House Report Criticizes US Intelligence on Iran

More evidence that the Bush Administration cannot be trusted on national security. A report submitted to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, and senior Democrat Jane Harman notes “significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the various areas of concern about Iran.” The report also says, “Iran is a serious security threat on which the United States needs better intelligence.”

Declaring Victory Over Terrorism To Reduce The Threat

While one post today notes the potential dangers resulting from Bush allowing bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, two recent articles question the degree to which terrorism remains a threat in the United States. James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic, warns that the response to terrorism may be more dangerous than terrorism itself, comparing our situation to Europe prior to World War I:

“I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons,” Kilcullen told me. He said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.

“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

It is harder today for potential terrorists to get into the country, but we are paying a price for this:

“It is harder to get into the country—to a fault,” says Seth Stodder. Much tougher visa rules, especially for foreign students, have probably kept future Mohammed Attas out of flight schools. But they may also be keeping out future Andrew Groves and Sergey Brins. (Grove, born in Hungary, cofounded Intel; Brin, born in Russia, cofounded Google.) “The student-visa crackdown was to deal with Atta,” Stodder says. “It’s affecting the commanding heights of our tech economy.” Richard Clarke says that the domestic change that has had the biggest protective effect is not any governmental measure but an increased public scrutiny of anyone who “looks Muslim.” “It’s a terrible, racist reaction,” Clarke says, “but it has made it harder for them to operate.”


Posted in Op-eds, Terrorism. Tags: , , , . 2 Comments »

Pope Fires Astronomer Over Support for Evolution

The Pope has fired Father George Coyne from his position as director of the Vatican Observatory for supporting evolution over intelligent design. Coyne has argued that Darwin’s theory of evolution is consistent with Christianity and that “intelligent design isn’t science, even if it pretends to be.”

Survivor’s Racial Divide


One problem Mark Burnett has is to find ways to keep interest in his “reality” shows. Both Survivor and The Apprentice have pit men against women. This worked for Survivor in presenting one of the more memorable pair of women with Heidi Strobel and Jenna Lewis (above). Pitting those with college versus high school educations on The Apprentice was less successful, but not objectionable. Neither of next season’s ideas sound very good. The Apprentice moves from New York to Los Angles, but for me seeing the greatest city on earth is half the reason for watching the show. Even more objectionable is the plan for Survivor–to divide up by race.

Survivor will start with twenty contestants and divide up into four tribes: the White Tribe, the African-American Tribe, the Asian-American Tribe and the Hispanic Tribe. Jeff Probst justified this due to the “ethnic pride” expressed by the contestants. For an Italian, to give just one example, to show pride in their ethnic heritage is fine. For the same Italian to team up with other white guys to oppose the black guys sounds somewhat creepy.

Posted in Television. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Republican Staffers Looking For New Jobs

The Evans-Novack Political Report notes that, while Republicans did get a bounce in some recent polls, “if the election were held today, the GOP would probably lose 26 seats and their congressional majority.” Republicans are worried:

There is still time left, but the buzz on the Hill is that many Republican staffers — including those working for safe members — are seeking employment elsewhere, dreading the miserable possibility of life in the congressional minority.

We shouldn’t get overly optimistic, as many were before the 2004 election:

The big X-factor is the Republicans’ vaunted micro-targeting turnout program, which is light-years ahead of anything the almost non-existent Democratic National Committee will be able to put together this year. The GOP turnout program produced a minor miracle in 2004, as new Republican voters showed up in droves.

In 2004 Republicans got out more voters from the ex-burbs and the religious right, especially in key states such as Ohio. The difference between 2004 and today is that Iraq has become a negative for voters, and the right wing social issues are not attracting the same interest as in the past. Previous posts on the changing attitudes on the wedge issues are under the fold.

The Mindset Of This Year’s College Freshmen

Every year Beloit College releases their “Mindset List” to on the incoming freshmen. Here’s some examples from this year’s list:

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.

Posted in Education. Tags: , . No Comments »

Bush’s Failure Against bin Laden Threatens Millions

Christiane Amanpour reminds us that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. She finds it difficult to fathom why he has not been captured almost five years after the 9/11 attack, especially considering Bush’s promises:

“I want justice,” President Bush said, referring to bin Laden after September 11, 2001. “And there’s an old poster out West. … I recall, that said, ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive.'”

She notes that we had a chance to capture him at Tora Bora:

The United States unleashed an onslaught on Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban, but bin Laden slipped away. By most accounts, it’s because the United States did not have enough boots on the ground, not enough U.S. soldiers to pin him down and block off escape routes in December 2001.

“In the first two or three days of December, I would write a message back to Washington recommending the insertion of U.S. forces on the ground,” Gary Berntsen, the leader of a secret CIA unit pursuing bin Laden at the time, told CNN. “I was looking for 600 to 800 Rangers, roughly a battalion. They never came.”

In retrospect we know that George Bush “out-sourced” the job to locals who were paid off to allow bin Laden to escape. (More on this under the fold here).
Armanpour provides reasons why we would have been safer if George Bush hadn’t botched the job in Afghanistan. The most chilling is:

Michael Scheuer, who once headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit, says bin Laden has been given permission by a young cleric in Saudi Arabia authorizing al Qaeda to “use nuclear weapons against the United States … capping the casualties at 10 million.” .

This is excellent reporting from Christiane Amanpour, especially for placing this in perspective with Bush’s failings in capturing bin Laden. I see why Amy Sherman-Palladino has made her Rory Gilmore’s role model.

Update: Brent Budowsky at Huffington Post looks at how Bush cut and run at Tora Bora, allowing bin Laden to escape.

Update II: Before over reacting to the threat, consider the opinions expressed in two articles discussed here that our overreaction to terrorism is more dangerous than terrorism itself.

Joan Vennochi: Bush Clings to A Lost Cause

Joan Vennochi writes in the Boston Globe that Bush clings to a lost cause in Iraq:

Acknowledging that public support for the war continues to wane, the president said, ”These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country.” But as Senator John Kerry correctly pointed out, ”The American psyche isn’t the problem. The problem is this administration’s disastrous Iraq policy.” In fact, the presidential psyche, not the national psyche, is a big problem.

Bush, the stubborn, won’t leave Iraq. And even worse, he won’t admit mistakes relative to getting us there in the first place, or military miscues since, when it comes to carrying out the mission, he dooms us to travel the same misguided path as long as he remains in the White House. . .

When it comes to Iraq, Bush, the rebel with a lost cause, continues to defy one thing above all: logic.

Her columns have sometimes been frustrating due to the manner in which she has repeated right wing talking points about John Kerry’s views on Iraq. This time she gets it right in placing Bush and Kerry firmly on the opposite side.

Kerry Takes On Reporter, Exciting Blogoshere

The Democratic Daily has broken its records for visits with its account of John Kerry standing up to reporter Jonathan Kaplan of The Hill. Pamela has the full story and links to audio. The post has received links from many major blogs, including Atrios, Crooks and Liars, Daily Kos, and the Daou Report.

Biased media coverage was a major problem for Democrats in both 2000 and 2004. Perhaps it is necessary for a candidate to experience this to fully understand how to fight the right wing noise machine. In the last several months John Kerry has been showing what he learned from his experiences in 2004, and how he will be a much stronger candidate in 2008.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous–Amway Edition

Dick DeVos might have lost his lead over Jennifer Granholm, but don’t feel too sorry for him. If DeVos loses, he won’t get to stay in the Governor’s residence on Mackinac Island (the only reason I could see why anyone would want the job of Governor of Michigan) but he can return to his home above thanks to the Amway fortune. According to the Detroit News, “Amenities at the DeVos homestead include an indoor underground swimming pool, a tennis court with a $22,000 lighting system, a wine room, a billiards room, seven fireplaces, a Jacuzzi, eight bathrooms, five bedrooms and a four-car garage connected to the main house by a covered walkway.” If he needs a break from the main home in Ada (above), there’s always the second home on Lake Makatawa in Holland (below).

Perhaps you too can become an Amway distributor and get to live like this. Or perhaps not:

“Amway and its clones are ravaging huge numbers of people every year with this story that they have this special system for earning income,” FitzPatrick said.

He said the company had to go global to survive because it had worn out its welcome in the U.S.

“The actual result: 99 percent of all who sign up and pay their money to distribute products don’t make a profit and 80 percent of its products are bought by company salespeople and never resold,” FitzPatrick said.

Former high-level Amway distributor Eric Scheibeler, who now lives in Pennsylvania, has written extensively, online and in a book, about what he saw as “fraud and deception” in Amway’s overseas and domestic operations. He has produced copies of letters he sent to Dick DeVos describing the alleged fraud that he says were never answered.

“There is systematic fraud. Amway has been promoted as having no downside and potential of generating a six-figure income, but it has almost a 100 percent loss rate for recruits,” he said.