Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How To Participate in PlameGate!


What is to be done about PlameGate? I’m not sure if you have followed the whole affair as closely as I have, but it certainly has taken some interesting twists and turns. But revelations from the last few weeks seem to have put the kibosh on the whole affair.

In case you have not been following the story, let me bring you up to speed. Several weeks ago it was revealed that Richard Armitage, Senior Aid to Colin Powell at the State Department was the person who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to the press. It was also revealed that Justice Department knew about Armitage prior to the appointment of Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. It also appears that the Special Prosecutor knew all about Armitage well before his infamous press conference (October 28, 2005) where he announced the indictment against Scooter Libby as the “first known” official to have leaked Ms. Plame’s name. In other words – Fitzgerald knew that he was misleading the public when he held the press conference! And if you read the news, I bet you thought it was Karl Rove…..

I have been following this case for quite some time from various news accounts and blogs. The main blog that I have participated in is Just One Minute (hosted by the ever congenial Tom Maguire). I like that site as there are quite a few people (from both sides) with substantive knowledge and legal backgrounds. They have analyzed each and every piece of documentation that has become available surrounding this entire, drummed-up scandal. These self-admitted “Plameaholics” have kept the story very interesting.

Although I have blogged about this issue here and on other sites, I will not even attempt to recreate the whole, convoluted story. Instead I will point you to an article by Clarice Feldman, a Washington D.C. area attorney with a tremendous amount of legal experience, frequent commenter at Just One Minute, and contributor at The American Thinker. In her article, entitled The Case of the Missing Crime, Feldman concisely lays out the details of the case. You should read it.

Now that we have reached this point in this non-scandal, it is time to start asking why the Special Prosecutor continued to investigate this case after he knew who the “leaker” was, how the information was leaked, and that no crime had been committed. This investigation has been on-going for several years at a large cost to taxpayers. Yet, the prosecutor had the details to end the investigation within months of being assigned to find out who the leaker was. It is also evident that Fitzgerald crossed the line on several ethical issues. You may be asking, “What can we do?” Simple.

I refer you back to Clarice Feldman. Today she sent a very detailed letter to the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Department of Justice. You can read the original of the letter here. In discussing this tonight at Just One Minute, several posters pointed out that it would be better if Ms. Feldman’s message came from quite a few different people. The concern is that the whole issue will get buried/lost in the bureaucracy. My suggestion was that if a person does not have the time to write their own detailed letter, they simply forward Ms. Feldman’s letter to their House Representative/Senators. With that in mind, I have actually created the letter (which I have already emailed to my federal legislators) which you can copy and paste. Of course you will have to look up the email contact form for your Representative and Senators

Here is the letter:

Dear (fill in the blank with your Representative/Senator),

Today I came across a letter written and mailed by Washington DC Attorney Clarice Feldman to the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility. I thought that I would make you aware of this letter so that the issue is not buried within the government bureaucracy. I have pasted the letter below. Please keep an eye on this situation and do what you can to make sure that this issue is brought into the public light:


H. Marshall Jarrett, Counsel

Office of Professional Responsibility

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 3266

Washington, D.C. 20530

Re: Patrick Fitzgerald’s handling of the Plame Case

Dear Mr. Jarrett:

I am writing to suggest that if one is not underway yet, it is long past due to undertake an investigation into the circumstances of the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald and the way in which he has conducted this matter.

As a general overview of the inappropriate way in which he handled this matter, I reference this article ( in the Weekly Standard.

As to more specific references to inappropriate conduct not outlined there, I draw your attention to his statements in the press conference announcing the indictment and particularly ask that you read those statements in light of recent developments: It is now apparent that Mr. Fitzgerald knew from the outset of his appointment that the source of the “leak” to Robert Novak was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.  In spite of this, Mr. Fitzgerald appears to have never fully explored with Armitage whether Armitage had spoken to other reporters in addition to Novak—although it is now known that Armitage spoke about Plame to at least one other reporter, Bob Woodward, and quite possibly other reporters who have testified before the Grand Jury. That conversation happened a full month before the Novak article was published.

Mr. Woodward has volunteered that he himself told other people during the month in question, but it seems that Mr. Fitzgerald was uninterested in whether this provided an alternate path for information to spread through the Washington press corps, including quite possibly other reporters who have testified before the Grand Jury.  Nor did Mr. Fitzgerald seek waivers of confidentiality for any reporters with whom Armitage spoke with regard to Plame (with the possible exception of Novak himself).  The “good leakers” “bad leakers” and “whistleblower” distinctions made by the prosecution are a frank prescription for criminalizing politics and were unprofessional. And the suggestion in those statements that the defendant had deliberately disclosed the identity of  an undercover agent and harmed national security in so doing, prejudiced the defendant, slandered him in the public eye, and far exceeded the evidence in the prosecution’s possession and the indictment itself.

Further, the affidavit he filed in the Miller appeal was a model of misdirection and disingenuousness clearly designed to mislead the Court. Taken as a whole, the affidavit conflates the Armitage leak to Novak with Libby’s quite apparently innocent conversations with other reporters, presenting a materially false impression of the facts the prosecution already had determined. Whether Libby’s recollections of those conversations were accurate, or his conversational partners’ recollections were more accurate, both sides to each conversation recall something entirely benign.

I ask you to focus attention in particular on paragraphs 9-17 and 81 of that affidavit and read them in light of recently revealed facts: that Armitage told Novak and Woodward earlier and in far greater detail about Plame’s role and identity than did Lewis Libby or Karl Rove who were pilloried for three years for innocent, passing comments to reporters who asked THEM about information, reporters who already  seem to have  known  about Plame’s identity due to the indiscretions of Plame and Wilson. From these facts alone it is readily apparent that these reporters already knew about Plame’s employment and her relationship to Wilson.  These obvious facts should have lead an unbiased investigator or prosecutor to examine the source of that knowledge—whether it was due to the well documented indiscretions of Plame and Wilson themselves or whether, like the leak to Novak, their knowledge derived from conversations with Richard Armitage.    Significantly, Mr. Fitzgerald’s reference to a Newsday article suggesting that Plame fell within the IIPA failed to note that the source(s) for those claims were Wilson allies in the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group which ironically was urging intelligence officers to leak classified information. Even more ironically some of them reportedly are connected through interlinked organizational ties with Mr. Agee, whose own deliberate revelations of undercover CIA agents was the very impetus for the Statute. At no time in the unredacted portions of the affidavit did Fitzgerald directly say that Plame met the test of the IIPA - which she clearly does not -but in various ways he deliberately left the Court with that impression in order to effect the rare contempt order and jailing of a reporter. Further, while portions of the affidavit remain redacted, it doesn’t appear that the Prosecution was adequately forthcoming to the Court in revealing that the disclosure to Novak was by someone who did not get that information from Libby or Judith Miller. Indeed, Miller herself may have received it from Armitage as well. Her notes reflect other sources, prior to the June 23 meeting with Libby and she had in the recent past written interviews with Armitage. Fitzgerald’s grand jury interrogation of her respecting those sources, moreover, seems to conflict with the agreement he’d reached with her not to ask about sources other than Libby.

Footnote 15, p. 28 of this filing was markedly misleading.

    “If Libby knowingly disclosed information about Plame’s status with the CIA, Libby would appear to have violated Title 18, USC Sec. 793 if the information is considered information respecting the national defense. In order to establish a violation of Title 50, USCSec.421, it would be necessary to establish that Libby knew or believed that Plame was a person whose identity the CIA was making specific efforts to conceal and who had carried out covert work overseas within the last 5 years. To date we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed Wilson’s wife was engaged in covert work.”

That it is so is clear from this portion of Judge Tatel’s opinion in that case.

    “Addressing deficiencies of proof regarding the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the special counsel refers to Plame as person whose identity the CIA was making specific efforts to conceal and who had carried out covert work overseas within the last 5 years -representations I trust the special counsel would not make without support. [Emphasis added].”  

There is no indication on the record that the Prosecutor informed the Court that this was a misreading of the affidavit he submitted.

Finally, I think it important to investigate the circumstances surrounding the extra-statutory appointment of Fitzgerald as Special Prosecutor by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey.  In view of the now well-known fact that the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald took place 2-3 months after the true source of the leak was known, I believe it is of great importance to determine

    1) whether the appointment was made by arrangement with any members of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

    2) whether any members of that Committee were informed by anyone in the Department of Justice or the Special Prosecutor’s office of Armitage’s admission that he had been Novak’s source and,

    3) if so, when such disclosure was made and by whom.

I recognize that the special prosecutor is acting in a unique capacity. On the other hand, since the appointment of a Department of Justice employee as Special Prosecutor created a special circumstance that was not contemplated by the Statute, it seems logical that Mr. Fitzgerald should be covered by the operations of your office. In support of that position, I draw your attention to the fact that both Mr. Comey and Mr. Fitzgerald provided affidavits to the Court in support of their own contention that the operations of the Special Prosecutor are under Department of Justice supervision.  If you feel that this is not the case, I would appreciate your disclosing that to me even though I appreciate that non-jurisdictional issues are and should remain non-public during any investigation. Because I am convinced that the above described conduct imperatively demands investigation, I will seek it in another forum if this matter is beyond your jurisdiction.

Sincerely yours,

Clarice Feldman


Please let me know what you find out.

(your name)

Have at it…..

****UPDATE (9/21/06, 1:09 PM)
It has been pointed out that some people may take the position that it is not worth writing to their own Congressional representatives because they will simply ignore it (as I expect one of my Senators will – as Mr. Dodd has ignored most of the issues I have written to him about). If that is the case, you can write to Representative Sensenbrenner who is the chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The procedure is the same. Simply cut and paste the letter above and send it to him. What the heck – I’ve sent it to him and all of my Congresscritters.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Let’s Spend More…

In my last article, The Wishing Well, I pointed out that Ned Lamont has wishes for the Federal government that are going to cost an awful lot of money. Universal Health Care was one – and at that we never talked about what type of impact such a plan would have on the economy. As the term “universal” implies, would government health care be for everyone? Or would it only be for the people who cannot afford to pay for their own insurance (which – as usual with federal programs puts the burden of paying for the system on people who are already paying for health insurance personally)? If it is for everyone, what happens to all the people who are now employed in the health insurance sector? What is the overall cost of such a plan? My bet would be that it would easily cost more than the Iraq War and Katrina combined. So while Universal Health Care sounds good in a 30 second TV ad, there is no substance to it – no plan – and certainly no thought as to how it impacts the country.

Nevertheless, I find I have to retract a statement I made. I said that Ned was a single-issue candidate with no plans for anything other than to retreat from Iraq. I am the first to admit I was wrong. Yesterday, Ned unveiled his plan for education. If you have not seen it, you can read the pdf version here. In this article I want to cover some of the basics of Ned’s plan.

In his opening paragraph, Ned states:

We face a competitiveness crisis as workers in other countries compete against ours on wages and skills. The quality of our workforce is Connecticut’s competitive edge and America’s edge. But now Europe is turning out twice the number of scientists and engineers as the U.S; and Asia is outpacing us by a factor of three. Our graduate enrollment in math and science is down 20% from its peak in 1985. Our twelfth graders fall near the bottom in the international competition in math and science. By many, many measures, we’re losing the talent race.

Like many of Ned’s public statements, this is one you can’t argue with. It is true that, as a country, we are falling behind in education. The real question though is, if we throw more money at the problem, will the education crisis be resolved? Of course, Ned’s solution is to spend more money – as any Democrat will tell you. The Lamont camp spells out a five-point plan to solve the crisis. We will cover the top three points.

Ned points out that NCLB promotes “teaching to the test” and that the American education system is “rigid.” I could not agree with him more on this. No matter what comes from the testing, there is a fair segment of children in our society who just do not “take tests well.” Standardized testing does not take these children into account. The approach also does not take into account the fact that many kids are not ready for the tests to begin with, but we’ll talk more about what may be the root cause of that later.

The Lamont plan seems to yearn for the days after Sputnik when American schools did well to educate children not only in Math and Science, but also created:

…curious mind and creative thought, a liberal arts basis which has served the creativity and energy of our entrepreneurial capitalist system very well.

Again, this may well be true. Ned also says that it has been documented that from Fourth Grade on, students in the United States fall behind their contemporaries in other countries. This, also, is true.

John Stossel covers this subject quite well in his book (p. 108-109), Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. He says:

We gave identical tests to high school students in New Jersey and in Belgium. We asked the Belgian kids, “What did you think of the tests?”

FIRST BOY: Well, I thought it was pretty easy considering the tests we usually get here. This was kinda a piece of cake.

SECOND BOY: The test was so easy, I think that if the kids in America couldn’t do this, they’re really stupid.

“Stupid” was harsh, but the Belgian kids cleaned the American kids’ clocks, getting 76 percent correct vs. 47 percent for the Americans. We didn’t pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey and New Jersey kids have test scores that are above average for America.

The American boy who got the highest score told me: “I’m shocked, ‘cause it just shows how advanced they are compared to us.”

I asked the New Jersey kids:

STOSSEL: So, are American students stupid?

FIRST STUDENT: No, we’re not stupid.

SECOND STUDENT: I think it has to be something with, with the school, ‘cause I don’t think we’re stupider.

Stossel goes on to point out that (red-font emphasis mine):

At the age of ten, students from twenty-five countries take the same test and American kids place eighth, well above the international average. But by age fifteen, when students from forty countries are tested, the Americans place twenty-fifth, well below the international average. In other words, the longer American kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from much poorer, less-developed countries, like Korea and Poland, which spend much less on education than the United States.

With all of that said, let’s explore what Lamont thinks we should do. His first point is this:

In the long run, provide support to local school districts, on a sliding scale basis, to ensure that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to learn. In the short run, in the most poverty-stricken cities in towns in every state, where children have not learned basic skills, Congress should fund the full cost of implementing well-tested approaches to early childhood education for those kids not presently being served. The projected annual cost would be $6.545 billion.

So, if we get kids ready to enter kindergarten, will we do better overall from an educational standpoint? How then does Lamont’s plan, and this section in particular take into account the fact that the slippage in our national scores develops between 4th grade and high school? Remember, at 10 years old America’s children, while behind the curve, are still performing fairly well in international comparisons. So Ned’s point here must be something different than just preparing children for kindergarten.

Maybe I see – it is the implementation of this “action” point based on federal help to schools on a sliding scale, with the most “poverty stricken” cities and towns top on the list. In other words, let’s take more money and let “Congress…fund the full cost of implementing well-tested approaches to early childhood education.” Let’s translate this to English: Let’s give more money to experimental early childhood educational programs and hope that they show results. And who would get the money, and who would pay for it? Ned’s plan is a typical democratic approach to problems. Throw more money at it and hope it sticks.

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I seem to remember that kindergarten was a place to get used to being in school, to maybe learn to count, and draw; to eat a snack and have nap time and recess. Where did we as a country decide that kids need to read before they get to 1st grade? When we were the top in education, was that how things worked? Have our kids become dumber? Or is there another reason we don’t do as well? Read on.

Ned’s action point number two:

Through grants to selected recipient educational institutions, encourage the development of full-service “community schools,” which leverage the educational program of each school with additional services provided by the school or its community partners to students during extended hours before, during and after school and on weekends. Such services might include early childhood education, Head Start, academic enrichment activities, mentoring, promotion of parental involvement and family literacy, career counseling, mental health, and primary health and dental care. Initial grants would target schools in high-poverty areas. As contemplated in a proposed bill introduced by Representative Steny Hoyer, the initial annual funding for grants would be $200 million.

Other than the fact that middle-America will have to fund this program, I can see where there is probably a need for it, or something like it. In the “targeted” areas, we have an epidemic of broken nuclear families, violence ridden neighborhoods, poverty, and the people who care about their children are really struggling to make ends meet (remember there are many people who don’t care about their children – all over America). Giving the schools the ability to be open early and late – to provide supervision and learning opportunities – is at first glance a good thing.

From a slightly different point of view though, I dislike this idea, but am admittedly not sure how to solve the issue. When my spouse and I were raising our children, we both worked long hours. Typically we would drop our kids off about 6:00 AM and pick them up at about 6:30 PM. We thought, “Such is life.” But over time we began to realize that other people were raising our children. We had abdicated the responsibility of raising our children to others. That was not right – we ended up restructuring our lives so that one of us could be home with the children.

That is what is missing from Ned’s plan in this step. The incentive to break that cycle and become parents. The “taking” of responsibility by the parents who had these children. There needs to be a stick that goes along with the carrot. And what we need to avoid is another system that rewards parents for not taking responsibility for their own lives. I would think that needs to be coupled with more job training of some sort so that parents can either begin paying a minimal amount themselves for this service, or so that they can eventually restructure their lives to raise their own children. Obviously this problem is a mess and just throwing money and half-solutions at it is not going to solve it.

Overall, I really think the biggest worry is that “big brother” ends up with the responsibility or raising children. That is scarier than anything.

Step three in Ned’s plan:

Invest in math and science education to the extent analogous to the support provided in the decade after Sputnik. The 2005 report by a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academy of Sciences, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, provides recommendations for

1. increasing America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education,

2. developing, recruiting and retaining the best and brightest minds,

3. strengthening the nation’s commitment to long-term basic research, and

4. providing incentives for innovation.

The first two categories of the above recommendations focus on education.

Truly, this is where Lamont’s plan runs into the most trouble. The first two points in this action step are the ones we need to look at with regards to education. These are great talking points, but underneath it all, the plan is lacking. First off, how do we “increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12” education?

Believe it or not, the Specter’s are heavily involved in K-12 curriculum development. My spouse has been employed in that specialty for a quarter of a century, and I have worked in the periphery for about 15 years. We have seen – as have many of you – the new “theories” of how to educate children come and go. And as the new experiments have been tried – and failed – the nation’s kids have fallen further and further behind their contemporary counterparts. There are many possible explanations for this:

1. Kids are less intelligent now. Somehow I do not believe this.

2. Parents are less involved in making sure their children are keeping up. Personally I feel that this is one of the biggest factors. The Baby-Boomers – in their rush for material goods and pleasures – have stopped doing all the things that need to be done to ensure that their children do their best. This is huge. As a society we’ve gone from one where parent’s supervised their children as far as homework and activities, to one where about the only time parent’s get involved is at report card time. Caveat – Not all parents are like this, but many, many are.

3. The curricula being taught to children is not as good as it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Well…I’m not sure how to answer that one. In many respects it is better. But, as I noted above, we have seen so many outright failures in new methods (take for example Whole Life Language Arts and Inventive Spelling – great ideas on paper that left millions of students without the ability to read and spell properly), that I can’t say every approach is better than it was before.

4. The teachers. Which leads us into Ned’s “best and brightest.”

Teachers. Here is what I believe is the crux of the educational issue – and quite honestly where Ned’s plan fails the test. Lamont says let’s just “develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest (paraphrased slightly).” That’s a great talking point. But again, no real plan. But let’s talk about this.

The first thing I need to point out is that there are some very, very good teachers out there. And what I have to say here does not detract from their abilities or dedication – and their worth to our society as a whole.

Teachers today are faced with an increasing number of “objectives” that must be taught to students each and every year. These objectives are mandated at local, state, and federal levels and there is no coordination among the mandating entities. With the number of things that have to be mastered increasing, teachers have less and less time to work with students who are falling behind. In essence, we need less government micromanagement of our schools.

I remember the old days when a group of us would stand at the board and work math problems. Basic math. And when we made a mistake, it could be embarrassing, but the teacher was able to watch and see where we were having difficulty. When they saw issues, they would find a different way to teach the curriculum. They had the time to take different approaches – approaches that fit better with the varying learning styles of the students (visual, aural, kinesthetic, and combinations). It is not that way any more. Today, if a student is falling behind, well, for the most part, too bad.

The “good” teachers I referred to above somehow find ways to keep up with the increasing mandates and still help all students. But they are far and few between. In his book, Stossel talks about the way that the American education system has become a government monopoly. I agree with that wholeheartedly. But he also points out that “the only thing worse than a government monopoly is a rigidly unionized government monopoly.” With my apology to the “good” teachers, I agree with Stossel. Currently there is no way to measure the effectiveness of a teacher – brightest mind or not. And even if there was, it is near impossible to get rid of a bad teacher.

On page 124 of his book, Stossel says:

At a high school in New York, students told us some of their teachers don’t try very hard. “I’m standing, today sixth period, outside my room, ‘cause I don’t know where my teacher is,” said one, adding, “One of my teachers tells me he does this for the health benefits.”

This seems odd because teachers I know want to help kids learn. Some are passionate about education. They take extra courses to learn how to be better teachers. Some pay out of their own pocket to learn the latest techniques.

Yet again and again, kids told us, “You got teachers that say, ‘I don’t care. I get paid for it anyway.’”

I shouldn’t be surprised. If you pay everyone the same, and pretty much guarantee their jobs, there’s little incentive to try harder.

I talked to a group of NYC high school students.

STOSSEL: Are there teachers that students dread?

GROUP OF STUDENTS: (In unison) Yes!

PATRICIA STUART: They talk like – like they’re dead, and – and it makes you want to go to sleep. And when you do go to sleep, they get mad. But you – but you can’t help but go to sleep, ‘cause they – they talk like they – like somebody is forcing them to be here. When they don’t have no enthusiasm, we don’t have no enthusiasm.

Isn’t that true? Imagine trying to learn from Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! Stossel continued talking about trying to get teachers to take an informal teacher’s test. From what he says, ABC went to “dozens” of cities and teachers refused to take the test. Stossel interviewed a group of teachers in NYC who did not take his test. He tells us that these teachers were already involved in a law suit against the state because “the state had the nerve to use a test called the National Teacher Examination or NTE, to partly determine benefits and pay.” The interview went like this (read this with the understanding that many of the teachers failed the test):

FIRST WOMAN: I’ve taken the NTE probably twenty times, maybe more.

FIRST MAN: I’ve taken it numerous times. I lost count.

STOSSEL: Usually, if you take something and you fail, you study so you can pass.

SECOND MAN: There’s nothing to study from.

SECOND WOMAN: I don’t need to be tested.

STOSSEL: You test the kids. Why shouldn’t we test you?

THIRD WOMAN: If I’m tested by outsiders, that’s unfair. Every day that we go into the classroom, that’s a test.

Their lawsuit claimed the test was racist, because many who flunked the test were members of minority groups.

MARC PESSIN, SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: Now I will give you an example of a common question. Let’s see if you get it. What is the hue of that wall?

STOSSEL: Hue? That means the color of the wall?

MARC PESSIN: I’m asking you the question.


MARC PESSIN: All right. You are lucky because, based on your understanding, the word hue is understood to mean color. People who come from poor neighborhoods, those people may not have the enriched vocabulary that the people who make the test have.

That is ridiculous. Someone who has a teacher’s certificate, which generally means a college education, doesn’t know the word “hue” loosely means color? I should note that great credentials doesn’t necessarily equate to great teachers. I don’t think that is what Stossel was getting at.

What we really need in this country is a way to measure whether or not a teacher, no matter their “credentials”, is effective in getting students to learn. We need to be able to get rid of teachers who do not meet that standard, and reward those that do. We need to find teachers who motivate children to learn. Ned was involved in volunteering at schools – he should know this.

Lamont’s plan does not address this need. It does not get to the root of the problem (and neither does NCLB). Instead, Ned wants to spend more than $7 BILLION per year. He wants to throw money in areas that are not the root cause of our educational crisis. Maybe we would be better off by using NCLB testing results to also measure how teachers are doing year to year. Almost everything else is fluff…..

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Moment of Silence

Don't forget to take a moment of silence on Monday morning in honor of all our fellow citizens that were lost. No matter our political persuasion, or our feelings about the war, it is the proper thing to do. Also, be sure to thank, and shake the hand, of your local emergency response people.

Life comes at us fast
And we know it does not last.
But we must remember
That day in September
When so many of us were lost....

Friday, September 08, 2006

The APosaurus

The more I read from the AP, the more I realize that they really are dinosaurs – the APosaurus. I say that because not matter what the facts are, they completely ignore them to print what they feel is the “word” that needs to get out.

Take for instance today’s article by the AP’s Matt Apuzzo in WaPo (you probably will have to complete a free registration if you don’t have one). While Apuzzo properly coveys the story that Armitage was the leaker in the now infamous Plamegate, he goes on to make some statements that are blatant misrepresentations of the truth. Tom Maguire over at Just One Minute has more on Armitage's first public interviews. First Apuzzo says (emphasis mine):

For almost three years, an investigation led by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has tried to determine whether Bush administration officials intentionally revealed Plame's identity as covert operative as a way to punish her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing the Bush administration's march to war with Iraq.

OK…I know. Fitzgerald’s investigation was self-limited to the White House and administration after he was fed the line about “retribution.” But in reality, Fitzgerald’s task was to find the leaker. That was it – plain and simple. By wording the sentence the way it was, Apuzzo leaves the impression that it was all but settled that the leak came, on purpose, from the administration. He implies that Fitzgerald was appointed solely to find out who in that group leaked. That was not true. But it gets worse (again – emphasis mine):

He said he did not realize Plame's job was covert.

Since this is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase, we do not know if this is exactly the wording that Armitage used during his interview. Maguire's article covers more of the exact details of what was said and suggests that the word used was "operative." The problem is that even Fitzgerald has backed away from the claim that Plame was covert, opting instead for classified. If Apuzzo was trying to report fairly, that very important caveat would have been included. But, the APosaurus made the claim early-on the Plame was covert, and not even the facts are going to stand in the way of them actually admitting they were wrong. The way the word was used here clearly is an attempt, yet again, to say that Plame was covert. Not very unbiased reporting. The final section that got to me was (emphasis mine):

Armitage's admission suggested that the leak did not originate at the White House as retribution for Wilson's comments about the Iraq war. Wilson, a former ambassador, discounted reports that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon _ claims that wound up in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

Once again the APosaurus is at work. As everyone except the AP apparently knows, the information provided by Joe Wilson on the Niger situation, is at best suspect, and quite possibly outright lying (how could he debunk the forgeries when he had never seen them, as he told the WaPo?). The fact is that Wilson’s piece of the pie was only a small slice of all the intelligence gathered on Hussein’s attempts to buy “yellowcake.” And, as everyone who has the ability to read, listen, or comprehend (leaves out the APosaurus apparently), Bush’s words in the SOTU address did not specifically point to attempts to buy “yellowcake” in Niger, but Africa in general. You remember – the continent where several countries mine uranium.

So we come back to the original claim that the AP is a dinosaur. Looking more and more like it may be the case…..

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Wishing Well

Over the next few articles I am going to examine some of Ned Lamont’s television commercials. What we need to look at is what the commercials seem to be implying, and attempt to analyze what Ned’s position on the “issue” is. In essence, we need to determine what he plans to do to change the “problem” he sees. As we do this analysis, we need to remember that we have been duped many times by politicians promising things that they have no chance at changing.

In this article we will be taking a look at Neddy’s commercial called Wishing Well. The ad, which you can see here (the last one of the TV ads as you scroll down), starts off with Ned narrating about wishes as various costumed people march by a wishing well and drop in money.

His first statement is:

“In America, no one should have to wish for medicine…

On the face of it, this is true. Nobody should have to wish for medicine. Leaving aside the fact that we are probably the most over-medicated country on the face of the earth, there are people in need of medicine that can’t get it. And Ned is correct that something needs to be done. But what Ned doesn’t mention that there are many, many programs already in place – both government and private – that provide support for pharmaceutical needs. Take for example, the Husky program for children in Connecticut (soon to be replaced by a newer program as I understand it), the programs for indigenous/homeless/shelter, the new Medicare drug program, etc. And before you start, almost everyone understands that due to the bureaucratic nature of governments, administration of these programs is unwieldy, but it does not mean that people can’t take advantage of them.

In essence, what Lamont is referring to here is his “plan” (read as “pipe dream”) for Universal Health Care. Of course Ned has no real plan for how to implement something like this. But it sure makes good “buzz talk” for the masses. And doesn’t that sound like the typical democratic talking point? I mean, it sounds good, but what are the real world implications of Universal Health Care? How much would it cost? How would the government, in all it’s lack-of-efficiency, going to handle this? Would we need another new, huge bureaucracy to handle the program? Where would the money come from? And probably the most important question of all, does anyone trust the government to make good decisions about an individual’s health? Add to that, do you really trust the government to protect your personal data?

Ned continues:

…or decent classrooms…

I don’t think that anyone would argue about this. Quite honestly I feel that the federal government does not belong in our classrooms to begin with.

Depending on the measure you use, NCLB is either a minimal success, or a failure. What is unfortunate is that our entire public school system is an over-funded, under-achieving, government monopoly. Picture it this way – schools are now regulated so tightly on what has to be taught each year, that teachers have no way to help children in trouble, or children who are gifted (although more emphasis is placed there). Federal mandates and requirements. State mandates and requirements. And when you add in the fact that unions protect under-performing teachers, you end up with the mess we are in today.

With all that said, just what is Ned’s plan for making it better? In all of the rhetoric he has put out, he has not articulated any plans whatsoever. What is the solution? Is it to throw more money at the wall and hope that it sticks? Is it that he wants vouchers? What? Ned’s word seems to be, like that of John Kerry during the 2004 election, “Trust me. I will fix everything. Bush is bad.” That is the sum and substance of the campaign.

What did Lamont say next? Let’s review:

…or secure retirement.

This is interesting, especially coming from a leftist-elitist worth over $90 million. I suspect it is a reference to the Social Security system. And again, on the face of things, Ned is correct. People should not have to worry about their retirements. However, we know that for all the people who are depending solely on Social Security for their retirement, they are in serious trouble. With Baby-Boomers retiring in droves, and people living longer, it is not a question of if Social Security will become bankrupt, but when.

There have been several attempts to fix the problem. But due to partisan wrangling (on both sides), all we ever get is band-aids to the problem. We have a series of patches that may extend the fund, but do nothing to fix the problem.

The real issue is should the government be responsible for people’s retirement? My opinion is that they should not be. Give me my money and let me invest it the way I want. If my spouse and I had been allowed to invest the money we have put into the system we would in all probability have a retirement fund that would provide at least twice what Social Security will give us – and that using “safe” investments. However, just because many of us can be disciplined in investing and preparing, many aren’t. So what do we do?

Now, the question that has to be asked with regard to Ned Lamont is, what is his plan to fix retirement for all of us? As with everything else in the commercial, he has no plan, just words. Is that what we really want from a Senator? No ideas what to do, just “trust me.”

Ned continues:

No one should have to wish that their mom and dad won’t be shipped off to war…

I agree with that too. Nobody would wish to see a loved one go off to war. But to think that Lamont can provide us with options where nobody ever gets shipped off to war is very, very unrealistic. Try to name one administration over the last few that did not have to commit troops to a foreign soil.

I think that what Neddy is trying to get at here is the anti-Iraq war movement. Well and good. We know his stance on this issue. In fact, it is the only issue in Ned’s entire campaign where he has advocated a plan, even if not fully-formed. And that is “cut and run.” And while many people are disappointed in the progress of the war, there have been major results there. We could debate the issues involved all day, but suffice it to say that this claim is the heart of Ned’s campaign.

Finally Ned says:

Still, every day we spend billions of dollars, and nothing changes….

Yes. Our government does spend billions of dollars every day. To pay for those billions, we are taxed beyond belief – not only in formal taxes, but in hidden ones also. And the GWOT has added to that, and has added to our deficit. So did all of our natural disasters, Katrina being the biggest. And yet, the deficit has been cut in half in shorter time than expected (not the debt, the deficit). The economy has shown incredible resiliency. Things are not as bad as they have been painted.

But does Ned Lamont really expect to reduce the amount of money the country is spending? With programs like Universal Health Care, more band-aids for Social Security, and more government intervention in our schools, does he really expect that we will not be spending more money than we are now? What are his plans for doing that? How will it be accomplished?

Quite honestly, I think that Ned has been spending to much of his time at the Wishing Well. Too many quarters wishing for solutions and votes, and not enough time in the real world.

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Immature Camp(aign)

As more and more comes out of the Lamont camp, and I call it a camp as opposed to a campaign, one begins to get the feel of just how much Ned represents the far, far left in his efforts to be elected. Here is the latest kerfuffle:

Picture this. You have a candidate running for a United States Senator. The Upper House of our federal legislative system, the chambers of which are full of men and women to whom decorum and appearance tends to be paramount (legislating/debating aside). This is the place where weighty decisions are made. This is the place that looks down upon the “brawling mass” of the House of Representatives (at least from their perspective). This is the “great deliberative” body!

Now picture this. Jane Hamsher, closely tied to the Lamont campaign, puts up a photo-shopped picture of Joe Lieberman on her site – one where Lieberman is in blackface (see here for the picture). Ned immediately denies knowing anything about blogs. He actually told the WaPo:

Lamont brushed past reporters Wednesday night in Bridgeport, saying: "I don't know anything about the blogs. I'm not responsible for those. I have no comment on them."

Yeah right – as will soon be shown, Ned’s camp (portrayed as a bunch of sulking teens with nasty mouths) mimics the far left blogs to a tee. BTW – Hamsher claimed that she was not officially a part of the Lamont camp. This in spite of the fact that she moved to Connecticut to blog for Lamont, travels as part of his group, drives his people to important engagements (like his Comedy Central appearance with Colbert), and even admits (with pictures to show it) that she helped direct at least one television commercial for the primary. According to the WaPo article:

While noting that Hamsher is not a paid staffer, Gerstein argued that she has been an integral part of the Lamont operation. "She's been an active part of their campaign," he said. "She travels with him, she's raised money for them and has become the primary mouthpiece for him in the blogosphere."

But Ned doesn’t know who she is.

Ned has appeared in video with the founder of DailyKos, Jane Hamsher, and others. But he doesn’t know who or what bloggers are.

His own campaign site has a tribute to the blogosphere: Happy Blogosphere Day. But Ned doesn’t know anything about blogs.

But it is apparent that the Lamont camp is sinking to the level of commenters and posters at the likes of DailyKos – to the level of vulgarity and coarse behavior that is unbecoming for someone running for the United States Senate. Ned’s campaign manager, Tony Swan, compares the city of Waterbury as a place:

“where the forces of slime meet the forces of evil.”

That was in response to the fact that Lieberman won more votes in that city than Neddy did. Seems a bit over-the-top to me. But also reflects the immaturity of Lamont’s staff. Why in the world would a camp go out of the way to alienate a part of the electorate? Of course, the after-the-slip-of-the-tongue rationalization is that Swan was simply referring to the fact that a former mayor was jailed on corruption and child abuse convictions. Again, even with this explanation in hand, it is obvious that the people of the city of Waterbury were offended. Now we are getting close to the normal rhetoric used by the far left. What else can we find?

Here is the kicker. According to an article published in the Hartford Advocate, Lamont’s camp has finally come up to Kos standards (or as most people believe – sunk to Kos standards):

Or, to put it more simply: “Woah, are these professionals that are going to Washington?”

Those are the words of Kevin Brookman, vice president of the Connecticut Pride Center, a Hartford organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Brookman said when he recently tried to secure a promised donation from Lamont’s campaign, he was stunned by the cursing and disrespect he received from a campaign staffer.

Brookman is organizing the Connecticut Pride Festival, which is expected to draw at least 10,000 people to downtown Hartford on Sept. 9. (He’s also a neighborhood activist and a member of Hartford’s Republican Town Committee.) Festival organizers solicited potential donors to buy advertisements in the festival guide, and Brookman said both the Lamont and Lieberman campaigns pledged to contribute.

Lieberman’s campaign paid for its ad, but Brookman said Lamont’s people subsequently decided not to contribute. Brookman said he tried again, leaving a message with the campaign. Sitting in his office with other Pride Festival organizers a couple weeks ago, he received a call back and put it on his speaker phone. It was top Lamont staffer John Murphy, who was Swan’s deputy at CCAG and joined the campaign along with him.

According to Brookman’s account, Murphy tore into him, saying, “Who the fuck do you think you are?” and continuing in a similarly off-color vein. When he mentioned he had personally given an information packet to Lamont, who promised to buy an ad, Murphy said, “Why the fuck would you give it to the candidate?” Finally, Murphy said, “We’ll take the fucking ad,” according to Brookman.

“He was using the F-word as every other word,” said Daniel Halle, a festival coordinator who was in the room. Worse than the cursing, however, was the campaign’s broken promise to support the festival, he said. “Do we want someone as a senator who can’t even stick with getting an ad?” Brookman said, “This is the biggest single event in the gay community, and they’re blowing it off.” The organizers have yet to receive a check from the Lamont campaign, they said.

Wow. Lamont staffers swearing at voters. That says it all. It almost sounds as if a bunch of High School kids got together to run this campaign.

And of course, Neddy has not apologized for his staff. What does that mean? Does he support their attitude? Remember, this is a spoon-fed, rich, elitist who did not ever have to work a day in his life, although one of his TV ads (coincidentally using High School kids) implies that he is a self-made man. He quit his country club recently, where he was a member for almost two decades, because it was pointed out to him that the club might be viewed as not integrated enough. Why now?

What a double standard. Bush gets lambasted for using a swear word, but Ned apparently likes his staff doing the same thing……

When Crazy Makes Headlines

Now – this is too funny. Well it would be if it wasn’t for the fact that it is true. Too scary. At any rate – read the whole thing.