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Wuh-ho-ho Wait a second

Wuh-ho-ho … Wait a second, w-a-i-t a second ...

Remember James (aka Yousef) Yee, the Chinese-American convert to Islam who served as a Muslim chaplain for detainees at Guantanamo Bay?

Last time we heard about him he was at the center of an espionage scandal, in which he was accused of aiding, or passing messages for, or in some way assisting his co-religionists in military custody at Camp X-Ray.

Well, apparently not.

Now we hear that he has been charged with adultery and having pornographic material in his possession; the espionage accusations are apparently yesterday’s news. And the Army is letting him go back to serving as a military chaplain at Fort Benning, with the only bar being that he can’t have contact with any of the dudes at Guantanamo.

Now, I’m not naïve enough to doubt that even the faithful can have cheating hearts or fall prey to the allure of saucy pictures. But does this add up exactly? I mean, is Yee an Islamic extremist or a philandering pornmeister? Which is it?

On the surface at least this sounds a lot like those first changes turned out to be bogus and that the military investigators were looking for some other charges to hit him with to prevent too humiliating a climb-down.

It’s true of course that charges are sometimes never brought in espionage cases because sufficient evidence doesn’t exist to sustain a conviction or the evidence can’t be used --- even in military trial --- for fear of further compromising national security. But if the Army still had any serious suspicion that Yee was an al Qaida mole I find it pretty hard to believe that they’d let him continue to serve as a chaplain anywhere.

I doubt we've heard the last of this story.

Yet another laugh-test failure

Yet another laugh-test failure ...

Nick Smith, the Republican congressman from Michigan's 7th district, says House GOP leaders threatened to support candidates running against his son if he didn't vote for the Medicare bill that just raced through the Congress.

(Smith's son, Brad, is running to replace his dad, who is retiring at the end of this term.)

Au contraire! says John Freehery, a spokesman for Speaker Denny Hastert. "What the speaker said," according to Freehery, "was that a vote on this would help him and help his son because it would be a popular vote."

Yeah ...

With so much happening

With so much happening in America and Iraq, I had only dimly noticed the crisis brewing and then finally coming to a seemingly happy conclusion in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. On Sunday night longtime Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze -- whose dominance in the country/republic stretched far back into the Soviet era -- resigned amid massive, but peaceful, popular protests. This article in Tuesday's Washington Post describes the way the Georgian opposition very consciously modeled its effort on the recent revolution in Serbia.

Interesting. In an earlier

Interesting. In an earlier<$Ad$> post I said that I didn't put that much stock in polls by SurveyUSA because they don't use people to conduct their polls, but an automated response system.

A lot of people in the public opinion and poll business share my skepticism. But an academic public opinion researcher, Joel David Bloom, did a study of their results and found them about as reliable as the rest. Here's the key graf ...

Looking at SurveyUSA, they too stuck with Carnahan in Missouri, and had both Carolinas much tighter than they actually were. But they were right in Colorado, and had the margins closer elsewhere. Interestingly, they were not in as many close states as Zogby, so the fact that 85% of their polls had the correct winner should not be taken too far. Unlike Zogby, or nonpartisan pollsters in general, SurveyUSA did show a net pro-Democratic bias of around 2 points, but by every other measure they performed as well as or better than other nonpartisan firms. Thus, as much as academic survey researchers may have wished to see SurveyUSA under-perform the field, they clearly did not, and may have actually done better than average.

I remain skeptical. But those are interesting numbers.

An update on Khidhir

An update on Khidhir Hamza.

A reader who is close to Hamza writes in to suggest that Hamza's lack of visibility of late <$Ad$>is due to concerns for his security rather any effort to duck questions from the media.

This seems reasonable to me. Clearly, all Iraqis who are working with the Americans are under threat. And I imagine that the threat is all the more severe for someone so prominently connected with the push for regime change.

So, point taken.

However, that doesn't change the very real need for some explanation from Hamza for why his pre-war claims about Iraq's nuclear program are so difficult to reconcile with the evidence we've found (or rather not found) on the ground in Iraq since April.

A slew of readers

A slew of readers have written in to note that -- contrary to my post below -- there is a new poll out fron Iowa. And it has Howard Dean back out in front of Dick Gephardt by 5%.

As I noted earlier, the Des Moines Register poll showing Gephardt jumping ahead of Dean left me wanting more data to confirm that this wasn't simply an outlier. That poll seemed to showing a cresting of Dean's support in the state. And I haven't seen other signs of that.

However, the new poll by SurveysUSA doesn't change my opinion. Why? Because it is based on a methodology (no human poll-taker, just an automated phone system) I find suspect and the Des Moines Register survey has a long track-record and is highly respected.

So, it's another data-point. And it's more recent. But I'm still waiting for more data. Particularly, for another poll from the Des Moines Register.

Meanwhile aside from Dean

Meanwhile, aside from Dean, the two Democratic candidates who seem to have some new life in them are Clark and, to my great surprise, Dick Gephardt.

When Gephardt threw his hat in the ring last November I mocked him rather mercilessly. But the biggest news I've seen of late was the early November Des Moines Register poll which showed Gephardt opening up a 7 point lead over Dean.

Since that poll ran, I've been waiting for a follow-up to see whether that sounding was an outlier or whether Gephardt really has turned a corner on Dean in Iowa. (Dean's campaign clearly sees Gephardt's momentum, as evidenced by their decision to run a round of anti-Gephardt ads in the state.) But I'm still waiting to see more poll data.

A few things are worth saying about these two candidates in Iowa. Iowa should be a Gephardt state. So, to an extent, his strength there only shows that his candidacy is holding on. On the other hand, as the frontrunner and with the kind of campaign he's running -- one geared to grassroots support -- Dean needs to win there too. Wearing the frontrunner crown changes all the expectations. A Gephardt win in Iowa would be a very big deal on a number of counts.

On Clark, a few weeks back I said that Clark had no campaign, no message, not no nuthin', but close. Now, he finally seems to have one. He's running ads, showing up on the shows -- the fundraising is decent. He gave a solid foreign policy speech and, in general, his operation is putting together a clear and consistent message.

How consistent this remains and how much traction he gains remains to be seen.

Wow. Thats not a

Wow. That's not a good sign -- if you're John Kerry, that is. A new Boston Herald poll has Howard Dean beating Kerry 33% to 24% in Massachusetts. That comes on the heels of a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll which had Dean beating Kerry 27% to 24%.

The only small silver lining for the Massachusetts senator is that I suspect it's been this way for some time. It's just that no one has done a public poll in the state on the Dem primary race in months.

Heres another important detail

Here's another important detail -- posted on TNR's blog -- on the scamliness of the Medicare bill careening through Congress. And yes I've already trademarked the word ("scamliness") for exclusive use on TPM.

The sort of myopic

The sort of myopic foolery of which Washington is made ...

In an otherwise half-sensible Washington Post editorial about the megaphone of wealth in our political discourse ("Mr. Soros's Millions"), the Post editorialists lets this sentence fly ...

For Democrats thrilled with the Soros millions, imagine conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife opening his bank account on behalf of Mr. Bush.

Yes, imagine that.

Perhaps <$Ad$>whoever wrote this clunker needs to familiarize themselves with Mr. Scaife's giving to myriad conservative causes (think tanks, publications, pressure groups, etc.) throughout the 1990s, and before, and since.

Those of course contributed significantly to the Republican victories in 2002, and in other elections -- just as Democrats hope that Soros' largesse will contribute to hoped-for future triumphs.

The shoe momentarily finds itself on the other foot and suddenly the Post is gripped with the need to reform the non-existent disclosure requirements for giving to think-tanks and other forms of quasi-political giving. (Perhaps they should pick up a copy of John Judis' The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of the Public Trust to get their footing.)

Read the editorial, let the fullness of the myopia roll over you, and you'll learn a lot about how elite opinion works in this city, and its essential corruption.

A Special Thanks to TPM reader DL for the tip.