Saturday, January 22, 2005

GWOT -Too Much Information - Is Anything Secret Anymore?

The nature of what is top secret and what is in our newspapers continues to evolve downward in terms of national security even during the global war on terror (GWOT) - from the NYT: In Terror Fight, Domestic Roles for U.S. Troops: [The bold marks are mine.]

"Somewhere in the shadows of the White House and the Capitol this week, a small group of super-secret commandos stood ready with state-of-the-art weaponry to swing into action to protect the presidency in ways that have never been fully revealed before. As part of the extraordinary army of 13,000 troops, police officers and federal agents marshaled to secure the inauguration, these elite forces were deployed under a 1997 authorization that was updated and enhanced after the Sept. 11 attacks, but nonetheless departs from how the military has historically been used on American soil.

These commandos, operating under a secret counterterrorism program code-named Power Geyser, were mentioned publicly for the first time this week on a Web site for a new book, 'Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operation in the 9/11 World,' (Steerforth Press), by William M. Arkin, a former Army intelligence analyst. The precise number of these Special Operations forces in Washington this week is highly classified, but military officials say the numbers are very small, probably not exceeding a few dozen. The special-missions units belong to the Joint Special Operations Command, a secretive command based at Fort Bragg, N.C., whose elements include the Army unit Delta Force. In the past, the command has also provided support to domestic law enforcement agencies during high-risk events like the Olympics and political party conventions, according to the Web site of, a research organization in Alexandria, Va...."

"Mr. Arkin's book is a glossary of more than 3,000 code names of past and present operations, programs and weapons systems, with brief descriptions of each. Most involved secret activities, and details of many of the programs could not be immediately confirmed. The book also describes American military operations and assistance programs in scores of countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The murky world of 'special access programs' and other secret military and intelligence activities are covered in the book, too. Some code names describe highly classified research programs, like Thirsty Saber, a program that in the 1990's tried to develop a sensor to replace human reasoning. Others describe military installations in foreign countries, like Poker Bluff I, an electronic-eavesdropping collection station in Honduras in the 1980's. Many involve activities related to the survival of the president and constitutional government.

The book, for instance, describes Site R, one of the undisclosed locations used by Vice President Dick Cheney since the Sept. 11 attacks. Site R is a granite mountain shelter just north of Sabillasville, Md., near the Pennsylvania border. It was built in the early 1950's to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. Mr. Arkin said that 28 positions in the government were covered in the presidential succession plan, including 15 cabinet members, the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the continuity of government activities cited in the book."

William Kristol on The Speech

On Tyranny:

"A social science that cannot speak of tyranny with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand social phenomena as what they are.
--Leo Strauss, On Tyranny

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph.
--Thomas Paine, The Crisis

INFORMED BY STRAUSS and inspired by Paine, appealing to Lincoln and alluding to Truman, beginning with the Constitution and ending with the Declaration, with Biblical phrases echoing throughout--George W. Bush's Second Inaugural was a powerful and subtle speech.

It will also prove to be a historic speech. Less than three and a half years after 9/11, Bush's Second Inaugural moves American foreign policy beyond the war on terror to the larger struggle against tyranny. It grounds Bush's foreign policy--American foreign policy--in American history and American principles. If actions follow words and success greets his efforts, then President Bush will have ushered in a new era in American foreign policy. "

"...If the critics of the speech who have denounced it as simple-minded were to read it, they would find it sophisticated. They might even find it nuanced.

Still, sophisticated and nuanced as it is, it does proclaim the goal of ending tyranny. And just as Truman's speech shaped policy, so Bush's will. As he implicitly acknowledges, his presidency will be judged not by this speech but by his achievements. The speech, by laying out a clear and compelling path for U.S. foreign policy, will make substantial achievements easier. There will be vigorous debates over how to secure these achievements--debates over defense spending and diplomacy, over particular tactics and operational choices. We will at times differ with the president on some of these matters, as we have at times in the past. But on the fundamental American goal, President Bush has it right--profoundly right."

David Brooks on The Speech: Ideals and Reality

Brooks, who to me seems to be getting better and better with Ideals and Reality:

"Bush's speech, which is being derided for its vagueness and its supposed detachment from the concrete realities, will still be practical and present in the world, yielding consequences every day. With that speech, President Bush's foreign policy doctrine transcended the war on terror. He laid down a standard against which everything he and his successors do will be judged."

"...Bush's inaugural ideals will also be real in the way they motivate our troops in Iraq. Military Times magazine asked its readers if they think the war in Iraq is worth it. Over 60 percent - and two-thirds of Iraq combat vets - said it was. While many back home have lost faith, our troops fight because their efforts are aligned with the core ideals of this country, articulated by Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Lincoln, F.D.R., Truman, J.F.K., Reagan and now Bush.

Americans are, as George Santayana observed, 'idealists working on matter.' On Thursday in Washington, the ideal and the material were on ample display. And we're reminded once again that this country has grown rich, powerful and effective not because its citizens are smarter or better, but because the ideals bequeathed by the founders are practical and true. "

Friday, January 21, 2005

Public Embarrassment for My Great State

N. Carolina Capital Disabled by Inch of Snow :

"An inch of snow crippled North Carolina's capital -- and prompted plenty of finger-pointing -- Thursday "

"It was not until late Wednesday that Gov. Mike Easley (D) declared a state of emergency, allowing him to open two state government buildings in downtown Raleigh as shelters to accommodate drivers. He asked residents to stay home Thursday morning so crews could clear the roads."

This was marked by much laughter in Western North Carolina and I am sure by all people used to snow in the wintertime.

One British Opinion on the Inaugural Address

Not all Europeans would agree with this from The Times:

"By contrast, George Washington offered the shortest inaugural address to his fellow countrymen. ... Yet, if inclined, George W. Bush could comfortably beat that record in Washington on Thursday. He might legitimately stand up and state in five blunt words: "I own this town now" and then sit down again. And for the next 18 months or so he indeed will.

"...Mr Bush's personal authority, at least until 2007, may be really exceptional. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt has been equivalently placed in the past 100 years. This might oblige his many vocal critics, who have habitually mocked him, to deliver their own five-word speech this Thursday. It should read: "He is not an idiot."

LA Weekly: Features: On: A Vision of Our Own

"'s left remains mired in a reflexive, defeatist negativity that became obvious after the election. The Nation's subscribers sent letters calling Bush voters racists, homophobes, warmongers and yahoos. Peter Beinart wrote a much-bruited New Republic piece saying that the Democrats needed to purge polarizing figures like Michael Moore (as if Karl Rove didn't thank God, er, Beelzebub, every single day for the presence of right-wing firebrands like Rush and Sean). Meanwhile, the blogosphere was filled with 'Fuck the South' e-mails and lazy ruminations on the 'red states,' a cliche that manages to insult one's intelligence and the people it supposedly describes. Much of this was rhetorically disastrous, smacking of contempt for the very people the left is hoping to persuade. Reading such things, I was often reminded of that famous old Brecht poem, 'The Solution,' in which he slyly suggests that if the East German government is unhappy with its citizens' behavior, it ought to dissolve the people and elect another."

The LA Weekly is an interesting alternative to The LA Times.

Bill Safire on Bush's 'Freedom Speech'

Safire on Bush's 'Freedom Speech':
"On his way out of the first Cabinet meeting after his re-election, President Bush gave his longtime chief speechwriter the theme for the second Inaugural Address: 'I want this to be the freedom speech.'
In the next month, the writer, Michael Gerson, had a heart attack. With two stents in his arteries, the recovering writer received a call from a president who was careful not to apply any deadline pressure. 'I'm not calling to see if the inaugural speech is O.K.,' Bush said. 'I'm calling to see if the guy writing the inaugural speech is O.K.'"

"...the Texan evoked J.F.K.'s 'survival of liberty' phrase to convey his central message: 'The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.' Bush repeated that internationalist human-rights idea, with a slight change, in these words: 'The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.' The change in emphasis was addressed to accommodationists who make 'peace' and 'the peace process' the No. 1 priority of foreign policy. Others of us - formerly known as hardliners, now called Wilsonian idealists - put freedom first, recalling that the U.S. has often had to go to war to gain and preserve it. Bush makes clear that it is human liberty, not peace, that takes precedence, and that it is tyrants who enslave peoples, start wars and provoke revolution. Thus, the spread of freedom is the prerequisite to world peace. It takes guts to take on that peace-freedom priority so starkly. Bush, by retaliatory and pre-emptive decisions in his first term - and by his choice of words and his tall stance in this speech, and despite his unmodulated delivery - now drives his critics batty by exuding a buoyant confidence reminiscent of F.D.R. and Truman. He promised to use America's influence 'confidently in freedom's cause.' He jabbed at today's Thomases: 'Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty, though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt.'"

Krugman Continuing to Rant against Social Security Reform: Anything He Hates Is Universally A Good Thing

Paul Krugman, former advisor to Enron, pseudo-economist, and full time kookin the NYT on Friday:

"Sometimes I do find myself puzzled: why don't privatizers understand that their schemes rest on the peculiar belief that there is a giant free lunch there for the taking?

But then I remember what Upton Sinclair wrote: 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.' " [italics mine-WAA]

Krugman obviously likes this quote because it defines his existence with the NYT and his use of his supposed knowledge of economics. As you may can tell I don't like Krugman at all. Period.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Tom Friedman: An American in Paris

Friedman, who I do enjoy reading and respect although with whom I may disagree from time to time, had this interesting concluding point written for Inauguration Day in his column An American in Paris:

"Funnily enough, the one country on this side of the ocean that would have elected Mr. Bush is not in Europe, but the Middle East: it's Iran, where many young people apparently hunger for Mr. Bush to remove their despotic leaders, the way he did in Iraq.

An Oxford student who had just returned from research in Iran told me that young Iranians were 'loving anything their government hates,' such as Mr. Bush, 'and hating anything their government loves.' Tehran is festooned in 'Down With America' graffiti, the student said, but when he tried to take pictures of it, the Iranian students he was with urged him not to. They said it was just put there by their government and was not how most Iranians felt.

Iran, he said, is the ultimate 'red state.' Go figure. "

This to me unlike perhaps Mr. Friedman meant his "Go figure" is to me a good thing and perhaps a precursor of the President's speech which is billed to be about FREEDOM.

Stating the Important and the Obvious

"Republicans in Congress do have a new, and rare, opportunity. In Mr. Bush, they have a president willing to use his bully pulpit to promote large and long-term reforms, notably on Social Security, health care, liability law, taxes and the judiciary. Doing even two or three of these would be a major achievement."
-Paul Gigot, WSJ

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Brooks on Democrats, Social Security, and His Diagnosis

David Brooks in the NYT on The Gingrich Democrats:
"There is an essential asymmetry in American politics today. There are three conservatives in this country for every two liberals. A Republican can be quite conservative - like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush - and still win the White House. But only one Democratic presidential candidate has won over 50 percent of the vote in the past 40 years (Jimmy Carter got 50.1 percent in 1976).

That means Republicans can rely on their core instincts and still win, while Democrats cannot. If you look at the race for Democratic Party chairman, you get the impression this is a party that understands this and will seek out people who see the world differently.

But if you look at the campaign against Social Security reform in Congress, you see a party still believing the old ideas will work if only they are pursued more ruthlessly.

This is a delusion. Newt Gingrich did help Republicans regain the majority. But that doesn't mean his tactics, even in caricature form, will work for the Democrats, whose problems are deeper. The truth is that Democrats probably need a leader who will make liberals feel uncomfortable, the way Clinton did, not someone who will make them feel righteous and good. "

Monday, January 17, 2005

Benjamin Franklin's Birthday

Today, January 17 is also Benjamin Franklin's birthday. Were he still alive he would be 299 years old today. Next year will be the 300th and Franklin will be our first founding father to reach that point I think. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Martin Luther King Photographs & Quotes

A wonderful collection of photographs from Time is available:Martin Luther King : "PHOTOGRAPHS BY FLIP SCHULKE/CORBIS" and is worth your time to review and remember.

In addition each photo is accompanied with pertinent quotes from Dr. King and for convenience are below as well (but are more meaningful with the photos):

ON NONVIOLENCE (From Birmingham jail, 1963): 'In your statement, you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of the Crucifixion?' "

"ON BLACKS IN AMERICA (From Birmingham jail, 1963): 'Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.' "

"ON NONCOMFORMITY (1963): 'This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. Dangerous passions of pride, hatred and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; truth lies prostrate on the rugged hills of nameless Calvaries. The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.' "

"ON BLACK POWER (1967): 'Today's despair is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow's justice. Black Power is an implicit and often explicit belief in black separatism. Yet behind Black Power's legitimate and necessary concern for group unity and black identity lies the belief that there can be a separate black road to power and fulfillment. Few ideas are more unrealistic. There is no salvation for the Negro through isolation.' "

"ON MARCHING FOR CIVIL RIGHTS (Selma to Montgomery, 1965): 'Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom. Let us march to the realization of the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing. Let us march on segregated schools. Let us march on poverty. Let us march on ballot boxes, march on ballot boxes until race baiters disappear from the political arena, until the Wallaces of our nation tremble away in silence.' "

"ON PEACE (1964): 'Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.' "

"ON THE DREAM OF FREEDOM (1963): 'So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed . . . that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.' "

"ON FREEDOM (1963): 'So let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, let freedom ring. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. And when this happens, when we let it ring, we will speed that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last/Thank God Almighty, we're free at last.' "

"ON HIS OWN FUTURE (April 3, 1968): 'We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. I won't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. ' "

On a personal note, this last speech as troubled me for some time. As you recall, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 one day after he said, "...I've been to the mountaintop....I would like to live a long life....But I'm not concerned....I just want to do God's will.... Dr. King was 39 years old when he was murdered the next day.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Jan 15,1929-April 4,1968)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Posted by Hello

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial day I think it is important that we take some time today and think about who he was, what he did, and most importantly why we honor him and why indeed he really is an American hero.

I was only six years old in 1963 when he wrote the "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" yet I remember seeing him on Walter Cronkite's CBS News; I am not sure I realized he was in the jail or if I thought it was another story somebody wrote. I remember clearly growing up in the south that at my house we said Negro and not the other word used a lot in the South of the '50's, '60's, and sadly even today. I remember 1963 mostly for the Kennedy assassination and the Oswald killing because it was on TV so much (the Ruby attack was almost live as I watched.) I remember 1968 for both Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy's assassinations. I remember a lot of civil unrest and riots in US cities both over racial issues and over the Vietnam war.

What particularly strikes me now looking back is how unimportant the racial side of the violence seemed to me at the time. I knew people, especially family, in Vietnam and that was very real to me but racial conflict seemed more distant from my world than the war. I was well read at an early age and had read a lot of history (my history text was "The War Between the States" not "The Civil War") and quite a bit of literature that explained more about black and white relations than my own experience ever could. I knew Martin Luther King was a very good speaker and that he stood up for Negro rights but I had no clue of the "black experience" or however I should refer to it today.

With more knowledge and an appreciation of Dr. King's speeches, writings and particularly the volatile nature of the situation in those times I see what he as a leader accomplished. I can't imagine anyone in today's news doing what he was able to do. Also looking back it is indeed remarkable that he won (deservedly so unlike Pres. Carter but I'll save that for another day.) in 1964 at the age of 35.

Much more in following posts with examples and comments on his major writing, positions, and what it means in this century.

A Boy Named Yahoo!

This a true story and not about a boy named Sue. It's a Boy!:

"BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A Romanian couple named their son Yahoo as a sign of gratitude for meeting over the Internet, a Bucharest newspaper said Thursday.

Daily Libertatea said Cornelia and Nonu Dragoman, both from Transylvania, met and decided they were meant for each other following a three-month relationship over the net.

They married and had a baby this Christmas, whom they decided to name after one of the worldwide web's most popular portals. 'We named him Lucian Yahoo after my father and the net, the main beacon of my life,' Cornelia Dragoman was quoted as saying."

The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Now the Bushes

The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Now the Bushes:

"By any objective measure, political scholars say, Bush is a name that belongs next to Adams, Kennedy and Roosevelt as a force whose influence spans decades. "

And a great comment from George H.W. Bush: "'Remember when Ann Richards said George Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth?' he asked writer Hugh Sidey. 'And then when George beat her in his first run for governor, I must say I felt a certain sense of joy that he finally had kind of taken her down, I could go around saying, 'We showed her what she could do with that silver foot, where she could stick that now.' ' "

Bill Safire on Blogs and Cheering "The Depressed Press"

William Safire today in The New York Times: The Depressed Press:

"Despite the recent lapses at CBS and previous mishaps at The Times and USA Today, here's why mainstream journalism has a future.
1. On the challenge from bloggers: The 'platform' - print, TV, Internet, telepathy, whatever - will change, but the public hunger for reliable information will grow. Blogs will compete with op-ed columns for 'views you can use,' and the best will morph out of the pajama game to deliver serious analysis and fresh information, someday prospering with ads and subscriptions. The prospect of profit will bring bloggers in from the meanstream to the mainstream center of comment and local news coverage.
On national or global events, however, the news consumer needs trained reporters on the scene to transmit facts and trustworthy editors to judge significance. In crises, large media gathering-places are needed to respond to a need for national community"

He has several more reasons but he clearly knows the world has changed. Maybe Mr. Safire (whom I really like) will start blogging upon his pending retirement.