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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ohio oddity

Yesterday, Keith Olbermann (of MSNBC's "Countdown") reported an odd Ohio election result noted recently by Jesse Jackson. Concerning the four southwestern-most counties, which is basically Cincinnati and its surrounding suburbs, Reverend Jackson specifically said:
“We don’t want to be presumptuous, but these numbers in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties are suspicious.”
Something's rotten in the state of Denmark pointed me to Olbermann's post, and I emailed the Anonmyous RD blogger about what my research into the claim had turned up. Below, I've basically reproduced that email, though I've added some detail, reformatted it, and corrected a few minor errors.

Note also that Bob Fertik raised the issue on on November 22. He even has a link to a spreadsheet, though I didn't open it. Michael Froomkin links to another partisan blogger who has addressed the issue as well.

Specifically, the controversy concerns the vote totals earned by C. Ellen Connally in the four SW Ohio counties. Connally was running as a Democrat for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice. In some counties, she did much better versus her Republican incumbent opponent than did Senator John Kerry against his.

Connally is an African American woman from Cleveland who was running against Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. I found a website apparently dedicated to impeaching Moyer, but it seems to be a dead link. The complaint can found on a broader court watch website, but the charges are marshalled by a single individual from Columbus. I couldn't really find any other reason for Moyer's relative weakness as a candidate.

In any event, Moyer won the race fairly handily, 53.4% to 46.6%. Bush, by contrast, won by only 51% to 48.5% over Kerry. Well, those are the totals until the provisional and absentee ballots are added to the totals, apparently tomorrow.

The Moyer-Connally results were reported as 2.3 million to 2 million as reently as November 17.

For some time, the Presidential contest in Ohio has been reported as 2,796,000 Bush to 2,660,000 Kerry. Note that Bush beat Moyer by nearly half a million votes and Kerry outpolled Connally by 660,000 votes. In other words, as per usual, the presidential candidates received many more votes -- and Kerry did better relative to his Republican incumbent foe than did Connally.

So what was Jackson talking about?

To get the latest data, I looked at the Butler County, Warren County, and Clermont County websites. In these suburban Cincy counties, the Dem candidate for Chief Justice polled better than Kerry did, even as the Rep candidate for Chief Justice got significantly fewer votes than Bush did. Put simply, Connally actually got more votes than Kerry in one of the most Republican areas of the state -- far from her Cleveland geographic base:
Butler results (with rounding):
Bush 109,900, Kerry 56,200
Moyer 68,400 Connally 61,600

Warren County results (with rounding):
Bush 68,000 Kerry 26,000
Moyer 45,000 Connally 28,500

Clermont County results (with rounding):
Bush 62,900 Kerry 25,900.
Moyer 43,600 Connally 30,000.
These are true anamolies. Look at the rest of Ohio's results and you cannot readily find similar oddities.

Warren, by the way, was the security "lockdown" county. Election officials cited terrorism concerns and closed the count to the media on election night.

How did Moyer lose 40K Republican votes in Butler County while Connally gained 5K over Kerry? Strange.

In Warren, Moyer lost 23K Republican votes, Connally gained 2.5K votes.

In Clermont, Moyer lost nearly 20K votes compared to Bush, Connally gained over 4K.

It seems very odd to me (and to the various observers noted above) that Connally did substantially better than Kerry in terms of absolute votes in these three Republican counties.

In "net" win-loss terms, tens of thousands of Republican voters in these heavily Republican counties apparently ignored their judicial candidate (on a night when gay marriage and judicial activism was apparently on their minds), while thousands of Democrats actually liked their top judicial candidate more than they liked Kerry.

On paper, it looks like many tens of thousands of votes might have been attributed to the wrong person. Remember how the Indiana voting machine gave straight Democratic votes to the Libertarians? Something like that might have been at work.

It's the kind of oddity, when paired with the weird exit poll results, suggest a need to recount the Ohio votes. If a vote for one candidate is accidentally given to his or her opponent, then that's a two vote swing. A margin of, say, 136,000 votes could be reversed if merely 68,000 votes statewide were misallocated.

Hamilton County has not yet updated its election night results. The "old" early November data for Hamilton shows a somewhat similar oddity, though Connally didn't get more votes than Kerry. She did, however, do much better relative to Moyer than Kerry did against Bush. Thousands of "net" votes better...

In Hamilton County, Moyer lost 5 Bush votes to every 3 Kerry votes Connally lost. Bush won Hamilton County over Kerry 215,600 to 191,000; Moyer won over Connally by 168,300 to 160,000. This one seems more plausible to me than the suburban results, but they do seem a bit mystifying. In the other two Supreme Court races, the R outpolled the D in Hamilton by an average of about 80,000 votes. The Rs got roughly 200,000 votes to the D's 120,000. The same trends were apparent in Butler County, where the R justice candidates won nearly 2-1, and in both Clermont and Warren counties, where the Rs won by about 70-30 margins.

Why was Connally so apparently strong in Republican areas far from her geographic base?

Statewide, Kerry not only outpolled Connally by 660,000, he also won a substantially higher percent of the vote. Why would Connally do so much better, relative to Kerry, in the heavily Republican area of the state...and so much better than the other Dem judicial candidates?

In Cuyahoga County, which Kerry won by about 2-1 (66% to 32%), Connally won by only 60-40. That's her geographic base and she did not do as well as Kerry. Indeed, she received 145,000 fewer votes there while Moyer got only 16,000 fewer than Bush.

Republicans might be interested in these results, of course, because it could be that votes for Moyer were actually given to Connally.

Something seems to be odd.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Overcooked Rice?

Yahoo! News has the following AP headline: "Rice Confirmation Hearings Postponed."Sen. Richard Lugar, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, revealed Sunday that confirmation hearings on Condoleezza Rice's nomination as Secretary of State will not begin until Congress reconvenes in January:
"The White House suggested that that would not be appropriate — that is, in December," Lugar said on "Fox News Sunday." "So we'll not be having hearings in December, but we'll have hearings as soon as possible in January."
Odd, eh?

I'm trying to parse Lugar's sentence.

Would it be inappropriate to consider Rice in December because the current Senate is not as Republican as the new Senate will be? Should we prepare ourselves for new rules reflecting the new 55-44-1 majority? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is split 10-9. I do not know if this membership is fixed. An 11-9 divide would better reflect the new majority.

Would it be inappropriate to consider Rice in December because the current committee membership includes Republican critics Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chaffee? Maybe the White House wasn't confident they would get a friendly hearing?

CNN offers the official White House spin:
"It was our understanding that the Senate could not have gone through the whole confirmation process in December. We look forward to our nominees going through the confirmation process when the new Congress convenes in January."
Rice was nominated November 16, so Rice will certainly have plenty of time to prepare for the hearings.

The Washington Times reported that Democrats apparently intend to make some trouble for the nominee:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently said Rice's nomination was not a "slam dunk."
Along with other committee members, Senator John Kerry gets to quiz Condi.

Some old news

Earlier today, I stumbled upon this quote when reading an old article about US foreign policy during the Clinton era. It was reproduced under the headline "Circumstances Alter Cases," The National Interest, Winter 1998/1999, p. 11 (sorry, no link except for my University):
...should the UK have applied US rules of engagement about terrorists, then we would have bombed the hell out of Noraid centres, which raised funds for the IRA in the U.S. long ago.

The Oldie, London (September 1998)
Obviously, that was written before anyone had given any thought to a George W. "Bush Doctrine."

The box also included this comparison:
  • 1979 -- Afghan = Mojaheddin = Holy warrior = Dead Russians = Good Thing.
  • 1998 -- Afghan = Taliban = International terrorist = Dead Americans = Bad Thing.

So...9/11 didn't even change the critique of American foreign policy.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Failure of Public Diplomacy

The Defense Science Board just released a report that was very critical of America's public diplomacy. It turns out, for example, that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq haven't helped the US image in the Muslim world.

Shocking, really.

The NY Times reported the story Wednesday, though the document itself apparently isn't available:
"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."
This is a particularly telling excerpt:
"In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity - an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,' " the report states.

"Today we reflexively compare Muslim 'masses' to those oppressed under Soviet rule," the report adds. "This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies - except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends."

The report says that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."

In the eyes of the Muslim world, the report adds, "American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."

The report also says: "The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of 'dissemination of information' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none - the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam."

Anyone think this will change the President's rhetoric?

Update: The AP story on the report says it is available on-line: "Report of the Defense Sciene Board Task Force on Strategic Communication." The AP story included this quote:
"In other words, Americans have become the enemy," it said. "It is noteworthy that opinion is (strongest) against America in precisely those places ruled by what Muslims call 'apostates' and tyrants -- the tyrants we support. This should give us pause."
For example, a large majority of Saudis apparently think the US is out to weaken Islam.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Giving Uptake on "moral values"

Guest post by Avery
“Red America” and “Blue America” are, as some commentators took pains to show in the days after November 2, misnomers. We share our political system, a culture, a language, a set of experiences, and much of our iconography. The vast majority of members of each side are Christian. But when the two sides say “moral values” I suspect that they don’t even share the concept.

Then, each side is shocked—I suspect genuinely—to find itself accused of exactly what it accuses the other of: arrogance, immorality, disregard for democratic procedures, making America weaker, failing to “support our troops,” etc.

Republicans have deluged the local paper with op-ed pieces and letters charging Democrats or liberals with arrogance, elitism, and of course, being sore losers. The only positive judgment they’ve offered is that John Kerry did the right thing—by conceding without litigation. Generous praise indeed!

On the other hand, liberals and Democrats express their ressentiment by circulating “The Concession Speech that Kerry Should Have Made” (wherein he is supposed to say, “I concede that I misjudged the power of hate”)—not to mention “Fuck the South.” [Sorry, Rodger, just reportage here.—AK]

This is a problem of uptake—a moral concept that my colleague Nancy Potter taught me to appreciate [free login required]. Giving uptake is different from agreeing or even being civil. My brother-in-law and I remain perfectly civil most of the time, but he gives me zero uptake, and that has made it impossible for us to talk. (Maybe I’m doing the same to him, and can’t tell?) To give uptake requires us to see how the speaker could hold a certain position genuinely, honestly, rationally; and then to take it seriously, and, if we disagree, treat it as a legitimate view to be opposed with good arguments. You can be civil simply by saying, “well, you have your views and I have mine.” But that isn’t uptake. Uptake allows the other to make a kind of claim on us; it is not merely tolerating others’ views, but engaging them in a certain way.

A general practice of giving people uptake on their strongly held beliefs, at least about public issues, is a public good, one of the most important public goods to be secured by a democratic government because it makes the difference between a deliberative democracy and a mere contest of interest groups.

One of the most grating things about the Bush administration is its rampant free-ridership on this public good: the stunning lack of uptake on issues that many of us see as very serious. If you think that looting in Iraq after the invasion should not be stopped, okay, give us the argument; but don’t just shrug off the “messiness.” If you think that enough safeguards are in place to prevent abuses of the “USAPATRIOT” Act, okay, then explain what those safeguards are and how they work, or at least why we should be less concerned about civil liberties; don’t accuse us of aiding terrorists. If you think it was worth going to war in Iraq even though the main justifications evaporated, okay, give us the argument; don’t just lie about it or ignore the question. Etc.

But one thing that happened in this election was that liberals and Democrats were accused, at least by the “moral values” voters, of also free-riding on the public good of giving uptake. This was pretty surprising, and disturbing—or so I thought. And maybe, just maybe, the accusation was true. Certainly the responses I mentioned above suggest that it was.

So here’s my question: how do we increase provision of the public good of uptake? How do we increase the extent to which each side gives uptake to the other(s)?

I hereby call for concerted effort to contribute to the public good of uptake. This may be a prisoners-dilemma-type situation. Those who give uptake may find that they are free-ridden upon, or worse. But if enough of us do it, then the public good will be provided, free-ridership be damned.

You might think that it’s impossible, pointless, or even accommodationist to give uptake to someone who thinks you should have no protection against discrimination, let alone the right to get married. You might think the same about someone who thinks your national homeland should not exist as an independent state. Or you might think that the effort will never be reciprocated, so it’s a losing strategy. But what’s the alternative? Secession? Exile? The further erosion of any approximation to deliberative democracy?

Travel nightmares

Ok, so I've been in Chicago for 23.5 hours and have 2 more hours to go.

That would be great if Chicago was my Thanksgiving travel destination. However, I was supposed to be in Tulsa 21 hours ago.

We now have to go to Dallas and then Tulsa...arriving 6 pm ET on turkey day...a mere 27 hours later than scheduled.

I hope readers are having a better holiday.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Exit pollster paranoia?

skippy the bush kangaroo provides an interesting anecdote about an accidental encounter with an old friend...who happens to have been an exit poll worker in the 2004 election. Here's the juicy part, which ought to feed any lingering paranoia about the result:
"don't blame us," he said. "we were right."

this piqued our interest. we talked further with our friend, who assured us that all the polling data pointed to a kerry victory. "we had kerry winning or tying in all battleground states except west virginia," he said.

our friend went on to point out that he worked for edison/mitofsky, whose polling data had never been wrong before. and, he said, the only counties in which the data they collected under-represented awol's votes were the counties in which diebold voting machines were used.

"quite a coincidence, eh?" he said.
The early recount results in New Hampshire don't suggest that anything was amiss there, but they are still far from finished. It is taking longer than expected to do the new count.

Ohio will also be recounted, but apparently not until the vote is certified. That won't happen until the absentee and provisional ballots are totaled. In short, any recount will have to occur in December. The Electoral College vote is supposed to occur by December 12.

Since I'm talking about the election, let me clarify one point I made last week in a post called "2004 Election: Behind the Numbers." I wrote:
Where Kerry did not campaign, the President racked up huge vote margins. I've now listed 10 states with significant Bush movement and found 2.6 million of his 3.6 million victory margin in the popular vote.

Remove the 5 [swing] states that were virtually tied and that means the other 35 states explain only 1 million of the 3.6 million margin of victory for the President.
I did not mean to imply that the rest of the country was tied state-by-state. There were still some big Bush margins and some big Kerry margins in the other 35 states. What mattered is that these states didn't change that much from 2000 and that Kerry made virtually no effort to influence the results there since the states were not really in play.

I agree with Bruce Reed. The Dems need to run a truly national campaign to avoid a popular vote disaster and to make Democratic House and Senate candidates more competitive.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Organized International Terrorism?

I gave a talk today to a group of about 25 adults for a "Solidarity" class in a local Baptist church. The talk went well, I thought, and the audience had a lot of good questions at the end.

I'm not going to include every point I made, but these seemed important:

1. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says al Qaeda has evolved into a "network of networks." I compared the structure to the way my Department's small computer network contained in a small building connects to the broader university-wide network, which itself includes both numerous smaller networks and one or more connections to the larger internet. The internet, of course, includes an enormous "network of networks."

This is a lot different from an organizational hierarchy. It's also quite different from the "hub system" used by airlines. I think it has significant implications for anti-terror efforts, but I'm not 100% sure what those are.

IISS says there were 20,000 jihadists trained in Afghanistan since the mid-1990s. Maybe 2000 were killed or captured once the US started making war in Afghanistan and maybe 1000 "foreign fighters" in Iraq are jihadists. Where are the other 85% (17,000)? Apparently, they are secretly dispersed in this decentralized network of networks in 50 or 60 nation-states. There is not much evidence that these jihadists are supported by states. The trained terrorists are more like parasites attached to unwitting hosts.

Finding them and stopping them from committing acts of terror probably won't be much like war. It is law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and homeland security.

So why does the US and global debate seem mostly to focus on the use of military threats to address state sponsors?

I saw a recent estimate (reported by UPI) that the US is spending over $5.8 billion per month on the war in Iraq. How many new resources have gone to the non-military tools of law enforcement, intelligence gathering and homeland security since 9/11? Hint: not nearly as much as claimed and not nearly as much as Iraq has and will cost the US.

2. I also talked a great deal about the "false sense of insecurity" that many analysts have discussed in regard to terror. The odds of any American facing a terrorist threat is very, very low. One study calculated that driving a bit more than 11 miles on rural interstate highways (which are the safest US roads) poses about the same risk of death as an airline terrorist attack (1 in 13 million).

Yet, many Americans are irrationally afraid of terrorists. I think al Qaeda should be taken seriously and that the US government should expend fairly significant resources to find those jihadists before they commit acts of terror, However, I do not think that average Americans ought to worry about the risks of terror attacks very much. Except for 2001, which featured an attack nearly 10 times worse than any other terror attack in history, terrorism kills only a few hundred people worldwide in any given year.

That's about as worrisome as peanut allergies, bathtub falls, or deer wandering on to the interstate highways.

Nuclear, biological and chemical proliferation pose additional problems that may or may not be related to terrorism. I think proliferation should be taken very seriously, but no one is going to enrich uranium in a cave and all sorts of non-proliferation tools are potentially available to address the problem. Again, this particular threat may or may not be best addressed with military means.

The debate needs to include serious discussion of sanctions, norms, international law, diplomacy, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Security Council Expansion?

The AP has a story today that receives a lot more attention around the world than it does in the US: "Chirac Urges Security Council Expansion."
French President Jacques Chirac said Friday that the United Nations Security Council does not represent today's world and should be expanded to include Germany, Japan and developing nations such as Brazil and India as permanent members.
A number of other states and leaders favor this expansion, including Germany and Japan. Tony Blair has called for Security Council expansion too and Chirac was speaking at Oxford. Earlier in the week, Chirac and Blair met to discuss common ground.

Note that India wants a permanent seat too, as apparently does Egypt, Brazil and South Africa.

Back to Chirac, who emphasized his agreement with Blair about this issue:
"When it comes to multilateralism, we share the same vision," the French president added. "When it comes to new rules of law or U.N. reform, we are speaking with one voice."

Chirac said the decision-making U.N. Security Council "is no longer truly representative of the world as it is today. So it needs to be modernized."

Britain has also backed expansion of the Security Council. Britain, France, China, the United States and Russia are all permanent members.

Chirac suggested the body's membership should rise from 15 permanent and rotating nations to 20 or 25 to reflect how the world had changed since the United Nations was founded in 1945.

"You cannot simply take a snapshot of 1945 and apply it to 2004," Chirac said.
Chirac and Blair agree about the need to fight poverty in Africa, slow global warming, and speed up the Middle East peace process.

What about the USA? Does Chirac envision working with the US on these kinds of issues?
"North America and Europe are destined to work together because they share the same values, the same background," he said. "The trans-Atlantic link is quite simply the political expression of our great and fundamental values."
The US has pledged to spend more money on Africa (including 50% more cash for "core development assistance" and money to fight AIDS) and is also talking again about the Middle East peace process.

Is the Bush administration interested in global warming? Not really. Given that Kyoto goes into force in February, that must be troublesome to US allies.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Deja vu all over again

Kevin Drum at Political Animal has started to compare the recent revelations about Iranian nuclear programs to the movie "Groundhog Day." I really enjoyed that movie, but am not looking forward to a repeat of the Iraq debate.

As I noted yesterday, Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed this week that Iran is working to make a nuclear-capable missile. Well, according to intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post, this wasn't exactly "top notch" intell:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified.

Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed last week on the sensitive intelligence. The material was stamped "No Foreign," meaning it was not to be shared with allies...
President Bush shared the info with Tony Blair, but I'm not sure why Powell blabbed to the media. The article says the source was a "walk in" who arrived with a big stack of documents purportedly from Iran.

By the way, the Shahab-3 missile under discussion has an 800 mile range, so even if it was nuclear-capable, it couldn't hit Cleveland.

Thanks to Kevin Drum, I can also point readers to the LA Times story about the intell:
One source, however, described the intelligence mentioned by Powell as "weak."

Some administration officials "were surprised he went public on something that was weak and, because it was weak, was not supposed to be used," the source said.
Should anyone believe Powell -- or anyone from this administration, for that matter?
"After crying wolf for so long about Iraq, how are we going to have any credibility on this?" said Rep. Gary L. Ackerman of New York, who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East. "People in the Arab world won't believe it and say we have a bad track record and just want to invade another country in the Middle East."

Ackerman added: "How do we expect anybody to believe us, even if we know it's true? This is the disaster we created for ourselves in lying about Iraq."
Those of us genuinely concerned about American national security policy should be very angry not only about the administration's handling of Iraq, but also about how the current team has played fast and loose with "the facts" garnered from intelligence sources. Powell is certainly not the only guilty party.

My prior blogging about Iran can be found here, here, here, and here. I think those are most recent to oldest.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Too busy to notice, but...

OK, there are a lot of blog-worthy topics today. Sorry, I have no real time to comment:

Russia has agreed to the Kyoto Protocol and the agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions will go into effect February 16, 2005. Without the US, of course.

Lame duck Secretary of State Colin Powell says he thinks Iran is trying to develop missiles that are nuclear capable. The story I read said nothing about range of those missiles.

The Republicans met in secret today and voted to change their rules. Now, a member can continue to serve as Speaker of the House even if he or she is under indictment. Tom DeLay, the current Speaker, may soon be under indictment. For those who remember Republicans going crazy in 1993 over the Dan Rostenkowski ethics investigation, this may seem hypocritical. Apparently, Tom DeLay was one of the loudest voices complaining at the time. Surprised?

A Sociology Professor at University of California Berkeley, Michael Hout, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, released a co-authored study today implying that there were likely some serious voting shenanigans in certain Florida counties in 2004, resulting in George Bush receiving an "excess" 130,000 to 260,000 votes.

Correction: DeLay is Majority Leader, not Speaker. Dennis Hastert still has the main job, which he obtained thanks in great part to DeLay's maneuvering. The rules change, in any case, applies broadly to leadership positions. And it was instigated for DeLay, who faces all sorts of judicial scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Purge

Just so everyone is clear on the Central Intelligence Agency's mission, Porter Goss, the former Republican member of Congress from Florida and new CIA Director, passed around a memo (that was leaked to the NY Times, of course):
Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work," a copy of an internal memorandum shows.

"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road."
Needless to say, that interpretation seems a little different from the official CIA mission. Apparently, to be fair, the memo does include this line too:
"We provide the intelligence as we see it - and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker."
That's better.

Still, the transition period under Goss is awkward and a lot of knowledgeable people see the recent wave of resignations as a real political purge.

For example, former Anonymous agent Michael Scheuer acknowledges that the White House is at war with the CIA because of the agency's failure to be team players on the issue of Iraq. This is from Tuesday's "Hardball":
MATTHEWS: I read the papers every day. I want to tell you, whether you agree with me or not, publicly or not, I see a war that is going on constantly. The CIA leaks stuff detrimental to the administration, detrimental to the Defense Department. It goes back and forth. It‘s about leaking. It‘s new leaking.

It‘s constantly a war between the CIA, who seems to be skeptical of this war with Iraq, and the ideologues in the Defense Department and the vice president‘s office, primarily, that are at war with you guys over there. Isn‘t that true?


SCHEUER: To some extent, I guess it is true.

But the truth of the matter is, they probably don‘t like the idea of the war—of some of our opinions about the war in Iraq. If anything, cinched bin Laden transmitting from bin Laden to bin Ladenism in a worldwide movement, it was the war in Iraq. It doesn‘t make any difference really what the threat was from Saddam....

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, without naming names. Did most of the top people in the CIA believe that it was a mistake to go to Iraq?

SCHEUER: I would think that that is a shared view in terms of trying to finish off the bin Laden problem, sir, yes.
Scheuer was asked to confirm Egyptian President Mubarek's claim that the Iraq war had launched a 100 new bin Ladens. Scheuer replied, "more than that," and noted the world now has an Afghanistan right in the center of the Islamic world. By contrast, Afghanistan was a backwater after the Soviets left, but Iraq is right there in the thick of things.

Gee, I wonder how the purge will turn out? What happens to an agency that tosses aside the dissidents who didn't agree with the failed policy?

What happens to the country?

The Insiders

President George W. Bush today nominated Margaret Spellings to be his new Secretary of Education.


Spellings, after working for Bush in Texas for 6 years, has been serving as the White House domestic policy advisor. She apparently worked behind the scenes on the No Child Left Behind legislation and will now be positioned to help with its implementation.

Last week, Bush nominated Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel, to serve as Attorney General.

Yesterday, Bush nominated Condi Rice, National Security Advisor, to serve as Secretary of State.

Notice the pattern?

Bush is promoting White House advisors to Cabinet-level positions.

Moreover, Stephen Hadley, Rice's Deputy has been promoted to her job.

And Harriet Miers, who was Bush's personal lawyer in Texas and recently the President's deputy chief of staff, is taking over for Gonzales as White House Counsel.

This "insider game" has various implications, some obvious and some less clear. For example, it means that Bush is not looking outside the administration for new ideas and talent. He is rewarding loyalty and personal connections.

However, it also means that these personal staff members leaving the White House will for the first time face legislative scrutiny. As Cabinet members they will have to appear at Senate confirmation hearings and answer at least some potentially hostile questions about their administrative performance. This process allows at least a measure of public accountability.

Gonzales might face questions about the torture memo.

Rice might face questions about the unread WMD "footnotes" or the August 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing.

We'll have to see how this all plays out. I would not count on the Senate to fillibuster any of these nominees, but I would hope that somebody will at least bloody the records of Rice and Gonzales -- by identifying and underlining the incompetence and misdeeds -- so these officials are not viable future national political candidates or Supreme Court Justices.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

2004 Election: Behind the Numbers

I've been poking around the unofficial election data and learned a number of interesting things.

1. If John Kerry had won 13,300 more votes in Iowa, 11,000 additional votes in New Mexico and 21,600 more votes in Nevada (a total of fewer than 46,000 votes), then the Electoral College would have turned out 269-269.

I can readily imagine ongoing demographic changes turning New Mexico and Nevada into Democratic states very soon, but what is going to stop wannabe urbanites from fleeing rural Iowa for Chicago?

In percentage terms, Ohio was about as close as these three states, but the vote margin was 137,000 (to date, those provisional ballots still aren't tabulated)

2. Obviously, Kerry also narrowly won a couple of states. New Hampshire and Wisconsin were won by a total of just over 20,000 votes. Add those to Bush's column and he gets to 300 electoral votes. Pennsylvania and Michigan were about as close as Ohio.

Demographically, I'd guess that these states are almost sure to remain "swing states" into the foreseeable future.

3. It looks like Bush got fewer votes in 2004 than he did in 2000 in only 3 states: California, Washington and Maine. Democrats won them all in both elections. I wonder if the two border states on the northern corners of the mainland vote more like Canadians than any other states?

The AP numbers I'm studying show Kerry also received fewer votes in California 2004 than Gore got in 2000, so I wonder if the numbers are incomplete or if turnout was actually down in the most populous state?

4. Bush's percent of the vote went down from 2000 to 2004 in only Vermont and Virginia. The latter must be a good sign for Democrats for 2008 and beyond. Again, there are underlying demographic shifts at work that help explain this outcome.

While Bush got a greater share of the vote in most other states in 2004 than he did in 2000, his percent of the vote didn't change in DC, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming. I'm not sure there's much to learn from this information, though this may be another sign about Nevada's future.

5. Bush currently has about 3.6 million more votes than Kerry (some are still being tabulated, but not that many). In most states, largely because of higher turnout, Bush 2004 beat Bush 2000 and Kerry 2004 beat Gore 2000. It is not always true that Kerry 2004 beat Gore 2000 plus Nader 2000.

In any event, if one subtracts out Kerry's vote increase over Gore 2000 from Bush's growth, one can identify the greatest sources of Bush's gains in 2004. Put simply, one can find the states that delivered the popular vote margin of victory in 2004.

Here are a few interesting states:
New York, Bush improved his vote margin by 500,000
New Jersey, Bush improved by 300,000
Texas, Bush improved by 250,000
Georgia, Bush improved by 230,000 votes
Alabama, Bush improved by 200,000
Indiana, Bush improved by 170,000 votes
Connecticut, Bush improved by 100,000
So far, I haven't switched a single Electoral vote and I've found 1.75 million of Bush's 3.6 million margin...or about half. In some states, NY, CT & NJ, this meant narrowing the loss. In others, it meant winning bigger (TX, AL, GA, IN).

In these 7 states, the winner got at least 7% more of the vote than the loser in both 2000 and 2004. Typically, the margin of victory was much higher. These are mostly 60-40 states.

Put differently, Bush won a hell of a lot more votes in 2004 in states that were not at all contested. I could have added Tennessee, where Bush added another 280,000 votes to his margin and Oklahoma, for another 200,000.

Most of the highly contested swing states didn't move much in Bush's direction, with one exception: Florida. There, Bush improved his margin by 400,000 votes over 2000.

In the states Kerry seriously contested, the country had a very close election. That is why I began above with the points about the really close swing states. The closest elections occurred in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, as well as the big three of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These were 8 of the 9 states Kerry spent most of his time and money and he very nearly won the election. Florida was the 9th state and the only swing state featuring a big move toward Bush.

Where Kerry did not campaign, the President racked up huge vote margins. I've now listed 10 states with significant Bush movement and found 2.6 million of his 3.6 million victory margin in the popular vote.

Remove the 5 states that were virtually tied and that means the other 35 states explain only 1 million of the 3.6 million margin of victory for the President.

Thus, it looks like incumbency was worth a point or two in virtually every state in 2004 and Kerry's strategic decision not to campaign across the country likely depressed his potential vote total all over the map. Votes in large areas of the country were simply not in play, meaning that residents of those states had four years of Bush to weigh against the relatively unknown Kerry.

Move fewer than 200,000 votes and Kerry would have won the Electoral College 289-249, despite losing the popular vote by perhaps 3.4 million votes.

I think this is a good reason to abandon the Electoral College in the near future. Voters in solid red or blue states just didn't matter in this election. Urban issues were rarely discussed because big cities are mostly in solid Democratic states. Agriculture issues were rarely discussed because farming areas are mostly in solid Republican states.

The swing staters were asked to vote on gay marriage and national security. These issues were important to many voters, but it wasn't a particularly rich policy debate. Remember the Vice Presidential debate that featured two questions about gay marriage and none on national health insurance?

Finally, Kerry's strategy may have hurt the Democrats in various congressional contests and Senate races. For example, Democrat Daniel Mongiardo lost in Kentucky by a very small margin (less than 23,000 votes, 51-49%). Kerry really didn't campaign in the state and incumbent Senator Jim Bunning ran TV ads linking Mongiardo to Kerry.

There are lots of interesting lessons to be culled from the 2004 voting data.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Powell Resigns

Colin Powell has resigned and will no longer be Secretary of State once a successor is in place (perhaps by January).

Many will lament Powell's departure. The former General reportedly was the voice of moderation in George W. Bush's White House. He argued (unsuccessfully) against the "enemy combatant" label applied to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, for example. With Powell out of the way, the pathway will be clear for Bush loyalists and/or neocons.

Then again, numerous critics will never forgive Powell for his "loyal" February 2003 Iraq presentation to the United Nations Security Council. It is now clear that the Secretary's so-called "Adlai Stevenson moment" was more of an "Ad" and "Lie" moment, so as to justify war. Those weapons of mass destruction Powell featured never turned up.

Why did Powell depart? Here's the conventional wisdom, based on Powell's unique status within the Bush administration:
"In so many of this administration's policies and pronouncements, he has been the note off key," says Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state. "When they said 'alone,' he said 'with the world,' when they said, 'preemption is a doctrine,' he said it is 'an option.'"

...Many Europeans, in particular, view Powell's departure with trepidation. "He was the one member of this team who knew about working with allies and showed he understood why that is important," says the European official. "He still sold US foreign policy, but he reached out and didn't just tell us about decisions already taken."
The thinking is that Powell's friend Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, will also be leaving and that will mean the loss of another voice of moderation.

Perhaps Powell is frustrated from years of playing second fiddle to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on foreign policy? Powell is the only member of the President's top team who now even hints that he might have been reluctant to go to war in Iraq without evidence of WMD.

Or maybe Powell is tired of the personal hypocrisy he faced? This appeared in Daniel Schorr's op-ed of February 20, 2004:
In his 1995 memoir, "My American Journey," General Powell wrote: "I particularly condemn the way our political leaders supplied the manpower for that war [The Vietnam War]. The policies determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live, were an anti-democratic disgrace.... I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well-placed ... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country."
In fact, as I've blogged before, there's certainly no shortage of hypocrisy in US foreign policy these days.

Condi Rice and John Danforth have been mentioned as possible replacements.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

In the news

You've probably seen the reports that "Anonymous" CIA agent Michael Scheuer has dropped his anonymity and will appear on "60 Minutes" later today. This is the headline claim:
Osama bin Laden has obtained permission from a Saudi religious official to use nuclear weapons against the United States, according to a CIA agent who resigned Friday.

In an interview scheduled to air tonight on CBS, Michael Scheuer told "60 Minutes" that a sheik has given bin Laden a lengthy treatise, which found that he was "perfectly within his rights to use them."
I don't know that I've ever linked to the Boston Herald before, but then again, they've never called me for quotes before:
Former CIA Director George Tenet never provided the [anti-bin Laden] unit with sufficient manpower, he [Scheuer] told "60 Minutes," and the United States has made the mistake of characterizing bin Laden as "a thug, a gangster," rather than a skilled plotter of destruction. And Scheuer is not alone in that view.

"Until the embassy bombings (in 1999), he wasn't taken as seriously," said Rodger A. Payne, professor of political science at the University of Louisville.

Whether any religious authority gave bin Laden the go-ahead for future attacks, however, is of relatively little significance, said Payne and Neamat Nojumi, a scholar and former Afghan mujahideen.
I explained to the journalist, Marie Szaniszlo, that the US likely thought bin Laden would use nuclear weapons if he had them, so that part of Scheuer's story was of little significance so far as US anti-terror and nonproliferation policy is concerned.

I'm also 99% sure I also told her the embassy bombings were August 1998. Still, the quotes are otherwise accurate.

The story concluded with this:
"Iraq, unfortunately, has distracted the United States," Payne said. "With the war still costing billions of dollars per month, it's a real trade-off in resources."
Regular readers of this blog already knew that.

Maybe some wire services will pickup the story? Check your local listings...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Something rotten?

OK, I realize a lot of my readers might still think this: "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark."

However, I haven't really blogged about the election irregularities.

If readers want to follow the story, I recommend they check out the Anonymous blogger who has been compiling the various problems around the country.

Or watch Keith Olbermann's show on MSNBC. Or just read Bloggermann, Olbermann's blog. If you are interested in this topic, you've probably already read Thom Hartmann's op-ed.

For those who haven't been paying attention, some new datapoints:

Yesterday, a Franklin County Commissioner seat in Indiana switched from red to blue when officials found that an optical scan machine had counted straight ticket Democratic voting for the Libertarian candidate.

Thousands of votes are still inexplicably missing in North Carolina.

Ralph Nader set in motion a recount in New Hampshire, a state John Kerry won. Again, the issue is optical scan machines:
Nader has alleged that “irregularities’’ in the optical scanning voting machines appear to have inflated the totals that Bush should have gotten in several key states.
The machines were manufactured by Diebold.

Even as the count of provisional ballots has started, David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, the Green and Libertarian candidates for President, have "announced their intentions to file a formal demand for a recount of the presidential ballots cast in Ohio." They estimate that they'll need $150,000 in donations to pay for it, and so far have raised $112,500.

Meanwhile, Kerry's lawyers are in Ohio on a "fact-finding mission."

Remember, the real Presidential election is December 13, 2004, when the Electoral College meets.

Just one more month!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Democrats and Foreign Policy

Thursday, November 11, Yuval Rubinstein posted a provocative piece called "Are We Feeling Secure Now?" on the Left Coaster blog:
Lost in all the post-election navel-gazing and recriminations is one undisputable fact: the Democrats are in serious trouble in the national security/foreign policy arena....

Now, I think Kerry did a much better job in criticizing the administration's numerous shortcomings in the war on terror. Indeed, he drew some real blood in pointing out bin Laden's Tora Bora getaway. However, I was extremely disappointed at Kerry's inability to develop a coherent national security strategy beyond vague promises to rebuild international alliances. This is even more inexcusable when you consider that Kerry has been in the Senate for 20 years (no country bumpkin state governor is he) and that he was known for his expertise in foreign policy/national security issues.
I agree with some of Rubinstein's recommendations for change -- yes, Democrats should build a better national security infrastructure, for example) -- just as I previously agreed with many of these same sentiments when expressed two years ago in an article by Heather Hurlburt in the Washington Monthly. Rubinstein references Hurlburt and quotes her approvingly.

However, I don't agree with either of these analysts that Democrats are ignorant, inattentive, and/or indifferent to war and national security issues. Many of my best friends are Democrats who care deeply about war and national security issues.

Maybe the problem for the party is that it is too reliant on Washington hacks and not willing to trust academic wonks? The party seems to have no problem turning to the academy for policy advice about social security or education, but seems to ignore academic thinking on foreign policy -- unless perhaps it is published in Foreign Affairs.

The media doesn't take the academic talent pool seriously either. Does anyone outside the academy remember the open letter penned by the Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy?

I didn't think so. The American media certainly didn't notice. On October 26, 2004, Professor Stuart Kaufman (who was a driving force behind the letter) wrote:
Since the experts' open letter criticizing U.S. foreign policy was released two weeks ago, international media have provided substantial coverage. Major newspapers in Germany, Turkey and Australia ran stories, as did the Guardian in England, and the Straits Times in Singapore.. Broadcast coverage included a radio interview with the BBC and television coverage on al-Jazeera....Though headline news in many parts of the globe and a significant part of the blogosphere, the
letter has remained largely unreported in the mainstream US media.
This was not a radical group:
Far from reflecting a liberal bias, the group of signers includes an array of prominent conservative scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, John J Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Michael C. Desch of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Christopher Layne, Contributing Editor of The American Conservative magazine. According to Dr. Thomas Volgy, Executive Director of the International Studies Association, this joint effort and broad agreement by such a diverse group of international affairs scholars is unprecedented.
The media yawned and I don't think the national Democratic party cared.

In any case, back to the big picture. Yesterday, I posted a response to Rubinstein in the Left Coaster's comments section, but let me repost that here to preserve it:

Part of the problem faced by Democrats is that they believe in just about the same policies as Republicans, but within more reasonable limits.

For example, Dems obviously don't want to disarm, but most Dems could easily find tens of billion of dollars worth of fat in the Defense Budget that could be cut. The US spends more on its military than any other 20 nations combined! However, if Dems vote to cut that fat, Republicans call them weak.

Another problem is the Republicans don't fess up to their "real" foreign policy agenda. Republicans talk about US leadership, democratization, and security but actually offer the rest of the world take-it-or-leave it unilateralism, bullying, American exceptionalism (now cast as a reason for the US not to abide international laws and norms), and hegemony (with neoimperial aspirations).

Dems have been ineffective at explaining why the "real" Republican agenda is so outrageous and dangerous.

Finally, Dems need to emphasize the non-military policy tools that can and do work to solve foreign policy problems. Democrats put higher value on diplomacy, foreign aid, arms control, genuine multilateralism and economic sanctions. Republicans would rather fight than switch.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Terror: Objective Achieved!

Elections can have a transformative effect on politics.

Don't believe me? Follow this chronology:

1. Tuesday, November 2, 2004: American election day. Republican George W. Bush is elected narrowly in the Electoral College (286-252) and popular vote (51-48%).

2. Wednesday, November 9, 2004: Controversial Attorney General John Ashcroft resigns, effective upon the confirmation of a successor. This is from Ashcroft's resignation letter, dated election day, November 2:
The demands of justice are both rewarding and depleting. I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed. The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
Security achieved! Onward soldiers, sayeth the General.

3. Thursday, November 11, 2004: Terror alert level to be lowered:
The federal government will lower the terror alert status for financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

The reduction from orange to yellow, the midpoint on the government's five-level terror warning system, comes three months after the alert was raised amid concerns the institutions could be al Qaeda targets. Yellow is "elevated," while orange is considered a "high" threat of attack.
Translation: the election is over -- time to shop!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Alberto Gonzales

President Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

This is a shot across the bow to those of us concerned about the torture of prisoners of war and universal human rights. I wonder if 40 Senators will notice?

Gonzales wrote a now-leaked memo dated January 25, 2002 concerning the potential applicability of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. He noted that the President and his advisors could one day be charged in the US with war crimes if they botched the handling of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan.

The memo doesn't defend the use of torture, nor does it call for it. Rather, it defends the recommendation by the Justice Department that prisoners in the "war on terror" are not POWs and are instead something like "enemy combatants." By sticking to this argument, Gonzales reasons, American officials wouldn't have to worry about violating domestic and international law. Implicitly, this means that actions that would violate the rights of POWs under the Geneva Convention might be breached in the interrogation of prisoners in the "war on terror."

The memo, in short, was an attempt to provide legal cover to an administration potentially committing war crimes -- depending upon the thinking of future prosecutors, judges and juries. It justified the creation of the prison at Guantanamo.

The leaked memo can be found on the Newsweek website (pdf file). This is some of the magazine's text about it:
In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes—defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future...

One key advantage of declaring that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Convention protections is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote.
According to the memo, the Attorney General is charged by statute with "interpreting the law for the Executive Branch." This means for both domestic and international law.

Gonzales, of course, is now nominated for that post. In the memo, he was acting merely as White House counsel.

Apparently, Colin Powell and the State Department lawyers were arguing that the Geneva convention did apply to the Taliban and should apply to al Qaeda. In the memo, Gonzales acknowledges that the US might be condemned by other states and even lose their cooperation in the war on terror. Bingo:
Joseph Onek, director of the Liberty and Security Initiative of the Constitution Project, says it was this kind of thinking that turned the world from supporting our invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 to standing against us: "When you think about it, Guantanamo became a symbol around the world for American disrespect for law." He calls Gonzales' judgment "a disaster."
Gonzales also advised the President to set up the military tribunals to try terrorists, which a federal court just called unconstitutional. And Gonzales was Bush's legal counsel in Texas when the then-Governor was using the death penalty without a lot of serious attention to the cases before him.

Michael Froomkin at Discourse Net blogged about the release of the memo some months ago.

Center for American Progress already has a fairly thorough "Record of Injustice" about Gonzales.

Time for a filibuster?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Oil for Food Scandal

In early October, Charles Duelfer, the most recent head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) issued a final report on the status of Iraq's weapons programs.

The main findings, of course, have been well-known for quite some time -- long before they were issued. After all, Duelfer's predecessor David Kay has been saying for about a year that Iraq had no significant WMD programs. Here are noteworthy passages from the "Key Findings" summary:
• Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.

• Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to the 1991 war, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years.

• While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter...

• In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW [biological] weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specifi c work for military purposes. Indeed, from the mid-1990s, despite evidence of continuing interest in nuclear and chemical weapons, there appears to be a complete absence of discussion or even interest in BW at the Presidential level.
I don't know why the CIA spells "Hussein" as "Husayn."

Conservatives, perhaps worried about what these findings might do to the President's re-election efforts, harped on findings that seemed to "prove" that Saddam Hussein was still a threat that had to be faced by US military might. Benjamin, in comments about my post yesterday, wonders if Kerry supporters even recognized the oil-for-food scandal. Here's Duelfer on this:
Saddam’s primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime.

The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad’s economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.

By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo, by the end of 1999.

Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized...
This all sounds somewhat worrisome, but the reality should not detract from the basic factual conclusion of the report. Iraq had no WMD programs.

While it was true that the sanctions were hotly debated, it is also true that they cannot be ended without a UN Security Council Resolution. And guess what, the US has a veto there. The sanctions could not have been reversed without US assent.

It is also true that the money Saddam Hussein siphoned from the program could not easily have been used to buy WMD-related goods.

Before getting to that point, however, it is worth looking at just how much cash was Duelfer talking about?
The Regime financed these government-sanctioned programs by several illicit revenue streams that amassed more that $11 billion from the early 1990s to OIF outside the UN-approved methods. The most profitable stream concerned Protocols or government-to-government agreements that generated over $7.5
billion for Saddam. Iraq earned an additional $2 billion from kickbacks or surcharges associated with the UN’s OFF program; $990 million from oil “cash sales” or smuggling; and another $230 million from other surcharge impositions.
So, that amounts to about $11 billion, a figure that has been kicking around for many months -- since a GAO investigation arrived at this figure.

In mid-July 2004, Professor Joy Gordon put the alleged $11 billion in perspective. She published "Scandals of Oil for Food" in Middle East Report Online.
Under the sanctions, Iraq's annual gross domestic product dropped from about $60 billion to about $13 billion, according to a joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program estimate released in 1997. Assume that all the accusations of corruption are true, and the government of Saddam Hussein did indeed salt away $11 billion over the six years in which Oil for Food was in effect. Even if those funds had purchased humanitarian goods, the Iraqi GDP would have risen to $15 billion annually -- not an amount that could have compensated for the loss of 75 percent of the economy or rebuilt the dilapidated infrastructure.
In a November 2002 article ("Cool War") for Harpers Magazine, Dr. Gordon pointed out that the US frequently blocked Iraqi expenditures under OFF. Thus, Iraq couldn't even use most of the money it acquired legally -- let alone the siphoned cash:
Since the programme began, Iraq has earned approximately $57 billion in oil revenues, of which it has spent about $23 billion on goods that actually arrived. This comes to about $170 per year per person, which is less than one half the annual per capita income of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Iraqi diplomats noted last year that this is well below what the U.N. spends on food for dogs used in Iraqi de-mining operations (about $400 per dog per year on imported food, according to the U.N.).

The severe limits on funds created a permanent humanitarian crisis, but the situation has been worsened considerably by chronic delays in approval for billions of dollars' worth of goods. As of last July more than $5 billion in goods was on hold...

Nearly everything for Iraq's entire infrastructure—electricity, roads, telephones, water treatment—as well as much of the equipment and supplies related to food and medicine has been subject to Security Council review. In practice, this has meant that the United States and Britain subjected hundreds of contracts to elaborate scrutiny, without the involvement of any other country on the council; and after that scrutiny, the United States, only occasionally seconded by Britain, consistently blocked or delayed hundreds of humanitarian contracts.
Typically, the US claimed that it was blocking items because they were "dual use" and could therefore be deflected to Iraqi weapons programs.

Though the Duelfer Report notes that Iraq had some connections facilitating illegal transfer of dual use items, the basic facts cited above remain true. Those contacts and purchases did not result in resumption of any serious WMD program.

Worse, for Bush defenders, Iraq didn't want WMD programs to hurt the US. Saddam Hussein wanted WMD, as he always had, to threaten Iran and assure Iraq's position in the region. This fact is emphasized in the story about the Duelfer Report that appeared in The Washington Post, October 7, 2004 (p. A1). It was written by Dana Priest and Walter Pincus:
But after extensive interviews with Hussein and his key lieutenants, Duelfer concluded that Hussein was not motivated by a desire to strike the United States with banned weapons, but wanted them to enhance his image in the Middle East and to deter Iran, against which Iraq had fought a devastating eight-year war. Hussein believed that "WMD helped save the regime multiple times," the report said.
Moreover, even if the worst-case scenarios played out after sanctions ended, Duelfer found that Iraq had no concrete WMD plans:
"The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam" tasked to take this up once sanctions ended.
Iraq was not a significant threat to US interests.

Iraq had no WMD programs and though Hussein badly wanted such a program (especially a nuclear program) and accumulated billions of dollars to pay for them, he could not acquire material under sanctions. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US had the unilateral power to assure the continuation of the sanctions and regularly blocked billions of dollars worth of potential dual-use equipment from entering Iraq. If anything, as Dr. Gordon rightly emphasizes, the US was super-cautious and blocked goods that would have helped alleviate significant suffering in Iraq, where perhaps 500,000 children died as a result of the sanctions.

Plus, on top of all else, this had very little to do with 9/11-style threats to American security since Iraq didn't even want to acquire these weapons to threaten the US.

Like the US, Iraq feared Iran.

PS: Note that the Post story helpfully summarizes some additional Duelfer findings:
Nuclear Weapons

Iraq's "crash" program in 1991 to build a nuclear weapon before the Persian Gulf War was far from successful, and was nowhere near being months away from producing a weapon, as the administration asserted. Only micrograms of enriched uranium were produced and no weapon design was completed.

Duelfer also found no information to support allegations that Iraq sought uranium from Africa or any other country after 1991, as Bush once asserted in a major speech before the invasion.

...Although some steps were taken that could have helped restart the nuclear program, using oil-for-food money, Duelfer concluded that his team "uncovered no indication that Iraq had resumed fissile material or nuclear weapons research and development activities since 1991."

Biological Weapons

Duelfer's report is the first U.S. intelligence assessment to state flatly that Iraq had secretly destroyed its biological weapons stocks in the early 1990s. By 1995, though, and under U.N. pressure, it abandoned its efforts.

The document rules out the possibility that biological weapons might have been hidden, or perhaps smuggled into another country, and it finds no evidence of secret biological laboratories or ongoing research that could be firmly linked to a weapons program.

There also was no evidence that Iraq possessed or was developing a mobile biological weapons production system, an assertion Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and others made before the invasion. The two trailers that were found in early 2003 were "almost certainly designed and built . . . exclusively for the generation of hydrogen" gas.

Chemical Weapons

Duelfer's report said that no chemical weapons existed and that there is no evidence of attempts to make such weapons over the past 12 years.
The Post also ran a handy side-by-side comparison of Bush administration claims and Duelfer findings.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Were Bush Voters Delusional?

Months ago, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay, said that people who failed to recognize that Iraq does not have WMD are "delusional."

So, were Bush voters last week delusional?

Some social science evidence suggests that a substantial portion were at least quite confused. PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland recently published their latest poll results. The survey was conducted in September and October, so it's not exactly an exit poll, but the results are nonetheless quite revealing:
Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.
Does anyone have any reason to think that the Bush voters would have believed anything different just last week, when they voted?

In other words, though this isn't from an exit poll, I think the data probably explain a good portion of Bush's voters.

There's more, much more:
Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions....

Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.
The poll had a lot more.

Apparent lesson: if the lies are repeated often enough, people will believe them, even if they are resoundingly debunked.

It is just amazing.

Footnote: One of my Department colleagues told me that Bob Herbert's weekend column in The New York Times also discusses PIPA and Bush voters.

Feeling Blue in a Red State

I thought of that title over the weekend...and then googled it.

A music student has already penned a song...though it might be a poem. Here are a few lines:
Red is the color of power,
the color of aggression.
Red is the color of the economy,
the color of the deficit.
Red is the color of blood,
that is being spilled in the middle east.
Red is the color of the environment,
the color of the thermometer as the globe heats up.
You might enjoy the entire thing...

Well, maybe I should have said "appreciate."

Who can enjoy these blues?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

"Free" Iraq

This is the first sentence in a story from Monday's New York Times (International Herald Tribune):
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi declared martial law across most of Iraq on Sunday
Great, just great.

What a wonderful "liberated" life the people of Iraq have attained since the US invaded their country in search of WMD and al Qaeda sponsorship.

The New York Times also reported over the weekend that 1000s of shoulder fired missiles are missing from Iraq ("Weapons: U.S. Expands List of Lost Missiles").

As I said above: Great, just great:
American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.
And just in time for holiday travel!

But, note, not in time to influence the US elections!

Everyone, loses.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Osiraq Myth

Another of my colleagues from the Working Group on Preemptive and Preventive Military Intervention has completed a useful policy brief. Readers might recall that this group is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh's Ridgway Center (chaired by Gordon Mitchell).

The latest report is by Emory University's Dan Reiter, "The Osiraq Myth and the Track Record of Preventive Military Attacks." Ridgway Center Policy Brief 04-2 (October 2004).

This is the summary:
The 1981 Israeli aerial striike on Iraqi nuclear facilities at Osiraq is frequently cited as a successful use of preventive military force, and may be used to justify similar attacks in the future. However, closer examination of the Osiraq attack reveals that it did not substantially delay the Iraqi nuclear program, and may have even hastened it. Attempts to replicate the "success" at Osiraq are likely to do even worse, as proliferating states are now routinely dispersing and concealing their nuclear, biological, and chemical programs to decrease their vulnerability to air strikes. Given the poor track record of preventive attacks in controlling the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, American interests will be best served in the future by embracing other tools of counterproliferation.
For the edited volume produced by the Working Group, Dan is actually looking at virtually the entire historical set of preemptive and preventive wars involving states with weapons of mass destruction.

This policy brief includes some discussion of the fairly dismal record. Such preventive attacks, he says "generally fail."

It looks like all the briefs will wind up here.

My brief is overdue...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Need any good news?

Who wants some good news for a change? Here are a few items:

1. The stem cell ballot initiative in California passed. The state will spend $3 billion over the next 10 years.

2. Colorado may be trending purple. The best news is that Colorado just elected a new Democratic Senator, Ken Salazar.

However, I'm not sure that this portends anything for 2008. Bush got 174,000 more votes in this red state in 2004 than he did in 2000. Kerry got 206,000 more than Gore. However, Nader went down almost 80,000, so I'm not sure how much ground the left actually gained in Colorado.

Update: Democrats also took the majorities in both houses of the Colorado state legislature that were previously Republican. Also, as I learned from a friend, voters passed a ballot initiative that will "require Colorado's largest utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2015."

3. Barack Obama is officially a US Senator! And he replaced a Republican!

4. Rumors are flying that Attorney General Ashcroft will resign. Let's face it, who could be more polarizing and frightful?

Some say Rudi Giuliani is a leading candidate to replace him. Anyone remember seeing him on Saturday Night Live?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

One Early Pick

Do you recognize this man?

He's one early pick for the Dem candidate for President in 2008.

Lots of lefty bloggers are talking about all the things the party is going to go through in the next few years. Great.

After all that is said and done, this is where they might end up in 2008: The Official Website of the Governor of Virginia - Mark R. Warner.

Quick, someone needs to get him in the Council on Foreign Relations -- ASAP.

I'm serious.

My mother-in-law, a Virginia resident, likes Warner. I don't know much about him. Is he a good speaker and campaigner? Is he smart? Can he connect to the average voter?

Given that he is Governor of Virginia and comes from a high-tech background, he must have some assets that the Dems could use.

More to come on this thread.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election recap

Kerry concedes. Game over. Blah, blah, blah.

My excuse for the incorrect predictions? The election polls were wrong and turnout apparently wasn't so high.

CNN, in fact, has changed the results of its exit polls since this morning at 1:30 am. Now, after "reweighting" them, they show Bush winning one age demographic and tying in the other. This is the same simple demographic breakdown I cited last night which predicted a big Kerry victory.

I'm not going to talk about why the polls were apparently so wrong, but someone should.

After all, election polls are frequently used as a tool to monitor the veracity of elections.

This is from Michael Barone's Reuters column soon after the last Venezuelan election:
"Were NY Pollsters Just Playing a Joke on Chavez?" That was the typically cheeky headline on an item about the Venezuela election in The Hotline political digest ( this week. The item quoted a press release from the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Assoc. saying, "Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez." The release, dated 7:30 p.m., said, "With Venezuela's voting set to end at 8 p.m. EST according to election officials, final exit poll results from Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, an independent New York-based polling firm, show a major victory for the 'Yes' movement, defeating Chavez in the Venezuela presidential recall referendum." The poll showed 59 percent in favor of recalling Chavez, 41 percent against.

The next morning, Chavez was declared the winner by an almost exact opposite margin. "About 58 percent said 'no' to a recall, while 42 percent said 'yes,'" wrote the Washington Post.
How could the election polls have been so wrong in Venezuela? Barone's answer is one-party authoritarian rule. In other words, there weren't any checks and balances in Chavez's regime:
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has been running an authoritarian regime. By various means he has taken control of the legislature, the courts, the armed services and the police. His thugs have been intimidating and even killing the regime's opponents. The literature on this is voluminous....He sought to block the referendum by extralegal means and, having failed at that, resorted to intimidation to win it. There is no reason to believe that he would stop at election fraud.
Maybe I'm just paranoid since I watched most of "Bush's Brain" the night before the election.

Anyway, Barone says election polls are a valuable tool against fraud:
One weapon against such fraud is the exit poll. As Doug Schoen of Penn Schoen points out, his firm has conducted exit polls in Mexico and, just a few days ago, in the Dominican Republic, which produced results very close to the election results. His partner Mark Penn points out that the firm conducted two previous exit polls in Venezuela, both of which were on the mark. Warren Mitofsky's firm, Mitofsky International, has produced exit polls with similar results in Mexico and Russia. Mitofsky recalls that in 1994, Mexican President Carlos Salinas, seeking credibility with foreign investors for that year's Mexican elections, asked him for advice on what to do. Allow independent exit polls, Mitofsky advised, sponsored by the media, and allow the results to be announced soon after the voting. Mitofsky's exit poll results, announced soon after the polls closed, did in fact come close to the official results, as did another Mitofsky poll in 2000. More important, they provided independent confirmation of the fairness of the count.

Again, why are accurate polls so necessary? Another part of the reason is that electronic voting machines are easily manipulated and there's no paper trail:
The Penn Schoen exit poll was conducted at about 200 polling places and produced more than 20,000 responses. Changing those results from something like 42-58 (the Chavez announced figure) to 59-41 would be quite a feat. The firm employed supervisors to make sure the polling was done right. And its results by precinct can be checked against the official results reported for that precinct.

In contrast, it would be far easier, given the touch-screen voting method and central tabulation used in Venezuela, for the central counting center to falsify the results. All you would have to do is program the computer to count every sixth "yes" vote as a "no." That would transform a 59-41 vote to 42-58. And the results would still show pro-Chavez areas voting for him and anti-Chavez areas going the other way—just by different margins.

....Schoen has little doubt what happened. "I think it was a massive fraud," he told me. "Our internal sourcing tells us that there was fraud in the central commission." This was not the first time he has encountered such things. "The same thing happened in Serbia in 1992, by [President Slobodan] Milosevic. He did it again in the local elections in 1996. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people died. Had he been caught [in this fraud] in 1992, this would not have happened."

In Venezuela this year, as in Serbia in 1992, I think it's overwhelmingly likely that the exit poll was far closer than the officially announced results to the way people actually voted.
This is all just FYI.

You know, backgroud, historical information.

I haven't joined the tinfoil hat anti-Diebold crowd.

I'll just keep typing my book about the Bush Doctrine, which should now find a publisher and an audience.

Who is Michael Barone? He:
is a senior writer for U.S.News & World Report and principal coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics. He has written for many publications–including the Economist and the New York Times. Barone graduated from Harvard College and then Yale Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Law Journal.
You can see, he's your typical left-wing conspiracy theorist.

Ohio Mess?

According to the news reports, there are apparently 200 to 400,000 provisional ballots outstanding in Ohio and none of those have been counted.


The Bush-Kerry margin is currently about 102,000 votes with 92% of precincts counted. Dems claim that the lead will likely be cut to 50,000 by the time all the rest of the regular ballots are counted. I assume they know where the missing precincts are and how those areas usually vote.

In any case, Kerry would have to win 60% of 250,000 provisional ballots to take the state if that information is true. Obviously, this would mean a higher portion of fewer ballots or a lower portion of more.

The Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, says that provisional ballots won't be counted for 11 days. That's the election law in Ohio. The absentee (military) ballots from abroad are also going to trickle in over the next 10 days too.

During the next 10 days, Ohio will look at the jackets on the provisional ballots to try to reconcile them. In other words, they are going to try to figure out why the people weren't listed on the voting roster. Some are going to turn out to be valid, others are likely going to be tossed.

I'm confident that both Democratic and Republican lawyers will be deeply involved in this process.

Kerry's camp says the candidate is not going to concede until those provisional ballots are resolved, which makes ABSOLUTE SENSE. How can a candidate concede if the number of uncounted ballots significantly exceeds the margin of the lead?

The networks that have called Ohio for Bush already are jumping the gun. How do they know what those provisional ballots say? Where are they? Who cast them? Why are there so many?

Update: 96% of precincts, the lead is closer to 125,000. Not good for Kerry. Where are the last precincts?

Update 2: Ohio had about 100,000 provisional ballots in 2000; 90% of them were good, and were thus counted. The Secretary of State just said on TV (2:15 am ET) that it looks like there might be 175,000 this time. Kerry would have to win 6 out of 7 of them if the current 125,000 lead holds.

That seems unlikely. I wonder how they went in 2000?

Where are the missing precincts? Can the Dems cut the lead in the last few percent of uncounted precincts?

I think I'm going to bed.