of a tension, though, that is strangling the Democratic party. Intraparty animosity over Iraq remains the biggest obstacle to Democrats coming together to sweep the 2006 elections, which by all rights we ought to do. But how can I stand beside my Democratic allies and really do the work that's necessary for this election cycle when there's this horrible unresolved conflict just festering between us?

The bottom line is that if you and all the others who supported this war still don't think you did anything wrong, not only can't we work together, we SHOULDN'T be working together, because we aren't working for the same things. We need to come to terms with this and part ways.

I don't think that's reality, however. I think it's just really hard to be the first guy to stand up and say "I was totally, dead wrong. I gave critical support to a war I should have unequivocally opposed. I'd do anything to go back in time and do it over again, but I can't, and I'm sorry."

Again, I don't expect a response. You're probably deaing with 50 of these right now. I just want you to hear me. I'm not some crazy person, as I hope you can tell. I'm just a guy who's been waiting all my life for that moment when I understand what the hell the grownups are thinking, and I'm almost thirty with a baby daughter, and I'm starting to think I'm never going to get it.

It would be excellent, I think, if you found time in the next couple of weeks to deal with some of these issues and the others that have no doubt been raised by other loyal antiwar TPM readers in response to your post.

Thanks for your time and your attention to my words.


AP Short


Very good treatment of this; one of the better
articles I've seen. The situation is very complex.
I've written about it, but not at great length or

On the surface, here's the main issue. The full-time
antiwar movement (meaning people who are antiwar
generally as opposed to people who are anti-Iraq war
only) is a lot of very different people, academics,
writers, labor organizers, community organizers, etc.
They do a ton of great work at a local level that no
one ever hears about, and they are really the backbone
of the antiwar movement.

The public face of the antiwar movement is street
protests. They are the only thing the antiwar
movement really does that anybody who isn't part of
the antiwar movement or directly involved with some
aspect of their activities ever sees.

Now here's the part that very few people understand,
because they haven't been part of the movement at a
high level, a planning level. Putting on an antiwar
protest is basically event planning. It's no
different than putting on a convention or a county
fair or any other large public gathering of people.

Event planning for large numbers, especially large,
unpredictable numbers, is a really difficult task.
You have to have permits. You have to have trash
cans. You have to have Port-a-potties. You have to
get the word out. You have to get buses. You have to
do a thousand things. There are a couple of groups
that have it down, United for Peace with Justice and
International ANSWER.

UFPJ is an organization I have a lot of respect for.
Their core politics are a little different from mine,
but not fundamentally so. They're socialists, mostly,
but it's a broad, grassroots coalition of bona fide
activists who built the organization from the ground

International ANSWER is basically a Maoist cult. It's
a couple of megalomaniacs and their loyal horde of
weirdos. They have a huge amount of money and nobody
really knows where they get it.

So what used to happen back in the post-September 11th
days when the core antiwar movement was trying to
distance itself from ANSWER was that UFPJ and the rest
of these disparate groups would sit down and form a
steering committee and say "We're going to have a

And so you go to the calendar and you pick a date.
Then you form subcommittees like the logistics
committee, the outreach committee, the media
committee, etc. You apply for permits. You print
flyers. You go "wheatpasting" (wheatpaste is the glue
you use to put up posters.)

Then, about two months out, ANSWER decides they are
going to have a protest the same day. They have a big
stage and a bunch of speakers people have actually
heard of, musical acts, etc. They've printed 50,000
full-color signs. They have posters up everywhere.

So now the problem becomes, what do you do about this
if you're UFPJ? Back on April 20, 2002 (I was on the
logistics committee for that one) what we did was just
to say "well, there's not much we can do. We'll have
ours and they'll have theirs and it's OK."

And then you show up to the march and it looks like an
ANSWER march. The speakers on the stage are there at
ANSWER's invitation. The nice-looking signs all say
ANSWER on them. As far as actual numbers, ANSWER
probably put five thousand people in the street, but
it looks like they planned the whole thing because
their shit is everywhere.

After the April 20th experience, antiwar groups
decided that in the future, it would be better to
allow ANSWER to be part of the coalition from the
beginning because then at least we could exercise some
control over their message. So a provision was put in
place for the next march that if any of the three
major groups involved in the coalition objected to a
given speaker, that speaker would not be invited.

Well, the result of that was that ANSWER blocked an
antiwar rabbi from speaking at the march. This became
a big distraction and it was the big story of the
protest, made worse by the fact that ANSWER has a very
well-earned reputation for anti-semitism. So the
effort to reign in ANSWER actually winds up allowing
them to flaunt probably their worst feature, from a
Public Relations perspective.

For the most recent protest, the solution that was
tried was simply to prevail upon ANSWER to enforce
some message discipline. From my perspective, I would
say it worked really well, better than it ever has

But in the end it's still an ANSWER rally, and at
ANSWER rallies there are going to be people chanting
"Death to Israel" and other crazy shit (though I did
notice that for the most part they were chanting this
in Arabic, which I guess is a step in the right
direction from a PR standpoint.) That's just reality.

So you have this big swath of the population that
looks at street protests and says "this antiwar thing
isn't for me." And you can understand where they are
coming from because I don't want to be part of a
Maoist cult chanting "death to israel" either. If I
hadn't been involved in the movement I wouldn't have
the understanding that I do, that this actually
represents a small fringe element in the movement that
happens to have a ton of money and manpower that it
uses almost exclusively on protests.

The problem is, even if you are able to completely
purge ANSWER from the movement, at great expense in
terms of effort and focus, where does that leave you?
As you see in the article, even UFPJ is considered
way, way outside the mainstream. What people who
aren't involved in the movement don't understand is
that if you take away UFPJ and you take away ANSWER,
there are no protests. They simply don't exist. A
protest has to be planned, organized and executed, it
doesn't just spontaneously happen because people
oppose the war.

And so the question of whether to "forge ahead in the
mainstream" doesn't really exist for the antiwar
movement. We can highlight the antiwar piece as we
did at the September march, but we can't just make the
socialists and the "anti-globalization" people
disappear. Those people ARE the antiwar movement.
They print the fliers, book the speakers, file the
permits, pack the buses, and pay for the sound system.
You can't kick them out of the club - it's their

So Russ Feingold wants the antiwar movement to adopt
as our core platform that the Iraq war is bad because
it undermines the War on Terror. Well, that isn't
going to happen, because 100% of the leadership in the
antiwar movement, right down to the guys who design
the fliers, thinks that the War on Terror is a fraud.

This is very emotional for people who have opposed the
war all along, too, because it hurts for all these
people to show up two years into it and say "well, the
war is bad, but you people are never going to be able
to stop it with all this jibber-jabber, you need to be
more like us." Well, we tried to stop this war before
it started, and you guys were all supporting it. I
didn't have a vote in the Senate and I did what I
could. You had a vote and you pissed it away because
you were afraid if you voted against the war your chin
wouldn't look sharp enough when you ran for President

So it's complicated, emotional stuff. Hard to
overcome. But we're doing our best.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Defending the Indefensible

I sent an email to Josh Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo today. He's never responded to or acknowledged any comment I've sent him and I certainly don't expect him to start now. But I think the sentiment I express here I really want to express to a whole great slate of people, both celebrity journalists and also people I know. Here's the post that set me off.

Defending the Indefensible

As the war in Iraq slides into severe unpopularity, the silence of liberal academics and journalists who supported the war is deafening. To my knowledge, not one single such columnist has admitted to making a grave error in moral and intellectual judgment.

Indeed, many columnists, yourself included, are mounting weird, incoherent (to borrow a word you and others were fond of using for people like myself who opposed the war on practical and moral grounds) defenses of positions they never took, without bothering to actually examine their actual prewar positions at all, much less repudiate them.

Your “intellectual exercise” today is an excellent case in point. I could offer numerous examples of what you wrote at the time, and how it squares with your recent attempt to justify what you now call your “conditional, one-time support” for war in Iraq. But you have the archives. You can see for yourself how you praised the New Republic for knocking down antiwar straw men, and wrote unequivocally and without support in the conclusion to a feature article on the neocons that “Saddam really must be removed.” And on and on and on.

At some point, perhaps when you are very old, you will probably have to accept the part you played in justifying a war that has killed tens of thousands and will undoubtedly kill many, many more. A war that, as you note, was fought for no good reason at all. Perhaps then you will look back with shame on your tireless efforts to make the people who got it right out to be softheaded fools.

I only hope that in the intervening years, when you are in a position once again to offer your pronouncements on the subject of sending young sons and daughters off to kill and die (as you no doubt will be, since no one is ever discredited for supporting a war, no matter how disastrous or criminal) you think twice about what war really is, and how heavily the burden of proof ought to fall on those who urge us to make it.

The Ape Man

Update: JMM actually responded quickly, and he seems to think I'm being unfair. I'm willing to entertain that notion but it's not clear from him short reply what part of what I wrote he takes exception to. If he comes back with something more concrete, I will investigate to see if perhaps I've overstated the case in some way.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

After Two Years, AP Still Doesn't Get It

Looks like Karl Rove will testify one last time before the Fitzgerald grand jury in an attempt to stave off an indictment.

Many rumors were swirling around the insider blogosphere that Fitzgerald would indict somebody today. That never seemed likely to me as things in this case seem to move very slowly; I still think we'll be waiting right up to the end of the grand jury charter at the end of this month. But we'll see.

Anyway, the AP used the opportunity to once again bungle the story, as they have off and on about a thousand times since it broke over two years ago. Here's the key graf:

Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who says his wife’s identity was disclosed to discredit his assertions that the Bush administration exaggerated Iraq’s nuclear capabilities to build the case for war.

Actually, that is and always has been the DEFENSE against Wilson's accusations. The White House claims their aim was to discredit Wilson by making it appear that his wife had landed him a cushy junket to Niger, and that it wasn't a serious inquiry. Wilson's position is that the White House leaked his wife's identity intentionally in order to retaliate against him by destroying her career.

It boggles the mind that after two years, reporters covering this story still do not understand its basic elements. It's a moderately complex case, but the basic story is pretty simple. Joe Wilson says something the White House doesn't like. His wife's identity is revealed to the press by White House sources. He claims they did it on purpose to damage him as a warning to other potential whistleblowers and their families. The White House says it was an accident; they didn't know she was covert.

Can we all spend one minute reading this paragraph please?

Did I say "Guilty?" I meant "Not Guilty."

Seems Delay has a new problem - in his Grand Jury testimony, he may have accidentally confessed to the money laundering scheme.

For those who aren't following this story that closely, here's the basic thrust of the new charges against Delay. There was a little under $200,000 that Delay had raised from corporate donors that he allegedly intended all along to be used in the Texas state legislature elections in November 2002. But since Texas law prohibits corporate giving to political candidates, Delay decided to funnel the money through the RNC.

However, it was late in the game, and Texas law also prohibits donations to political parties from corporations in the final 60 days before on election (that restriction exists in part to prevent schemes like this one.) So TRMPAC, Delay's state PAC, couldn't write the check to the RNC.

Thus John Colyandro, head of TRMPAC, sent a check to Jim Ellis, head of ARMPAC, Delay's national PAC. ARMPAC sent the money over to the RNC, and the RNC turned around and gave the money to the political candidates for whom it was originally raised.

There seems to be little question that Ellis and Colyandro violated the law. The question in recent weeks has basically been whether Delay knew about this transaction, which occurred on October 4th, 2002. In Delay's interview before Earle's first grand jury, Delay reportedly admitted to having known about the transaction in advance.

When Earle got this new piece of information, he immediately impaneled a grand jury, presented them with Delay's statement, and tried to get them to indict Delay on money-laundering charges. The grand jury declined to indict, so Earle went back to Ellis and Colyandro to lean on them for additional info. Once he got some more information out of them, he impaneled a third grand jury which indicted Delay quickly.

Now Delay claims that he simply misspoke, and that he didn't learn of the transaction until after the fact. That's a doomed defense if he's actually going to try to present it at trial - verbal confessions are notoriously hard to live down, even if they are coerced (as this one clearly was not - Delay wasn't even under oath.)

But it's somewhat understandable how this might have happened. The reason people under investigation often refuse to appear in front of a Grand Jury is that the proceedings are heavily weighted in favor of the prosecution. You can't call any witnesses, you can't cross-examine anyone, and while you are in the witness box you can't get any help from your lawyer.

So Delay, being an arrogant bastard, took the stand in front of the grand jury without proper preparation, and he didn't realize that in addition to maintaining that the scheme was legal, he needed to profess no prior knowledge of the transaction. So when Earle asked him about the check, he didn't deny knowing about it because he thought the defense was that the check was a legal transaction.

As I said before, it's hard for me to have Schadenfreude about somebody facing life in prison for something like this. It's illegal, and it's a serious subversion of democracy, but it's not a capital crime. However, I do take some small measure of satisfaction in knowing that the reason you can go to prison for life on money laundering charges is mostly due to the hysterical crusade to overcriminalize every level of the illegal drug economy, and that of course Delay has been a champion of the drug war whenever it suited his needs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Earle Playing for the Big Money

Earlier I speculated that Ronnie Earle might be trying to put pressure on Delay to plead out to a lesser charge by indicting him under statutes that carry life sentences. Now it seems from this Houston Chronicle article that Earle is actuall swinging for the fences on Delay.

Also Tuesday, DeGuerin criticized Earle at a Houston news conference, accusing him of offering "a sweet deal" to DeLay's co-defendants, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to get them to testify against his client.

Ellis' lawyer, J.D. Pauerstein, of San Antonio, said prosecutors made offers but they were inadequate.

"I didn't perceive anything they offered as acceptable, let alone sweet. They were talking in terms of wanting to put these poor guys in jail," Pauerstein said.

So Earle offered Delay's co-conspirators "deals" that did not include a walk. That's extremely significant because if Earle were really interested in what I suggested earlier, a guilty plea from Delay in return for a light sentence (such as a year and a day suspended), he would be offering the little guys much better deals, that is, immunity from prosecution.

Instead, Earle is offering the guys deals that suggest that he has them by the balls. If he really does, Delay could actually go to prison for a serious term, which is almost unthinkable given his level of power. Also keep in mind these are state charges, so we're not talking "Club Fed" here. We're talking real hard time, year after year in a little tiny cell. I hate Tom Delay and even I get a little queasy thinking about that. Prison is no joke.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Behold. a Fool

I have long since abandoned the "Bad Blog of the Day" feature, but I simply have to point my readers to this mind-boggling bit of head-in-the-sand wingnuttery. In fact I may also alert the Poor Man. There are some things that are simply too silly not to make fun of, and this is one of them.

Here Clarice Feldman of the American Thinkerthinks a lot of thinkety thoughts about the Valerie Plame case, and comes to some very thinktastic conclusions. Clarice cuts through all the chaff and discovers the hidden truth that the Valerie Plame case is actually a secret conspiracy to discredit the war in Iraq, directed by the CIA and involving the John Kerry campaign, Hillary Clinton supporters, and the New York Times. I can tell already that you think that I am making this up. Alas:

I am persuaded that the CIA counter-proliferation group was incompetent, and actively involved in undermining the President's war on Iraq, working with the Kerry campaign, tacitly or not.


All reports from Matt Cooper, Walter Pincus, Judith Miller, Lewis Libby and Karl Rove about their grand jury testimony indicate one consistent thing: Libby and Rove did not leak any classified material to the reporters in this case. There is in the pirouette of Miller and her lawyer and Libby's a hint of what I have believed all along: it is highly likely that Miller, an expert in bio-chem warfare who seems to have had significant sources in the intelligence community, may have passed along to Libby more information than he gave her, and some of that may have been classified data obtained from leakers inside the agency.) See also this, this, and this.

And there is also a hint in the record that Cooper (whose wife is a Hillary Clinton consultant) was trying to set-up Rove.


Is the press merely being partisan? Are they just terminally gullible? Or are these people covering up a role they played in a conspiracy hatched at Langley? Blogger macsmind says that if there is anyone indicted in this" he'll be wearing press credentials."

Clarice goes on to quote another wingnut's post listing a number of reporters who will probably be going to jail for their evil conspiracy to, eh, do something very bad, I guess. That's not really fleshed out. David Corn is on the list, presumably for a story he wrote about Plame after her cover had already been blown by Novak's column. Novak is not on the list, which makes sense because, uh...

Because of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yeah. That explains everything.

There are a lot of funny little errors and bad bits of writing in this post, but it's the bolded text I find most humorously puzzling. The CIA was working together with the John Kerry campaign, "tacitly or not?" If it wasn't tacit, wouldn't we like, know about it or something? If something is secret, isn't it "tacit?"

Sports Update

There has been a request for an explanation of the recent sports happenings.


The Yankees and Red Sox made the playoffs; the Indians did not. The Indians suffered a late-season collapse reminiscent of, well, of the performance of just about every decent Indians team in the history of the universe.

I hate to be callous, but here are two pieces of knowledge that Indians fans NEED to have. One, by caring at all about any American League team, you are damning yourself to an eternal roasting on Boog Powell's barbecue spit, watching four-and-a-half hour, 11-9 games that feature pitchers you have never heard of, old fat guys hitting .240 swinging for the fences on every pitch, and no offensive substitutions of any kind. Two, when you have a thought that begins with "Maybe the Indians will..." and ends with anything other than "collapse down the stretch," you are having an acute hallucination. Seek medical attention.

All non-Yankees fans everywhere (translation - all humans not born in the Bronx who do not deserve to be beaten to death with a tire iron) are asking the same question - can anyone stop the Yankees?

The answer, for once, is "probably." These Yankees aren't that good. They've gotten some really good performances from young, inexperienced starting pitchers, and that simply never holds up in the postseason. You need real pitching, not "overachieving" pitching, to win the series. What you should really be asking is if anyone can stop the Cardinals from holding a World Series celebration in the ugliest sports venue in the non-Minnesota world. The answer to that is "probably not." The team with the best hitter and the best pitching staff usually wins the Series in five games or fewer. That's the Cards.


So, the Pats are 2-2 and got stomped by a San Diego team that hasn't looked all that good this season. Is the Belichek era finally drawing to a close? No, but this isn't the Pats' year. I see a 9-7 type year for them, with a return to glory in 2006.

The schedule makers showed their amazing understanding of the ebb and flow of the football tides by scheduling teams with a combined record of 2-10 in the two Week 4 prime-time games. These schedules were made before the season, but I know of no serious football fan who thought that Green Bay, Arizona or San Francisco would field a decent team this year. I'm not sure what the NFL was thinking here.

The Cards and Niners lived down to expectations last night, staging a contest that included six lost fumbles, tying it for sixth on the all-time list for most lost fumbles in a game. The teams played like there wasn't much on the line - which there wasn't, since neither team shall sniff the playoffs this season. There is a lot at stake in the Monday night game, though - the team that loses will retain sole possession of last place in its respective division, while the team that wins will merely be tied for last place. Feel the excitement!


Roy Jones, Jr. lost to Antonio Tarver again, this time by a decisive and largely uneventful unanimous decision. Roy wants to fight Tarver a fourth time, because fighters can never internalize the fact that they aren't very good anymore. Roy Jones was once one of the greatest fighters of all time. Now he is a bum. The longer he fights, the greater the chance that he will be remembered as a bum instead of as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived. Time to retire, Roy.

Side note - there are only a few great fighters who retired when their skills began to tarnish, Rocky Marciano and Lennox Lewis. Neither is a consensus pick to be among the top five fighters of all time. As boxing fans, if we would really prefer to see the best fighters retire before they are old, pitiful and brain-injured, we shoud think about giving Rocky and Lennox a bit more historical credit. One retired undefeated, the other with no unavenged losses. They are the only two heavyweight champs ever to accomplish these feats. Pretty good. Yet there are MANY top-five lists that include neither fighter. So when boxing enthusiasts lament that the champ always hangs on too long, we should remember that it's partially our fault.

The only argument against either man is competition. In Marciano's case, it was partially Rocky's fault, since he didn't become champ until he was fairly old, and didn't defend his title very many times before retiring. But Lennox Lewis held the linear title for the better part of six years, and fought everybody worth fighting. He just happened to be around in an era where there weren't a lot of other great heavyweights. We should note in Lennox's favor, as well, that two guys who were considered to be potential champs were destroyed by Lewis and were never the same again (Michael Grant and "Foul Pole" Andrew Golota.) These guys are considered cream-puffs now but both were thought of as very good until they ran into Lewis.

BTW, anyone with Mike Tyson on their top-five list is simply wrong, and probably a Yankee fan.