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From ABCNews ...Consumer advocate

From ABCNews ...

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader's quixotic presidential campaign says it submitted about 5,400 signatures to get on the Michigan ballot, far short of the required number of 30,000. Luckily for him, approximately 43,000 signatures were filed by Michigan Republicans on his behalf, more than meeting the requirement.

Speaks for itself.

Idiots ...

Harry Jaffe has an

Harry Jaffe has an interesting piece in the Washingtonian about the declining circulation of the Washington Post.

That might not sound like such a big surprise since the decline in newspaper readership in the face of competition from electronic media is almost a cliche. Yet, Jaffe notes that the Times, the Boston Globe and USA Today are all gaining readers. And according to statistics Jaffe cites, the Post was one of only two papers in the top ten nationwide to lose circulation last year.

The article speculates on, but doesn't quite arrive at an explanation of why this is happening. And the thrust of the piece is that Post management can't figure it out either.

The broad story seems to be that the newspaper world, which was once built on big city newspapers, is polarizing towards a crop of, in effect, national newspapers and a larger universe of much smaller ones that are intensely local in their focus. The Post, for a series of reasons, seems to be getting caught betwixt and between by that polarizing trend.

One personal note, though, that I should add. I'm sometimes caustically critical of the Post -- particularly a few specific reporters and members of the editorial page. And I've always had an instinctive preference for the New York Times, though I freely grant that's in part a matter of cultural prejudice of a sort. When I'm travelling or getting on a train and want something to read, for instance, I'll almost always grab the Times rather than the Post.

Yet, writing TPM day in and day out for years now has given me a certain brass-tacks way of evaluating the quality of reportage over time. Allow me to explain. I do a fair amount of original reporting for this site. But most of what I do is, inevitably, a matter of mining other news sources for bits and pieces of information and piecing them together with other pieces of information, showing too-little-noticed connections or explaining or trying to interpret their meaning.

Over time you get a good sense of which news outlets consistently generate new information and which don't. And by this measure -- on the issues I follow closely, which I'd say are foreign policy, defense policy, intelligence and national politics -- the Post consistently outclasses the Times, particularly on the first three topics. When it comes to who's generating fresh information rather than summarizing the story a few days later or relying on hand-fed stories, my experience putting together this site tells me I usually end up finding new information -- which stands up over time -- in the Post.

Needless to say there are a number of Times reporters on these topics who are first-rate, peerless and a number at the Post who, to put it coarsely, suck. But on balance -- and to some degree to my surprise -- that's my experience.

A different take see

A different take (see post from last night) on what the new presidential Air National Guard payroll records mean -- this from Reuters: "Some of President Bush's missing Air National Guard records during the Vietnam War years, previously said to be destroyed, turned up on Friday but offered no new evidence to dispel charges by Democrats that he was absent without leave."

Of course, the fact that the White House has wrangled this issue down to poring over a million different records that I myself can hardly keep track of means they've largely neutralized this issue through that classic Washington method of the death of a thousand docs.

An article in the

An article in the Post reports that a special prosecutor in Mexico, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, has asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant for former Mexican President Luis Echeverria. The charges involve an attack in 1971 in which security forces killed at least thirty student protestors in Mexico City.

As the article notes, "bringing charges against Echeverria also marks a milestone in Mexico's efforts to investigate the government's so-called dirty war against pro-democracy activists from the 1960s to the 1980s."

What strikes me though is that the crime he would be charged with is "genocide."

I know the definition of 'genocide' is a highly contested matter -- in philosophical, political and legal contexts -- particularly in emerging international law. The term can be highly mutable. And, of course, withholding the term 'genocide' in no way mitigates or excuses state-terror or political murders used as a tool of repression. But its use in cases such as these seems to blur it almost beyond recognition.

Merriam-Webster defines the term as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group."

A couple weeks ago

A couple weeks ago we noted reports that a group of payroll records, which might have clarified President Bush's Guard service during a part of 1972, had been "inadvertently destroyed" in a tragic microfilm accident.

That grabbed my attention because from my history research days I knew that the sort of microfilm accident described is exceedingly rare. Indeed, this is the reason so many institutions still use microfilm, even though its been around for something like a century -- because of its excellent archival value, which for various reasons still far outpaces various new digital storage media.

Today though we have an example of just how archival microfilm is. Even after having been destroyed, the files in question managed to turn up at the Pentagon late Friday afternoon.

Now that is archival!

In any case, as announced this afternoon the announcement that the documents in question had been "inadvertently destroyed" itself turned out to be the product of an "inadvertent oversight." (And, no, in case you're wondering, I'm not making this up. Those are quotes.)

And the AP has written the story up with this lede ...

The Pentagon on Friday released newly discovered payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, though the records shed no new light on the future president's activities during that summer.

A Pentagon official said the earlier contention that the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."

Like records released earlier by the White House, these computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no guard service for Bush during those three months.

The records do not give any new information about Bush's National Guard training during 1972, when he transferred to the Alabama National Guard unit so he could work on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend. The payroll records do not say definitively whether Bush attended training that summer because they are maintained separately from attendance records.

I have to say that I think I'm with Atrios on this one: I don't understand.

I concede the point that payroll records may have been wrong, or rather simply not have recorded times when the future president showed up for duty. But no new information? These new documents seem to provide at least some added confirmation that the president never showed up for drills as he said he did, right? What am I missing?

Recently many TPM readers

Recently, many TPM readers have written in to tell me that they thought the broadside of attacks against Joe Wilson might be timed to blunt, head off, or someway affect expected indictments in the Plame affair. I discounted that notion -- in part because it wasn't that clear to me that the administration had much to worry about in that regard. The Journal has made it pretty clear they'd like to use the recent furor to get friends in the Vice President's office off the hook. But whatever you think of Joe Wilson, the White House -- and conservatives generally -- have plenty of reasons for trying to discredit him besides the the Fitzgerald investigation.

Now, though, I'm not so sure.

Today there's an article in the Washington Times entitled 'CIA officer named prior to column'. The article says that Plame's name was twice compromised prior to the Novak column -- once by a Russian spy in 1990s and then again in a snafu when a bundle of documents sent to the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Havana were sent unsealed, and apparently read by the Cubans.

First of all, this isn't even news -- at least not the more sensational example.

As was reported here and elsewhere almost a year ago, Plame's identity may have been compromised by CIA arch-turncoat Aldrich Ames. My understanding is that there was a range of agents and assets that the CIA wasn't sure Ames had compromised or not. And she was in that category, thus leading her bosses to avoid placing her and others in her position in more vulnerable positions. As for the other example, I've never heard of it before.

These are interesting details, to be sure. But if you read the article the angle of the piece is definitely along line of arguing that this undermines any legal case against the potential leakers.

To quote the last three grafs of the piece ...

However, officials said the disclosure that Mrs. Plame's cover was blown before the news column undermines the prosecution of the government official who might have revealed the name, officials said.

"The law says that to be covered by the act the intelligence community has to take steps to affirmatively protect someone's cover," one official said. "In this case, the CIA failed to do that."

A second official, however, said the compromises before the news column were not publicized and thus should not affect the investigation of the Plame matter.

There does seem to be a rush of articles aimed not simply at discrediting Wilson but specifically at arguing that there is no legal basis for a prosecution of the folks who leaked Plame's name. Who's so concerned? It makes me wonder.

A difference of opinion

A difference of opinion between Tucker Carlson <$NoAd$>and the 9/11 Commission ...

There is nothing random about the documents he took. Berger stripped the files of every single copy of a single memo which detailed the Clinton administration's response to the Y2K terror threat.

Tucker Carlson
July 22nd 2004

Then there's 9/11 Commissioners Gorelick and Gorton ...

DOBBS: Let me ask you, not necessarily directly on point, but certainly related. Sandy Berger, the former head of the national security -- national security adviser under the Clinton administration, accused of, and admitting taking classified documents from the National Archives, those notes, whether copies or originals still unclear. Did the commission review that material, to what -- can you shed any light on what happened there? Slade Gorton, first.

GORTON: Well, we can't shed any light on exactly what happened there and on Sandy Berger's troubles with the Justice Department and the Archives. What we can say unequivocally is we had all of that information. We have every one of those documents. All of them have -- are infused in and are a part of our report.

DOBBS: So the commission was denied no information as a result of whatever Sandy Berger did or did not do at the National Archives?

GORTON: That's precisely correct.

GORELICK: And we have been so assured by the Justice Department.

Dobbs, Gorton & Gorelick
Lou Dobbs Tonight
July 22nd 2004


Dick Cheney the multilateral

Dick Cheney, the multilateral <$NoAd$>years ...

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20, 1998

Former United States Defence Secretary Dick Cheney today hit out at his government for imposing unilateral economic sanctions like the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, saying they have been "ineffective, did not provide the desired results and a bad policy".

"I have made it clear that our (the US unilateral) sanctions policy is wrong," he said when asked to comment on the Iran-Libya Act which contains provisions for sanctions to be imposed by the US against foreign companies making investment beyond US$20 million a year in the oil and gas sector of the targeted countries.

Malaysia, which is against the extra-territorial law, has said that Petronas and other Malaysian companies will continue to invest abroad despite the US threat of sanctions under the Act.

Petronas is currently involved in a US$2 billion gas field project in Iran undertaken jointly with SA Total of France and Gazprom of Russia.

Speaking to reporters after calling on Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister's office here, Cheney, who is now the chairman and CEO of Halliburton, said: "The US needs to be much more restraint then we have been in terms of pursuing unilateral economic sanctions."

Cheney, who served under the Bush administration between 1989 and 1993, however said the multilateral economic sanctions imposed by the international community on Iraq were "appropriate".

"I disagree with the current law (Iran-Libya Sanctions Act) but my company will comply with the rule (Act)," he said.

He said he also disagreed with the unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar and Arzerbaijan.

See this article for more on the grand jury investigation into whether Halliburton broke the Iranian sanctions law.

For what it's worth, I think the promiscuous use of unilateral economic sanctions probably is a bad idea -- an example of the capricious and shortsighted use of American power that limits our ability to deal forcefully with real problems by antagonizing allies and frittering away diplomatic capital with silliness like the continuing sanctions against Cuba, among other examples.

Do permissive social policies

Do permissive social policies make you taller? Does eating herring do it?

According to Reuters: "The Dutch are nearly four inches taller on average than the British and Americans, and almost six inches taller than they were four decades ago."