Friday, July 15, 2005

CAIR to Launch Anti-terrorism Ad Campaign

Coming to a TV near you, according to Reuters:
American Muslims have launched an advertising campaign to denounce acts of terrorism after bombers believed to be British Muslims killed at least 54 people in attacks on London.

"Any effort by terrorists to hide their criminal activities under the mask of religious piety is being categorically and unequivocally rejected by mainstream Muslims," said Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He said the television ad, which will air nationwide by July 19, is an attempt to detach Islam from the "heinous" acts of a few Muslims.

Police believe the attacks are linked to al Qaeda, the Islamic militant group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the Madrid train bombings last year.

"Backlash is a concern ... but it's not our main motive," said CAIR spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed. "Our main motivation lies with making sure our position is clear where Islam stands on terrorism."

The Admission That Wasn't

Doing a bit of catch-up on the Plame Game, I came across the beginnings of a web firestorm (see here, here, here, here, and here) about an apparent admission from Joe Wilson that his wife wasn't undercover at the time Robert Novak divulged Plame's occupation.

At issue is the following exchange Wilson had with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:
BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife, who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you.

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.

BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?

WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.

She was not a clandestine officer at the time that that article in Vanity Fair appeared. And I have every right to have the American public know who I am and not to have myself defined by those who would write the sorts of things that are coming out, being spewed out of the mouths of the RNC...
One reading of this is that taken by John Podhoretz at National Review's Corner:
Here is Joseph Wilson himself, talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN today: “My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.” Read that again. Now reflect on the fact that there has been an ongoing investigation FOR TWO YEARS conducted, we were breathlessly and rather constantly told in the weeks surrounding the initial controversy, on the basis that the White House and reporters OUTED A CLANDESTINE AGENT. Now we know. She wasn’t. Not then.
As smarmy and self-aggrandizing as Joe Wilson is (what normal human being would put his name on a book called "The Politics of Truth"?), he's not so stupid as to completely undercut everything he's been yapping about for two years now. Obviously, he meant to say that his wife was no longer "under cover" the moment Creator's Syndicate released Bob Novak's column which mentioned her. I hope the bloggers who misinterpreted Wilson in this instance will correct the record.

Thankfully, Wilson's ill-deserved and over-utilized fame will soon be coming to an end as USA Today and the New York Times report that 1) Plame likely was not "covert agent" covered under the law administration critics accuse Rove and others of violating, 2) Rove heard about Plame from Novak and other journalists.

UPDATE 3:48, Podhoretz corrects the record, mostly.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hillary Clinton, Wire Services, and Pixelated Sex

Wire services are very useful as clearinghouses of information. They're often good at breaking down complex situations and making them easier to understand for people who haven't been following the story. Sometimes, though, the simplification goes too far.

Such is the case with the AP's and Reuters's reporting about a controversy that's errupted over the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. At issue is whether or not GTA's creator, Rockstar Games deliberately included (disabled) pornographic minigames that can be unlocked through downloading a minor hack of one of the PC version of the game's files.

After word got out of the PC hack (a PlayStation2 version soon followed), various people started getting involved including the video game industry's ratings body, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Next to step up was Senator Hillary Clinton who sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Rockstar.

In her FTC letter, the senator used the correct language to describe the situation. Reporting on Clinton's missive, however, the AP and Reuters were overly generic. While nothing the reporters said was false, it was misleading.

From the AP report:
Clinton, D-N.Y., is asking the Federal Trade Commission to probe how users of the game can access "graphic pornographic and violent content" for the game from the Internet.
Of course "access ... from the Internet" can mean a variety of things from third-party modules that can be downloaded (such as the infamous and short-lived Nude Raider mods) to unlocking disabled game features.

Reuters reporter Peter Kaplan phrased his story in more mysterious tones:
Clinton asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate the origins of a downloadable modification that allows simulated sex in the personal computer version of one of the most popular and controversial video games in history.
This is all true, but Kaplan gave no hint as to "the origins" of the game patches, or even a statement from their creator, a Dutch individual going by the name PatrickW, despite the fact that he has an official statement about the patches on the front page his web site:
All the contents of this mod was [sic] already available on the original disks. Therefor the scriptcode, the models, the animations and the dialogs by the original voice-actors were all created by RockStar. The only thing I had to do to enable the mini-games was toggling a single bit in the main.scm file. (Of course it was not easy to find the correct bit). The Nude models that are used as a bonus in the Quick action version of the mod, were also already present on the original disk.
But all this material is completely inaccesible in an unmodded version of the game. It can therefor not be considered a cheat, easter-egg or hidden feature. But is most probably just leftover material from a gameplay idea that didn't make the final release. I would really like to stress that this material is only accessible after willfully applying the hot coffee mod (or something similar) to the game.
In the end, PatrickW will most likely to be proven correct. The idea that the ESRB should monitor and rate disabled and hidden code within games is absurd. Still, though, if the bad publicity continues for Rockstar, the company may very well pull the current version of GTA San An, even though Clinton's attempt to moderate her image will likely increase the game's sales among people who somehow think that polygon sex is kewl.

Va. Governor's Race Still the Same

I'm not a big follower of my state's politics, but do occasionally like to peek in on the electoral battles, especially since this year, Virginia is one of only two states with a governor's race.

According to the latest Rasmussen poll(a company whose record I'm not sure is entirely reliable), Republican Jerry Kilgore leads Democrat Tim Kaine by the same margin he did a month ago, though both candidates have gained a point. Kilgore is up 47 to 41.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Anatomy of a Screwup

In a fascinating post, Ed Bott follows the story of how an anonymously sourced item speculating that Microsoft was in negotiations to buy adware company Claria (the maker of the Gator program) morphed on the web into an outright claim from the Boing Boing blog that the deal was done.

Demographics and Democrats

PoliPundit spots a Washington Times article claiming that interstate migration patterns are helping increase the population of Republican-leaning states, thereby increasing their clout in the electoral college. He files it under the "demographics-are-bad-for-Democrats" department which is somewhat premature. The ensuing discussion among the site's commenters (revolving around the question of who is migrating, liberals to the conservative states or conservatives seeking ideologically friendlier climes) is worth reading, though as yet, no one's pointed out that the article PoliPundit linked was written by Donald Lambro who is notorious in Washington for being as overly upbeat on Republicans' chances as the New York Times is on Democrats'.

On November 6, 2000 (article not online), Lambro claimed that California was "clearly in play" in the presidential election the next day and stated that Oregon, Maine, and Iowa "were leaning toward Mr. Bush." Bush lost all three.

Demographics are important, no question, but good strategy, the issue climate and candidate effectiveness are more of a factor on elections in my opinion.

The HD-DVD, Blu-ray Battle

The movie, computer, and consumer electronics industry is about to break out in a VHS vs. Betamax war over the next generation of DVD formats. Barring last-minute concessions, things are going to get interesting.

The New York Times reports (HT TV Barn) that Hollywood is still deadlocked in a battle over the successor to the DVD format. Right now there are two primary formats, HD-DVD and Blu-ray DVD. In short, HD-DVD can be thought of as an extension to to the regular DVD format which makes it cheaper and quicker to produce than the BDVDs which use an entirely new technical model. The downside for HD-DVD is that its capacity is much smaller compared to BDVD. Just recently, Sharp announced it has developed a 100GB disc which it says will be compatible with BDVD. The max an HD-DVD can hold is 45GB. (Detailed specs for both here.)

In the article, the Times gives a listing of which studios and tech companies are on which side (HD-DVD almost has 50 percent of the movie market) but strangely leaves out the fact that Microsoft is backing HD-DVD which could be significant.

In the end, however, it may not be the movie industry that determines which format wins. The still-growing console video game industry may do that. Market leader Sony is one of the creators of the Blu-ray technology and is incorporating them into the upcoming PlayStation3, in the process driving the production cost of it to around $490 and creating a $90 loss on each unit. The system isn't skedded for release until next year.

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox 360, meanwhile, is still sticking with the existing DVD format. The advantage for MS is that this will allow it to release the 360 before Christmas this year. However, some developers don't like the size limitations of the disc format and are worried they'll have to release games on multiple DVDs, thereby annoying gamers. As a business strategy, Microsoft's failure to integrate HD-DVD into the Xbox may be what dooms the format.

As for Nintendo, the third-place (at least in the U.S. and Europe) is playing its cards close to the vest, though it's rumored that the company's upcoming system will be using disc technology from Panasonic, one of the backers of HD-DVD. Even though it may be using HD-DVD discs, Nintendo has officially stated that it "will not support high-definition." This announcement has spawned the creation of a web site devoted to convincing Nintendo to support HDTV.

MS Releases Longhorn Screenshots

Mirrored screenshot galleries here and here. My take: Those default colors sure are ugly. It also looks like they copied the transparent titlebars on inactive windows right from MacOS which has had that feature for about four years. I'm glad they added tabbed browsing to Internet Explorer.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Plame Game

The investigation into the leak of then-CIA analyst Valerie Plame's identity (contrary to widespread belief, she was not an undercover agent) continues to unravel as Newsweek reveals that Time reporter Matt Cooper did talk with Karl Rove about Plame's husband's trip to Niger.

Newsweek got a leak of Cooper's office email from someone at the rival magazine and reprinted portions of it in this week's issue. It's possible that Rove was the original source of the leak for both Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, but the available evidence is beginning to suggest otherwise.

In last week's Newsweek, Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin was quoted saying that Rove had waived any confidentiality agreements he had with reporters:
Luskin told Newsweek that Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." Luskin declined, however, to discuss any other details. He did say that Rove himself had testified before the grand jury "two or three times" [the last time was in 2004] and signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him.
Cooper's source, however, only at the last minute released the reporter. From the July 7 Washington Post:

In a last-minute surprise, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper avoided Miller's fate by agreeing in the same court hearing to cooperate with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's probe.

Cooper told the judge that he said goodbye to his 6-year-old son yesterday morning and was expecting to go to jail for as long as four months. But minutes later he received a surprise phone call from his government source, who, Cooper said, freed him to break their confidentiality agreement and to tell a grand jury about their conversations in July 2003.

Another piece of evidence suggests that Rove was not the primary source. If the Newsweek emails really were written by Cooper, they seem to point to someone at the CIA being the principle leaker:
Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, "please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]" and suggested another reporter check with the CIA.
Novak's own public statements on his report also seem to suggest someone(s) other than Rove. In his Oct. 1, 2003 column, Novak said his original source as "no partisan gunslinger." That hardly sounds like Rove who has routinely bashed Democrats:
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it."
The NYT's and its reporter Miller's actions also point to a larger pool of people being in on the allegation that Plame was a nepotist since she is refusing to identify whoever it was that told her about Plame. If Rove released reporters to whom he talked, if Cooper's primary source released him, then it stands to reason that, unless Miller has some sort of sick craving for prison, she had a different source.

At this point, it seems to me that Plame's career was an open secret (a National Review contributor disclosed in 2003 that he knew about Plame before Novak's column), therefore, once word got around elite Washington circles that her husband, Joseph Wilson--who had donated to Democrats for years and had a high position in the Clinton admin--had gotten assigned to investigate possible Iraqi uranium dealings in Niger, gossip started spreading that she had gotten him the job.

The gossip spread more widely and rapidly after Wilson went public with his mission in a New York Times op-ed blasting the Bush admin and the war in Iraq. Eventually, several reporters heard about the gossip through sources and that Novak's column was released to its subscribers on July 11, the day before Cooper asked Rove about Wilson. Like many of the kerfuffles created by Clinton foes in the 90s, the Plame game seems to be another scandalous non-scandal. Instead of going after Rove who can easily claim he didn't know Plame was "undercover," administration foes would do well to follow the Left Coaster's advice and look elsewhere.

In conclusion, here is a list of reporters who knew about Plame and their sources. There may be some overlap. Not everyone in the list was mentioned in my post above. If you know of anyone I left out, post them (and a link) in the comments. I'm counting at least four to eight people who knew and told reporters.

Robert Novak, syndicated columnist: "two senior administration officials," one of whom is "no partisan gunslinger"

Matthew Cooper, Time reporter: Karl Rove, Scooter Libby (chief of staff for VP Cheney), at least one other person who released him from his promise of anonymity

"Other reporters": "During a July 12, 2003, conversation, according to a source involved in the investigation, Time reporter Matthew Cooper told Libby that he had been informed by other reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee. Libby, the source said, replied that he had heard the same thing, also from the press corps."

Cliff May, conservative activist: "someone who formerly worked in the government" "but not by anyone working in the White House."

Judith Miller, New York Times reporter: At least one person who has not released her from a confidentiality agreement

Walter Pincus, Washington Post reporter: someone other than Libby

UPDATE 7/11 7:39, The WP reports that Rove signed his universal waiver of anonymity in December 2003 or January of 2004, but:
Cooper had indicated he would go to jail rather than expose a confidential source, but he agreed last week to cooperate with the grand jury after getting clearance from his source to testify. Luskin said Cooper had been clear to testify all along -- because of the waiver signed 18 months ago -- but that the waiver was "reaffirmed" on Wednesday, the day of a hearing to decide whether he and Miller would go to jail.
I may be wrong in saying that Rove was not Cooper's primary source.

For a comprehensive roundup of blog opinion on this subject, see this post from Joe Gandelman.

UPDATE 10:38, After reading over JustOneMinute's very good post on the Plame Game, I'm adding "other journalists" to the list of people who knew about Plame and told Cooper, especially since the crux of Novak's July 14 column was distributed to the press on July 11.

The Key to GOP Success

It's one of the most overlooked facts of politics that people opposed to abortion are the main reason Republicans have enjoyed congressional majorities since 1994. Many pro-lifers are uneasy with being in the GOP, and consider their allegiance to the party purely a strategic decision. After reading the web for 10 years, I've seen many posts like this post from a FreeRepublic member Vicomte13 on the subject of potential Supreme Court appointment:
The Pro-Lifer's deal was: we work out hearts out in election after election, for 32 years, and when you Republican leaders finally get control, you install judges who will overturn Roe. We are not going to change our expectations in order to make it easier for the Republicans. This is why we are at the party in the first place. If the Republicans had not made this their platform for 32 years, the pro-lifers would not be in the party as a bloc, and the Republicans would not be the majority.

There is an effort to try to renegotiate the terms of a deal after 32 years of substantial performance by pro-lifers.
It is not going to fly.

Remember the electoral disaster after Bush's father raised taxes? Low tax conservatives decided that the betrayal was too much, and Bush 41 and his team were out.

That will happen to the Republicans now if they do not put pro-life conservatives on the Supreme Court, people who will overturn Roe. That was the deal, and we are not going to accept the Republicans changing the deal now.

Arrested at the Airport

Three men have been arrested at London's Heathrow Airport. Police are saying not to attach their arrests to the investigation of Thursday's bombings.

In other news, it appears an American was among those hit by the blasts.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blogs Part of Groups' Strategies for Nomination Fight

Joe Gandelman talks about how political groups will be using blogs as part of their communications strategies in the upcoming battle over Sandra O'Connor's replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet more proof that blogging has arrived. In fact, having a blog message is probably more important in the political realm than in the business realm because politics requires dialogue so much more than most for-profit enterprises.

Coming to a Phone Near You?

Forbes reports on the how several large companies are looking to get into the cellular phone market, not through building their own networks but by reselling another company's services as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

This sales technique is commonplace for landlines and to a lesser extent DSL. Among companies mentioned as exploring MVNO services are Wal-Mart, Nike, and Apple. Others who are already in the game: 7-Eleven, Earthlink, and Disney subsidiary ESPN.

The idea is feasible though I expect that too many companies will try to cash in. All the new resellers will probably lower cellular prices even further.

Bush Repeats Flypaper Argument

In his Saturday radio address, President Bush and his advisers made a bone-headed play: he repeated the terrorist flypaper argument just two days after London was hit by a terrorist attack. Now it may be that the theory is valid (I don't think so) but it's just a little too soon to be repeating the line because surely Here's What's Left isn't alone in disliking it.

England on Edge

Just like after Sept. 11, in the immediate aftermath of the London underground bombings, the country is on alert. As of now, Britain's second-largest city Birmingham is being evacuated.

This comes after a three hoax threats one earlier in Birmingham, one at the central city of Stourbridge (see first link), and another in the city of Manchester.

In other news, a mosque was burned, prompting some to suspect arson.

UPDATE 16:53, BBC: Unconfirmed report there are two suspicious packages.

UPDATE 17:09, If you really want to know what's going on in Birmingham, the BBC has a great local radio service (RealPlayer required) which includes roving street reporters and allows people to call in and report. FYI, the stream plays music and local news so don't think you're at the wrong place if you don't hear news.

UPDATE 17:51, That radio service I linked to has gone to automated programming as they've been evacuated. Over 25,000 people in Birmingham have been evacuated. In the mean time, check out the BBC Five which is London-based.

UPDATE 17:56, Nothing new on the security threat, just the first poll post-7/7. Contrary to what happened after Spain was attacked, the Underground bombings have actually increased British resolve to remain in Iraq. Ed Morrisey has analysis and the link.

Iacocca Returns to Chrysler (Well Sorta)

Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler who helped bring the company out of bankrupcy nearly a decade ago has agreed to appear in three ad spots for DaimlerChrysler. In return, the company has agreed to give him $1 for every one of the surviving brands from his time as CEO that sells. Plus his charitable foundation gets a donation. Hat tip Adrants.

Blogs and Overpersonalization

One of the things I tell clients and classes when I'm telling them about how blogs and other online media is to avoid putting too much personal info online. Here's an AP article that looks at some of the consequences of people who forget this. My advice: If you want to be really personal (and sometimes everyone does) try doing it with a pseudonym whether on a forum or a blog, and don't do it for too long.

Heritage After-action, Part I

Friday I attended a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation which featured Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters, Jim Hill of the Washington Post Writers Group and Dan Glover of National Journal and Beltway Blogroll.

As usual, the best part of these sessions was after the prepared remarks when the dialogue between the panelists and audience begins. Mark Tapscott of Heritage did a good job finding a quality panel with the kind of diversity that makes for good discussion. I would post more of a reaction but unfortunately, I left my laptop at a client's office so that will have to wait until next week.

In addition to the three gentlemen above, I met several other people some for the first time, Mike Marshall of Pajamahadin and Michael Calderon. Both were interesting and it was nice to put a face on the postings. Like me, Mike is a consultant while Michael is a high school teacher.

It was also nice to see E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post again. He's always got something interesting to say. Friday, he mentioned his latest theory on newspapers: that the blogging explosion has actually helped increase the online audience of newspaper columnists. I'd love to see some research on the topic because it sounds quite possible.

For a good summary of what went on, see this post from Mary Katherine Ham, a blogger at Heritage, whom I also had the pleasure of seeing again. Ed Morrisey also has an after-action post.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Impact of Grokster

Now that the dust has settled on the U.S. Supreme Court's unfortunate ruling in MGM v. Grokster, Doc Searls surveys the situation. The findings are mixed: while companies trying to get into the p2p space are now more restricted than before, they at least have some of the uncertainty removed. And, if they watch their marketing rhetoric so as never to appear to support copyright infringment, may be able to pursue their existing strategies. There are lots of supplemental links in the piece for those wanting further reading.

The Trouble with O'Connor

Charles Krauthammer:
Perhaps the most telling moment of Sandra Day O'Connor's nearly quarter-century career on the Supreme Court came on her last day. In her opinion on the Kentucky Ten Commandments case, O'Connor wrote that, given religious strife raging around the world and America's success in resolving religious differences, why would we "renegotiate the boundaries between church and state. . . . Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"

This is O'Connorism in its purest essence. She had not so much a judicial philosophy as a social philosophy. Unlike a principled conservative such as Antonin Scalia, or a principled liberal such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, O'Connor had no stable ideas about constitutional interpretation. Her idea of jurisprudence was to decide whether legislation produced social "systems" that either worked or did not.

But that, of course, is the job of the elected branches of government. Legislatures negotiate social arrangements. Judges are supposed to look at their handiwork and decide one thing and one thing only: whether the "system" the politicians produced comports with the Constitution. On what other grounds do judges have the authority to throw out legislation? Do they have superior wisdom about what works, superior capacity to decide which social boundaries require negotiation and which do not?
Hat tip: Betsy Newmark.

Bus Bomb Was Carried by Suicide Attacker

The Sun has an account from several eyewitnesses. This was the first suicide bomb in the West as far as I can remember. Here's an excerpt:
Shocked survivors told how they saw a “suicide bomber” on board the double-decker bus destroyed in yesterday’s terrorist outrage.

Up to 20 people were last night feared dead after the packed No 30 was ripped apart by a 9.47am blast in Tavistock Square, Central London.[...]

Terence Mutasa, 27, a staff nurse at University College hospital, said: “I treated two girls in their 20s who were involved in the bus bomb.

“They were saying some guy came and sat down and that he exploded. The girls received minor injuries and were in shock and distressed.

“They said the guy just sat down and the explosion happened. They thought it was a suicide bomber.”

Passenger Richard Jones was convinced he saw the bomber setting his device.

He said he became suspicious of the olive-skinned man because he looked anxious and was fiddling constantly with his bag.

The Day After

This is London:
Network Rail said the vast majority of its services were running normally, with the exception of the east coast mainline GNER services to King's Cross which were stopping at Peterborough.

But they said they hoped to have a limited service up and running by lunchtime.

As rush hour got started, a Network Rail spokesman estimated the number of passengers was at 60% of normal.

"A lot of people do seem to have taken the day off," he said.

On the streets of the capital, there were extra high-visibility patrols as police sought to reassure the public, including in areas with large Muslim populations.

Don't Mess with Momma

Dean provides a link to a web store selling t-shirts of Uncle Sam saying "Don't mess with my momma." Nice idea though somewhat unrefined.

Olympics Comm. Cuts Baseball, Softball

When I saw this story, I couldn't help but think of Baseball Crank. Of course, he may not care about the Olympics; many don't. Could there be a political motivation behind the vote?
SINGAPORE, July 8 (Reuters) - Baseball and softball will not feature in the 2012 London Olympics after they were wiped from the programme in a controversial vote on Friday.

The two sports failed to win a majority of votes in a ballot of members at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore and became the first sports to be axed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

The 26 other sports from the Athens 2004 programme did win a majority of votes and will remain on the programme in London.

Baseball and softball's ejection opens the door for two of golf, squash, karate, rugby sevens and roller sports to be added.

Will Rehnquist Retire?

From the Washington Post:
A week after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, the White House and its allies are preparing for the possibility that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist might soon follow suit, opening up a second vacancy to fill and scrambling the politics of this summer's brewing nomination battle.

Talk of a possible Rehnquist retirement has reached full boil again as Republican strategists mapped out plans for how to tackle a double nomination. Advisers inside and outside the White House are discussing how to select two potential nominees, how they might match or balance each other and how to sequence their confirmation hearings.
Elsewhere on the web, National Review's Kathryn Lopez is spreading rumors about Justice John Paul Stevens. Would she be willing to bet 50 bucks on that rumor? I would. He won't retire during this administration, not voluntarily at least.

Software Patents Rejected by EU

One positive news item came out of Europe Thursday: the European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to establish patents on software. The measure was backed by many large software companies who think that it would have helped them stave off competition from the open-source community. That's especially bizarre since one of the biggest backers of the bill was Microsoft, the company who made famous the concept of "embrace and extend," the idea of copying competitors' features and then improving on them, which in turn makes competitors do the same.

In the long run, so long as the EU remains true to its principles, both open and proprietary software will benefit and by extention, every computer user. Software feature races are good. Software patents stop them. Kudos to everyone who helped secure the victory.

For more on why software patents are a bad idea, read this post from venture capitalist Joi Ito.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What About Bob?

I haven't posted much on the Valerie Plame leak case. Jay Rosen has, though; his latest is a call for Bob Novak to be exiled from journalism. I think that's a little premature, especially since I believe it's based on conflating two facts in Novak's original column about Plame as being from from the same source:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
There are two distinct points in this paragraph: 1) Plame works for the CIA. 2) She arranged for her husband to be sent to Niger.

Isn't it possible that the "two senior administration officials" only told Novak the second point and that he already knew (either from common knowledge as he says) or by some other means?

What lends credibility to this scenario is the fact that Novak doesn't appear to be bound for the slammer in any way. This suggests (though neither the columnist nor the prosecutor will confirm it) that Novak did appear before the grand jury and revealed at least how he came to know Fact #1. As a man who's been probably the biggest success for the longest time, he's been on the beat since the 1960s, I highly doubt that Novak would have compromised a source who told him something in confidence.

From this we may conclude that Novak either aquired knowledge of Plame's career through non-confidential means or that his source released him from a confidentiality agreement. It's not likely that the second scenario occurred because a person who knowingly disclosed classified information has committed a serious crime and therefore has no incentive to tell a grand jury this.

Having eliminated the second possibility, let's turn to the first one. Three possible scenarios flow from it: 1) Plame's career was common knowledge and Novak's source did not think that revealing this would be a criminal offense. Therefore, an administration source told Novak but not under a confidentiality agreement. Subsequently, Novak told the grand jury about this. 2) Novak obtained his information from someone outside the White House or from a fellow journalist such as Matt Cooper or Judy Miller. 3) Novak obtained information on both Plame's identity and her alleged role from administration officials who were actually passing on information they heard from Miller, Cooper or someone else.

In the end, I think it's too soon to render judgment on Novak's actions. If, as I believe, Novak's knowledge of Plame's career and her alleged involvement with her husband's Africa trip came from separate sources, I'm not sure there's anything he could say that would have helped Cooper and Miller avoid jail, especially if Plame's identity wasn't privileged information.

With regard to Novak's lack of comment on the case so far, it's either that he has agreed not to say anything as part of an immunity agreement or he just doesn't want to get in any more trouble than he's already in.

As for Fitzgerald, I find it hard to condone his prosecution. According to Ann Althouse, the judge in the case seems to be a jerk, too. Incredibly, he actually said this at Miller's sentencing:
"That's the child saying: 'I'm still going to take that chocolate chip cookie and eat it. I don't care.'"

All in the Name of Reform

Campaign finance is the one area of politics about which I am almost entirely a cynic. Self-described reformers always had some ulterior motive whether it was trying to atone for past campaign finance sins (John McCain) or to try and refashion the law to thwart the opposing party.

By now, it's obvious that Democrats were planning on the establishment of 527 groups prior to the passage of McCain-Feingold (aka Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act) which severely restricted the ability of individuals and small groups to donate to parties. The Republicans who ended up voting for the bill clearly did so with an eye on the fact that Democrats relied primarily on soft-money, the very thing that was to be banned by BCRA. No doubt, the GOP senators also thought they'd get the naive liberal press of their backs (back in early 2001 the media drumbeat for censorship of everyone but themselves was positively sickening).

All of this was ironic because in the days before the Republican congressional majority, it was Republicans who were gung-ho about "reforming" away their opponents. Democrats, meanwhile were more than happy with the existing system which gave them the financial advantage as the majority party.

Now, it seems Republicans have once again picked up the "reform" cudgel as this longish American Prospect article details (link via Ezra Klein). Democrats thought they'd get the best of Republicans by bashing them with their former issue. No longer. Now it's Democrats who will be getting the legislative shaft in the name of "reform." And there's probably not too much they can do to stop it, unless they team up with the core of conservatives who stood up against the McCain/media juggernaut. In the mean time, all Americans' freedom of political speech, the most important freedom of all, slowly gets whittled away.

What we really need is a return to the pre-Watergate freedom of speech that we once had coupled with rigorous disclosure requirements and a ban on corporate and union campaign contributions. Here's to hoping that Democrats start supporting free speech like they did before and that conservatives within the GOP resist the urge to harm their rivals by taking away freedoms.

The Joos Knew

I was about to write a post on how, once again, rumors have spread that Israelis knew about a major terrorist attack beforehand--but then I see Ace did it for me. He asks an interesting question: How can anti-Western Muslims be happy the attacks happened while still believing that Israel had a hand in them?

So how long until some European moron writes a book claiming to "prove" that Israel or Blair LIHOP?

Defective Flypaper?

As someone who has long been ambivalent regarding the Iraq war, I think this post from Kos deserves a response from war supporters:

Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" -- it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home. Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West. [...]

But Bush (and Blair) took their eyes off the prize -- neglected to finish the job in Afghanistan, let Al Qaida off the hook to rebuild and reorganize, and helped swell its ranks with an unecessary and inept campaign in Iraq.

There are consequences to the mess in Iraq. And today, we're seeing one of them. Unfortunately, it won't be the last.

The thing is, I think Kos's initial premise is irrefutably true--Islamic terrorists are more likely to attack countries who support the removal of Saddam Hussein. Contrary to Kos, though, it does not follow that we should leave Iraq since doing so would embolden the terrorists.

Also against his point is that really, these people are looking for any reason to hate the West and its allies. Recall that the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia was given by bin Laden as his primary motivation for 9/11. We pulled out months ago from there and yet we're still getting attacked.

I've thought about this question before and come to the tenative conclusion that if Iraq hadn't happened when it did, the U.S. would probably have made an incursion (invited or uninvited) into a country beyond Afghanistan. Had we not invaded Iraq I suspect that America would have sent troops into Pakistan (with or without permission) to get bin Laden, thereby destablizing the Musharraf regime.

War opponents are probably thinking right now: well we would have gotten bin Laden! How do you know that?

In the end, I don't think there was any strategic outcome post 9/11 that wouldn't have sucked. Bush (or Gore or Kerry) would have had severe problems with any of their foreign policy strategies. Sadly, very few people on either side are willing to admit this. Instead, we've had a massively useless debate about water under the bridge. Part of the blame for this rests on war supporters but the bulk of it rests with opponents.

I'll end with two more questions, one for war supporters and one for war opponents. To the supporters: Aren't international terrorists smart enough to fight a multi-front war? To opponents: Do you really think Al Gore or John Kerry wouldn't be making the flypaper argument were they in charge?

UPDATE 8:44, Now that Technorati has finally got its act together, here are some other responses to the original Kos post. Seems like many people think he was out-of-bounds: Cadillac Tight, Like You Really Care, Dean Esmay.

UPDATE 7/8 7:32, Kos has written an additional post responding to critics, he argues that terrorism has increased post-Iraq so therefore it was a bad idea. But is that increase in terrorism because of Iraq or simply because, with the passage of time, terrorist groups got their acts together? Another question: In the abscence of Iraq, why wouldn't Afghanistan have set them off? If that's the place from which all terrorism flows, attacking it would seem to be a very big deal.

I can't figure out, though, why he and his readers count the term winger as an insult since it can just as easily be applied to them. But then again, I think the term moonbat is imprecise, too.

UPDATE 9:14, If you want some examples of out-of-line rhetoric following 7/7, see this post.

Bloggers and Journalists, Friends or Enemies?

That is the subject of an upcoming panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation that I'll be attending tomorrow morning. Please drop by as well if you're in the Washington area and have time. It starts at 10:30 and will be featuring Ed Morrisey of the Captain's Quarters blog; the managing editor of the Washington Post Writers Group, the syndication arm of the newspaper, James Hill; and Dan Glover, a managing editor at the National Journal.

For further information, see the blog of my friend Mark Tapscott who is the host of the event.

Mapes, Rather Collaborate on Martyrdom

It's long been known that nearly everyone at CBS News hated Dan Rather. Now we learn in today's New York Post that he's not getting assignments in exile (since no one trusts him) and that he and fired "60 Minutes Wednesday" producer Mary Mapes are collaborating on her upcoming memoirs.
Rather, who is still on staff with CBS, is "trying to make sure he comes out all right and is trying to help salvage his name through Mary's book," the outraged insider says. Rather is said to be furious with his new, marginalized position at "60 Minutes."

"Dan has got nothing to do," the source elaborates. "No one at '60 Minutes' wants him doing pieces for them because he's considered tainted. Everyone at CBS just wants him to leave the building but he won't. He's bored and Mary strokes his ego telling him, 'You're so great, Dan. You're still the best, Dan.' But still, no one can believe he's helping her with the book. CBS still gives him a paycheck."

MSNBC Brings Out the Big Guns

Looks like the brass at cable NBC is trying to own the London terrorist attacks. They've got Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Andrea Mitchell on the cable channel on an early Thursday afternoon.

In other TV news, Brian Stelter informs that Greta Van Susteren has been called out of Aruba. It's sad that it took such a tragic event to make television news stop trivializing itself. The comparison to 9/11 and the summer of the shark is just too stark not to note.

UPDATE: Couric and Williams are off but MSNBC is still trying to keep viewers by not going to commercials unlike FNC. I haven't watched CNN long enough to know if it's doing commercials.

UPDATE II: CNN is doing commercials.

UPDATE 8:48, CNN Headline News host Nancy Grace is not on the air for the biggest story of 2005. Why?

Terrorism in London

London was hit by multiple explosions today, nearly 24 hours after the International Olympic Committee announced London as the host city of the 2012 summer games.

According to this blogger, cell services are clogged up as everyone is trying to make calls outward.

The Daily Telegraph has graphic of where the explosions were up on its front page. At least three explosions were in the subway system (the lowest division of which is known as the Tube). A bus is believed to have been hit as well. The whole tube system is shut down now. Police say there have been numerous casualties.

Security in the city was likely strung out dealing with the G8 summit in Scotland, the Live 8 concerts, and yesterday's Olympic announcements.

Earlier in the day, there was a report that Scotland Yard told Israeli intelligence that London had been a target. The British authorities have denied this report.

UPDATE 6:02, Possibly unrelated but is down as well.

UPDATE: 6:17, Is there any chance that the date 7/7 has any significance? You have nine-eleven, three-eleven in Spain. Now is it seven-seven?

UPDATE 6:27, Breaking news discussions here at Daily Kos, FreeRepublic, Democratic Underground. Prime Minister Blair is expected to deliver a speech at 7:00EST.

UPDATE: 6:33, London police chief says he thinks it's probably terrorism.

UPDATE 6:44, BBC reports stock markets world-wide have fallen.

UPDATE 6:49, Here's a link to the discussion.

UPDATE 6:51, Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was skedded to speak near one of the blast sites.

UPDATE: 7:00, Dean Esmay is one of the few American bloggers who's also following the story. Jeff Jarvis is another.

UPDATE 7:07, Blair speaks, says he will come to London but that the G8 meetings will continue to go on and also that the explosions were coordinated with the summit. Says it's "reasonably clear" that it was a terrorist attack. He added the following:

"Our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world

"Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations in the world."

UPDATE 7:19, The BBC is printing eye-witness emails. Here's a few:
I got a Thames link train from Luton and it arrived at Kings Cross at 8:40am. The train was delayed and running slow so fortunately I didn't put my headphones in my ears so I could hear announcements. When I got to the south bound platform of the northern Line it was rammed with people trying to squeeze onto the tube. Then an automated voice came over the loudspeaker system asking for passengers to evacuate the station.

I'm now amazed at how dismissive everyone was, myself included. No-one paid any attention to the announcement and we all continued to stand on the platform waiting for the next tube! It wasn't until a London Underground worker came bellowing down the platform - about 3 minutes later - that people started to move, and then they were moving really slowly, huffing and puffing in annoyance.

It just proves how we're all so used to being messed around by the London transport system. We turn into zombies on the way to work and our lives are put into danger everyday by overcrowding and hot & uncomfortable conditions. Getting to work is officially a mission of survival!
Tycie West, Luton
Two more:
I was on a westbound Central Line tube that was stuck underground in the Liverpool St area for quite some time. It did not stop at 2 stations (Liverpool St & Bank) and we finally managed to get to St Pauls and were told to evacuate. To me it seems too much of a coincidence that this type of incident has happened the day after London has won the Olympics.
Aaron Davis, London

I've just seen people coming out of Aldgate station covered in soot and blood; some of them clearly in shock. People are just walking off into the streets with soot and blood and their clothing and faces. Emergency services are in attendance. One man told me there had been an explosion on the Circle line and he described it as "horrible down there."
David Marsland, London

UPDATE 7:23, The G8 leaders are going to make a statement as well.

UPDATE 7:31, FreeRepublic poster happinesswithoutpeace: "More comments coming in on AQ sites saying the attacks were expected and that All muslim 'Sisters and Brothers' should be careful today." Poster doesn't provide link but this may be interesting.

UPDATE 7:35, Overheard on FNC: A previously unknown group claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda.

UPDATE 7:38, CNN says Scotland Yard says there were four explosions. Three underground and one on a bus.

UPDATE 7:47, FNC says authorities believe the bus bomb was planted by a suicider.

UPDATE 7:48, Tom Biro emails this link to a Flickr user screencap of a person trapped in the tunnel.

UPDATE 7:54, A commenter at Jeff Jarvis's site says someone was shot dead. He's using this UK web forum (urban75) as his source. Follow the discussion by getting a username at

7:57, London bloggers on the ground:
(Thanks and Tom Biro)

8:01, FNC says there were seven explosions. MSNBC is sticking to only confirmed death reports. As of now, that's two. FNC says 187 unconfirmed number.

8:05, urban75 poster: Some trains are moving again.

8:07, Blair and other G8 leaders standing together for statement. Blair: "not an attack on one nation but on all nations...we will not allow violence to change our society or our values...we will continue our deliberations in the interest of a better world." Bush and Chirac are flanking him.

More: "Today's bombings will not weaken us...We shall prevail and they shall not."

8:11, Here's another map of the London subway system and the blast sites. On-the-scene pic of Londoners trying to find out what's going on. Sign indicating the Tube has been shut down.

8:16, Picture of the
exploded bus.

8:18, The most popular Flickr tag for this seems to be "bomb."

8:20, FNC reporter Stuart Varney: London dominates UK far more than any city in the U.S. does over here. When you shut down the mass transit to London, you have essentially shut down the city.

8:22, Blair leaves the G8 onboard helicopter.

8:23, CNN: No plans to elevate U.S. national terrorism alert level.

8:23, Another urban75 poster confirms many above-ground trains are still in operation.

8:28, Al Qaeda Claim of responsibility via German newspaper Der Spiegel:
A letter posted on a Web site frequently used by al-Qaida claims that the "Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" is responsible for today's massive terrorist attack in London. In it, the group also issues warnings to Denmark and Italy.

In a letter located by SPIEGEL ONLINE on a Web site trafficked by al-Qaida, a document that claims to be written by the interntional terror group claims responsibility for the London attacks.

"Rejoice, community of Muslims," the letter states. "The heroic mujahedeens today conducted an attack in London," it continues. All of Great Britain is now shaken and shocked, "in the north, the south, west and east." "We've warned the British government and the British people time and again," the letter adds. "We've kept our promise and have carried out a blessed military operation."

8:31, Bush begins speaking. Expresses condolences, commends Blair. Says U.S. security forces are being "extra-vigilant." Draws contrast between compassionate activities of G8 and the murder of innocent civilians. "The contrast couldn't be clearer... between those who care about human life... and those with evil in their hearts.... we will not yield to these people... we will bring them to justice."

8:34, From Tom Biro: Bank of England discusses lowering interest rates in wake of attacks.

8:37, New York steps up security.

8:39, Price of oil falls after bombings.

8:41, More on the scene photos from AFP. More from Sky News.

8:44, London Line is a good blog following the news.

8:48, Tom Biro's wife reports that traffic in the NYC subways is noticeably sparser today in the 7:00 to 8:00 hours. "People aren't taking the subways today." Delays in the Lincoln Tunnel are noticably higher today.

8:50, Flickr has two pools of pix from London: One, two.

8:53, Aljazeera has a chronology of recent attacks in the city.

8:54, Technorati has once again failed at another crucial moment.

8:56, Hotline set up for those concerned about missing relatives: (020) 8358 0101 (+44 20 8358 0101 from outside the UK)

8:58, Timeline of the explosions from They happened around 3:15 U.S. Eastern (8:15 London). They were first confirmed at 4:15 eastern

8:59, MSNBC tv reports that 10-year U.S. treasury bonds have risen sharply. Also French franc is up. NY stock markets opened on schedule.

9:02, Casulty report: More than 180.

9:04, Flights to and from London are continuing as scheduled.

9:06, More eyewitness reports. Still more here.

9:07, Bank of England decides not to cut interest rates.

9:12, Chronology of past events on July 7.

9:15, More eyewitness accounts

9:17, U.S. State Department hotline for American citizens:

9:18, Full-text of Bush statement from the White House.

9:22, The G8 Summit will still be going on as scheduled. Obviously the subject matter will be changed, though.

9:25, Some excerpts from the BBC eyewitness page I linked earlier:
I was on the Piccadilly line when the tube just pulled out of Kings Cross around 8.45. A huge bang and the train jolted the lights went off and the carriages filled with smoke/dust. We were stuck there for 40 minutes some people we're getting desperate and kicked through a window eventually we were led down the carriages and through the tunnels on the way out. It seemed very peculiar when we were evacuated out of the station. There also seemed a lot of police around. A few people were injured and everyone covered in dust.... As I walked to work there was a huge explosion in the Russell Square Euston region...
Stuart Turner, London

I was on the tube from Highbury and Islington on the Victoria line at about 9.05am. When I boarded the train the driver announced that Kings Cross St Pancras had been re-opened. En route, the driver made a second announcement that he had received the wrong message and that the train would not stop at KC St Pancrass after all. When we got to Oxford Circus, an announcement was made that all tube lines had been suspended due to a power surge and we were "advised" to continue our journeys on land routes because it was unclear how long the delay would last. Not many people left the tube, but further messages "strongly advised" us to leave, and most did. As I walked from the station I overheard a walkie-talkie message that said something about "evacuating" the station. Outside of the station, most people we were on mobile phones to tell their workplaces they would be late, others were checking maps for bus routes. There definitely didn't seem to be any panic, but as I walked down Oxford Street (about 9.40am) there were so many sirens that people began asking others what had happened. There was definitely a sense of uneasiness that set in.
Michael Stevens, London
9:29, The U.S. stock markets are falling as well. Though one market watcher says he expects things will pick up after the shock wears off. The market in the UK is still open though shares have fallen as well. Here's a Financial Times report on it.

9:32, Here's a story about a man who survived the 2002 bombings in Bali who unfortunately was also around for the 7/7 attacks.

9:34, Sky News reports at least 45 dead, over 1000 injured, 150+ seriously so.

9:35, The mayor of London delivered a tough speech on the attacks I neglected to mention earlier. Here are some excerpts:

"I want to say one thing: This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners...That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's mass murder."

Trey Jackson has a video of this speech which also includes words from Blair and Bush.

9:39, The BBC has the reaction from the UK's Islamic leaders. The headline is somewhat misleading however.

9:41, The Drudge Report is getting slammed.

9:42, FNC reports a top Egyptian diplomat who had been kidnapped in Iraq has been murdered.

9:43, Israel denies that it had foreknowledge of the attacks.

9:48, Airports Company of South Aftrica still discussing whether or not to fly in and out of the UK, and will take advice from London on how to proceed, and if new security measures should be put in place.

9:49, urban75 poster: "
We have to stay in the building .. Just been told 45 are dead."

9:53, If you're having trouble getting the full-text of the responsibility claim at the Der Spiegel page I linked earlier, here's a BBC copy of it.

9:54, MSNBC tv: France raises terrorism alert to second-highest levels. Italian airports on high alert. Bloomberg report on heightened security measures.

9:58, There should be a press conference coming soon to give updated casualty figures.

10:00, Official reactions from Germany's Schröder, Australia's Howard, Queen Elizabeth.

10:01, Brian Williams starts anchoring on MSNBC.

10:04, More reax from Euro leaders.

10:05, California steps up security.

10:07, Escaping from the Tube:

10:10, urban75 poster asha2323: "Central London is quiet but seems safe enough - I'm just off Oxford Street... Most people are just going about their business, it seems oddly subdued though...

"I might have to walk home later ... 10 miles!! Oh well.. I'm not moaning. I'm sure there will be others doing the same.. The Dunkirk spirit and all that ... The worst thing we can do is give whoever did this the satisfaction that it may have disrupted our lives. Sneaky cowards."

10:13, Here's a report on how traffic has been affected. The UK transportation bureau has removed the congestion tax.

10:16, Islamic Human Rights Commission calls on Muslims to stay indoors.

10:17, Some MSNBC commentator just claimed this was the first suicide bombing in the west.

10:20, The Command Post has quite a bit of news on the attacks.

10:23, The dollar rises against the pound, but falls agains tthe Euro

10:24, Conference begins
Timeline (London)
8:54 -first explosion, 7 confirmed fatalities
8:56 -second explosion, 21 from it
9:17 - explosion cause three-way train pile up, 5 fatalities
9:47 - fourth explosion- no confirmed fatalities

Denial of warning about attacks, denial of responsibility claims

10:26, Underground service closed until tomorrow. Several streets closed, one on account of bomb threat. Hoping to resume bus service within city.

10:27, First-hand account of reporter who was right behind the bus that was blown up.

10:28, Health official confirms 46 persons treated with heavy injuries.

10:30, Fire brigade (department) head says they had long been training for something like this.

10:32, Dramatic Flickr post:

Hand-scrawled "I'm OK." That pic and this one of a woman with a breathing mask being helped to safety are the most memorable.

10:36, Policy say they "have no indication" on whether the bombs were suicided. No information on arrests. No one trapped underground.

Brian Paddick of Metro Police asked if the security level should've been higher considering start of G8.
Response: "We are content that the security level was appropriate."
Reporter: Actually the security level was lowered in the past month.
Response: Yes, but it was still the second-highest.

10:41, Police say they will not shift police from G8 but will be bringing police from elsewhere into London.

10:44, Police do not believe there are other bombs. Underground official says there were no power surges, though they thought perhaps so because when one train went off-track, it was theorized.

10:46, Paddick asked about Islamic terrorism, says terrorism is against Islam but says "we are keeping an open mind as to who the perpetrators may be." They have not received any claim of responsibility.

10:48, Paddick seemingly denies report that sniper shot a suicide bomber. Says he doesn't know the reliability of the "al Qaeda of Europe" responsibility claim.

10:51, Tim O'Toole Trains official said that several hundred trains were affected by the blasts, adds that only one Tube train was attacked, the other two were "sub-surface" trains which run higher up.

10:52, Only MSNBC keeps camera view of conference.

10:57, Someone on FNC: What does it say about Bush's rhetoric about "fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to do so at home"?

10:58, MSNBC cuts away from conference.

11:04, urban75 poster Phototropic: "It is weird. You see Israeli buses blown up or something else but when you seen one which is red on a London road it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning :-("

11:06, FNC anonymous source: U.S. trains are at orange alert.

11:16, So what will be the net effect of the London attacks? Will it harden everyone's existing opinions, or will it change some minds? What will be its effect on the media?

11:19, Well, the broadcast networks don't seem to be interested in the story any more. NBC and ABC dropped the story. CBS went to a commercial break.

11:22, Here's a link to the earlier story claiming that al Qaeda killed the Egyptian diplomat.

1:22, Nothing much happened while I was out running some errands. Though there is some speculation that there might be another attack in London this afternoon.

I could be wrong about this, but I highly doubt this considering that leaving your agents in the field while the police are on highest alert is really stupid.

PS: I won't be updating this post any more. See my main page for future updates.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Time Reporter Decides to Testify

From the AP:
WASHINGTON - Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper agreed Wednesday to testify about his sources in a government leak of a
CIA agent's identity, a dramatic about-face which came as he faced going to jail.

"I am prepared to testify. I will comply" with the court's order, Cooper told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan.

Cooper's turnaround came at a hearing at which Hogan was to consider whether to jail Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller for defying his order to testify about their confidential sources in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
Looks like Cooper will be leaving journalism. Anonymous leakers will avoid him like the plague. No word on Miller.

UPDATE: Looks like I was wrong. Cooper told the judge that his source released him from his confidentiality agreement at the last minute. So it looks like Cooper comes off even better than Miller. He gets fame and exposure, probably will get a book. And doesn't have to go to jail like she does.

Whites Biggest Audience for Black Power Rappers

How ironic is this story from the Village Voice?
Armed with messages of Black political resistance, Black pride, and opposition to militarization and corporatization, designed in part to counter the commercial hip-hop party-and-bullshit madness dumbing down the nation's youth, hip-hop's lyrical descendants of the "fight the power" golden era today are booking concerts in record numbers—far beyond anything imaginable by their predecessors. Problem is, they can hardly find a Black face in the audience.

As the Coup (Pick a Bigger Gun), Zion-I (True and Livin'), and the Perceptionists (Black Dialogue) get set for a wave of touring to promote their new CDs this summer, the audience that will be looking back at them unmasks one of the most significant casualties of hip-hop's pop culture ascension: the shrinking Black concert audience for hardcore, political hip-hop.

"My audience has gone from being over 95 percent Black 10 years ago to over 95 percent white today," laments Boots Riley of the Coup, whose 1994 Genocide and Juice responded to Snoop Dogg's 1993 gangsta party anthem "Gin and Juice." "We jokingly refer to our tour as the Cotton Club," he says—a reference to the 1920s and '30s Harlem jazz spot where Black musicians played to whites-only audiences.

Boots says he first noticed the shift one night in 1995, in a concert on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Opening for Coolio, he stepped center stage and grabbed the mic as usual, but then saw something unusual about the audience: a standing-room-only sea of whiteness. Some were almost dressed like farmers, he recalls. Others had their heads shaved. "Damn, skinheads are out there," he thought. "They can't be here to see us." But the frantic crowd began chanting along rhyme for rhyme.
Read the rest for some requisite handwringing and a few more interesting facts.

Kos Kookiness

In case you missed it, Markos Moulitsas (aka Kos) put up a list over the weekend comparing American Christian conservatives to Islamic terrorists. Saner liberals like Pennywit and Jeff Jarvis are justly condemning his remarks.

Ace, meanwhile, thinks there's a double standard at work in this instance and prior ones where Moulitsas has jumped off the rhetorical cliff. From a media point-of-view, it's certainly true that liberal bloggers get nicer press than conservative ones, but I can tell you that Zunìga's intemperate remarks have made more than a few official Washington Democrats wary of him. His pathetic record as a strategist (every congressional candidate he endorsed in 2004 lost), hasn't helped him much, either.

UPDATE: Via Captain Ed, I learned that Kos is #52 in Bernard Goldberg's new book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Carnival of the Ridiculous

Via TVNewser, here is this chart of just how low cable news has descended in its pathetic ratings grab by reporting on that missing girl in Aruba:

In some positive news about television, Media Life reveals that the ratings for the futile and ridiculous self-promotion excercise also known as Live Eight didn't get good ratings on American TV. I've always hated watching concerts of any sort on television. (Via TV Barn)

Is It Possible for Democrats to Win in a Foreign Policy Era?

Ezra Klein has been invited to his first panel discussion on the topic of what can Democrats do to regain national power. In this post previewing what he'll be saying, he wonders if there isn't anything Democrats can do considering that the issue climate doesn't favor them.

Two quibbles: After saying foreign policy doesn't favor Democrats (something I touched on here), Ezra says he thinks Democrats ought to "recapture the pressing issues" "without becoming Republicans-lite." Just how does he expect that to be done considering his (correct) previous statement that foreign policy is an issue that favors the GOP?

The public likes Republicans on foreign policy because Republicans, historically, have pursued a foreign policy that is more national-interest based than have Democrats. The party can stop FP from being the top issue by not talking much about it (thereby becoming "Republican-light" in the view of some) and hoping that domestic affairs will become ascendant in the policy vaccum. The Democratic downside here is that ceding foreign policy to President Bush may empower him domestically.

Of course, there is an alternative to being Bush-lite: being Bush-plus. Somehow, I don't think Ezra would go for that. The third approach is the head-in-the-sand "U.S. Out of Iraq!" approach but this has been about as effective as "U.S. Out of the U.N. and the U.N. Out of the U.S.!"

Second quibble: Revving up a segment of the electorate is harder for Democrats because "the religious right is an organized movement, the uninsured are a disempowered mass."

This is pure liberal fantasizing. While it's true that religious conservatives are a large voting bloc, it's hardly true that they vote in lockstep with each other and are all secretly conspiring together. In fact, religious voters are the GOP's paper elephant. If Democrats could bring themselves to purge the anti-religious bigots from their elites, many religious voters who hold liberal views on economics and foreign policy would vote for Democrats.

In the era of the perpetual campaign in which each side has a fully mature apparatus, it's not possible for American politics to return to its previous patterns of partisan wax and wane. Those who argue that the reelection of Bush is setting the stage for an era of Republican dominance are wrong. The buoy in Republican fortunes is the by-product of the Democratic Party's rejection of religious-minded, traditionalist Americans. If Democrats would move back toward the center on issues like abortion, homosexuality, and religion in public life, they could easily regain their national preeminence.

Will that happen? I'm doubtful because for some reason, cultural issues seem more important to the existing Democratic power structure (probably because the existing elites are by-products of the 60s cultural rebellions) than the issues that for hundreds of years were the raison d'être of being of the left.

Creating Symbolic Links in Windows

If you're an advanced Linux or Mac user like myself who also uses Windows, one of the features you miss most is the ability to create links to files that are treated by the operating system exactly as if they were the file.

Sure, Windows has its easily accessible "shortcut" function, but it's not nearly as useful. Fortunately, Windows has actually had the ability to make filesystem links since 2000. Here's a good article describing what a filesystem link (there are two kinds hard and symbolic) is and what programs you can use. For those who already know what links are, here are the two best apps for using them in windows: Junction (command-line), and NTFS Link (integrated into Windows Explorer).

Once you start using these two apps, you'll ever wonder how you did without them.

Broadband's Next Hot Market: Eastern Europe

The print edition of this week's Economist had a nice article (subscription required) about broadband penetration around the globe. For those without the subscription, see this chart which shows both the reach and the percent change from a year ago among the most high-speed-friendly countries. The big growth in the sector at the moment seems to be in Western Europe, particularly northeastern.

Could Anti-Gonzales Lobbying Backfire on Conservatives?

In a telephone interview with USA Today (sorry no transcript), President Bush urged all political groups to calm down their rhetoric. He also defended his friend Al Gonzales:
Bush said lobbying won't affect him: "I feel no pressure except the pressure to put somebody on the bench who will bring dignity to the office, somebody who's got the intellect necessary to do the job, somebody of great integrity and somebody who will faithfully interpret the Constitution."

He cautioned against a partisan war. "I would hope that the groups involved in this process — the special-interest groups — will help tone down the heated rhetoric and focus on the nominee's credentials and philosophy," he said.
This makes me wonder: if conservatives ramp up the case against Gonzales, will it actually make Bush more likely to nominate him now or in the future?

I think it's a shame that we're even in this position. A judicial nomination shouldn't be a big political deal and wouldn't be if the courts had not arrogated so much power to themselves. The judiciary should be the least controversial branch. But that's a two-way street.

UPDATE: 23:34, Jay Rosen is dismayed at all the back-and-forth from all the interest groups, and at the press for using the whole fight as another means to try and portray its political neutrality. I agree, though I wonder, might Jay be doing the very same thing by decrying both the interest groups and the press?

UPDATE 7/16, 14:10: Rosen responds to my request for clarification and admits he "has a dog in the fight." I expected he would which is one reason he's one of my favorite bloggers. Too bad the elite press can't take a class from him.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Ford, Chrysler Copy GM's Employee Discount Program

Watching one of the local DC political television shows today, I noticed that Ford has now embarked on its own employee discount sale after its American rival GM saw sales increase by 47 percent with its own program.

In the past, Ford has said it didn't want to match GM's pricing since the discount is quite steep. But after the company revealed a few days ago that its core truck business was hit heavily by the GM sale. In a reverse of its past fortune, Ford's car sales were up thanks to the redesigned Mustang. (Only the GT and up models are nice imo).

Daimler-Chrysler, meanwhile, already announced that it will be copying the employee sale program. All of this comes as Nissan and Toyota are having record years in the U.S. while Hyundai is seeing its best totals ever.

Ironically, I couldn't find news of either Ford or Daimler-Chrysler's web sites.

Will this turn into something more? And will American car makers finally realize that they're now the underdogs and start acting more like Hyundai?

China Contracting Press Freedom

Eight years after Britain gave Honk Kong back to the Chinese, the fascist (i.e. nationalistic market socialist) government is starting to crack down on free media in both the mainland and the island.

Rebecca MacKinnon has been following the PRC's new law requiring bloggers to register in order to continue posting. The L.A. Times, meanwhile, looks at how the mainland government is using ad buys to punish disfavored media in HK.

What Will McCain Do?

That is an interesting question. Via Polipundit, I found this interesting Daly Thoughts post (written in May) which outlines a strategy that the Arizona senator might very well follow in the O'Connor succession.

Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor Quits

Looks like Bill Kristol was right. Sandra O'Connor is retiring from her spot on the U.S. Supreme Court. I wonder how soon the White House knew. Maybe we should've seen it coming considering that she wanted to retire back in 2000.

Things are about to get a whole lot more interesting in Washington. Guess it's back to the drawing board for the list-makers who had Rehnquist in mind. Obviously, Bush is going to pick another woman.

We'll see the wisdom of the Democrats' semi-retreat on filibusters (which I predicted), despite the fact that it upset some of their fringe members. My question is: Why didn't Bill Frist try to break the compromise before this announcement? Now it'll be a lot more difficult, especially with SCOTUS's top swing vote (and worst justice imo) soon to be out of the picture.

Will the nomination and confirmation process be enough to bump missing white chicks and sharks off cable news? Worst case scenario: After her announcement, O'Connor gets kidnapped while vacationing with her granddaughter''s scout troop in Bermuda.