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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 31 March 2004

Topic: Science

Leadership is Not Ever Changing your Mind - No Matter What - This Team Does NOT Flip-Flop!

See Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism
Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense
Robin Wright, The Washington Post, Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A01

The nasty point being made here?
On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.

The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.

The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.

The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.
Well, it seems the Post doesn't want to cut Condoleezza any slack here.

I'm not sure how the White House is going to punish the Post for pointing this out.

What I think is more telling is this editorial from the New York Times today - in part:
The Pentagon is foolishly racing to deliver on President Bush's grandiose 2000 campaign promise to have a still unproven, money-munching missile defense system deployed in time for the November election. It's supposed to provide protection against incoming ballistic missiles. But, so far, the rush into the old "Star Wars" dream amounts to an extravagant political shield.

The administration's obstinate intent is to fill the first silos in Alaska as early as this summer, even though the complex project -- a composite of 10 separate systems for high-tech defense -- is years from being fully tested or built. Plagued with cost overruns and technical failures, the overall missile defense program's main feat of rocketry has been its price tag: roughly $130 billion already spent, and $53 billion planned for the next five years.

Mr. Bush ought to pay attention to the powerful advice just offered by a group of 49 retired generals and admirals who say he should shelve his fantasy start-up plan. They urge that the money for that project be spent instead on bolstering antiterrorist defenses at American ports, borders and nuclear weapons depots. As things stand now, the administration is again looking for showy but questionable ways to reinforce Mr. Bush's identity as a wartime president, while ignoring sensible and effective low-tech strategies to reinforce homeland security.

There is no denying the theoretical virtue of a missile shield, considering the threat that North Korea or some other rogue nation may eventually present to the United States mainland. But the retired brass, who served in the highest precincts of the Pentagon, argue sensibly that the money for the project scheduled for early deployment, $3.7 billion of the $10.2 billion the president plans to spend next year for missile-shield projects, should be diverted to protecting parts of the American mainland that could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Yeah, yeah.

Could this Richard Clarke fellow actually be right about something here, whatever his motives, in spite of his abrasive personality, and in spite of the new rumors he may be a homosexual?

Perhaps there is a ragtag band of fanatics out to kill us - and they actually don't have any intercontinental ballistic or guided middles. Could be.

Well, on the other hand, perhaps we should let our leaders tell us what we really should fear. We should worry more about incoming missiles from North Korea or Venezuela or wherever? I guess. After all, who knows to whom our ally Pakistan sold the technology - and they did admit Iran and North Korea and Libya. And then the Pakistani president pardoned the general who sold the technology all over. Oh well.

So the word is Clarke is wrong. It's the incoming guided missiles with nuclear warheads. That's the big worry - and if you remember the State of the Union Address you should also worry about steroids being used in professional sports, and whether the two gay guys who live down the street might actually try to marry each other. Serious stuff.

And what is the Times talking about?

Try this: Bush's Latest Missile-Defense Folly: Why spend billions on a system that might never work?
Fred Kaplan, SLATE.COM - Posted Friday, March 12, 2004, at 2:48 PM PT

Fred's take?
Forces are finally converging for a genuine debate on President Bush's missile-defense program. The Republican-controlled Congress is looking for ways to cut $9 billion from the military budget (which, at $420 billion, is getting unmanageable even for hawkish tastes). It's becoming painfully clear that rogues and terrorists are more likely to attack us with planes and trains than with nuclear missiles. And a recent series of technical studies--bolstered on Thursday by a high-profile Senate hearing--has dramatized just how difficult, if not impossible, this project is going to be.

Bush's budget for next year includes $10.7 billion for missile defense - over twice as much money as for any other single weapons system. This summer, he's planning to start deploying the first components of an MD system - six anti-missile missiles in Alaska, four in California, and as many as 20 more, in locations not yet chosen, the following year.

Yet, except by sheer luck, these interceptors will not be able to shoot down enemy missiles. Or, to put it more precisely, Bush is starting to deploy very expensive weapons without the slightest bit of evidence that they have any chance of working.
No, really?
In the past six years of flight tests, here is what the Pentagon's missile-defense agency has demonstrated: A missile can hit another missile in mid-air as long as a) the operators know exactly where the target missile has come from and where it's going; b) the target missile is flying at a slower-than-normal speed; c) it's transmitting a special beam that exaggerates its radar signature, thus making it easier to track; d) only one target missile has been launched; and e) the "attack" happens in daylight.

Beyond that, the program's managers know nothing - in part because they have never run a test that goes beyond this heavily scripted (it would not be too strong to call it "rigged") scenario.
But Fred, the system could work... maybe. You've got to have faith. And this is, after all, a faith-based presidency.

And that bring us back to Condoleezza Rice and the speech she never gave on 11 September 2001 - explaining why we need to spend this enormous amount of money on something we cannot prove actually works, but might, if you think positive thoughts and have the right attitude. You cannot be narrow-minded and obsessed with the idea that there are all these dangerous terrorists out there. See the broader picture.

Okay, if one drops the sarcasm, there is a nuclear missile threat. How big a threat and how immediate? Hard to say.

But the solution to this threat doesn't work yet, and may never work. And we're deploying this system NOW - before the November election?

This, on the face of it, seems quite foolish, even if this does keep thousands of engineers and scientists here in Southern California employed. Things would be a lot more grim out here in la-la land without all this new money pouring into Boeing (Huntington Beach), Raytheon (Fullerton) and TRW (Manhattan Beach) - not to mention all the local sub-contractors.

So, the Post may be trying to make Rice look bad by mentioning this speech she never gave about this Son of Star Wars system that is costing so much and seems directed at a secondary, not primary problem. But I'd bet she'd give the same speech today, if asked, and she will certainly make the same assertion late next week when she testifies in public, under oath, to the 9-11 Commission. Clarke may have guessed right about 9-11 but was just lucky. That was an anomaly. She knows the real treat and where our efforts should go.

But, damn, it's a lot of money. And it doesn't really work.

Well, this crew, Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest, must know best. Or so I'm told. It just keeps getting harder to keep the faith.

Posted by Alan at 22:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Topic: For policy wonks...

THE STARBUCKS PAPERS - The policies of our government driven by girly coffee-like drinks...

Here's the story...

See Found notes may show Bush plan on Clarke
Pamela Hess, UPI Pentagon Correspondent - Published 3/31/2004 12:37 PM

The basics -
WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- The White House was worried about the damaging testimony of a former counter-terrorism chief to a commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks last week but was trying to let the issue die on its own, according to Pentagon briefing notes found at a Washington coffee shop.

"Stay inside the lines. We don't need to puff this (up). We need (to) be careful as hell about it," the handwritten notes say. "This thing will go away soon and what will keep it alive will be one of us going over the line."

The notes were written by Pentagon political appointee Eric Ruff who left them in a Starbucks coffee shop in Dupont Circle, not far from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's home.
The notes are genuine, a Pentagon official said. They were compiled for an early morning briefing for Rumsfeld before the Sunday morning talk shows, during which administration officials conducted a flurry of interviews to counter the testimony of Richard Clarke, President George W. Bush's former terrorism czar who left the post in 2003. Rumsfeld appeared on Fox and ABC.

The Starbucks customer who found them gave them to the liberal advocacy group the Center for American Progress, which published them on its Web site Wednesday. Included in the notes was a hand-drawn map to Rumsfeld's house, which is largely blacked out on the Web site for security reasons. ...
The folks over at The Center For American Progress have these documents available here in PDF format. (You'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader to download them. But that's free - and virus free.)

I downloaded them. They are amusing, but not that terribly interesting. It just seems odd that this fellow managed to leave them on the table at Starbucks.

Eric will get a scolding. But it's not like this is classified stuff or anything. It's what everyone agreed Rumsfeld should say and, damn, he said it. No conspiracy or evil stuff here - just a careless staffer who needed a fancy, trendy coffee concoction. Consider these notes historical minutiae - a souvenir of these heady days of empire.

Posted by Alan at 20:21 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Tuesday, 30 March 2004

Topic: Bush

Today's big story - just some comments...
Most people are far too old to remember the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy.


The White House said today, Tuesday, that the 9-11 commission agreed to terms that would allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to give sworn public testimony on the September 11 attacks, and President Bush and Vice President Cheney to meet in private with the full panel.

Bush in a television statement to the country this afternoon said this would help give Americans "a complete picture" of events leading to the attacks on 11 September 2001. He took no questions. He just read his statement and walked out. Hey, what else is there to say, after all?

Yes, this offer has been made on condition that it will not set a precedent. Previously, of course, these guys had insisted that Rice could only meet the commission in private for "unsworn conversations" - she could, as they say, visit with the commission again, as she did before. But testimony under oath - and in public - would "contravene" the constitutional separation of powers.

Now they've changed their minds. And this might be okay.

The always frightened-looking White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters the commission had agreed to state in writing that neither appearance would set a precedent under the constitutional separation of executive and legislative powers. Fine, Scott, we get it.

But it's a curious deal. And in a deal you give some and you get some.

Rice will now testify in public, under oath. BUT this will not set a precedent, and she cannot be called back, AND the commission also agreed they would not call any other "private advisors" to the president at all from here on out. You give a little - you get a little.

But what's this about the president and the vice president testifying? What's that about?

As you recall, previously each had agreed only to individual "visits" with the two co-chairs of the ten member panel, not the full ten-member panel, and only for one hour each, and not under oath, and with no written record of the what was said - no note-taking or any of that stuff.

Now that's changed. It will still be a private meeting. But the time limit is gone. And they'll answer questions from the full ten-member panel. And oddly enough, someone will actually take notes for the record.

The administration's attorney sent a letter explaining...
I would also like to take this occasion to offer an accommodation on another issue on which we have not yet reached an agreement - commission access to the president and vice president. I am authorized to advise you that the president and vice president have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 commissioners, with one commission staff member present to take notes of the session.
Now that is odd. I guess the administration got tired of ten days of being hammered in the press for seeming so uncooperative, as if they all had something to hide. Well, this is a counter to that. And it seems a good thing for both sides.

But why is this is this a joint session? Why can't the president and the vice-president meet with the Commission members separately? Is there some other constitutional issue regarding the president and vice-president needing to appear jointly? What could that be?

Well, if this is the only way to get the full testimony in front of the full commission, then this will have to do. And to be fair, no one seems too upset by the idea. It's not a big deal.

But this joint appearance business could be the real political misstep here.

This requirement for a joint appearance - Cheney sitting beside Bush - might lead some to conclude the Bush is afraid to face these ten questioners without Dick Cheney by his side to tell him what he was thinking back then, and to tell him what he did back then, and to remind him of why he did whatever it was that he did back then -- so Bush can coherently answer the questions posed to him. You could get that idea. And that looks bad.

But then again, most people are far too old to remember the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy. Some of us do.

The problem is that this just makes Bush look as if he cannot think for himself or explain himself in a tight spot. Many think that's true, but what is the alternative?

I guess, after Bush's less-than-impressive hour with Tim Russert on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, Bush's handlers figured out it's better to have a clever wooden puppet out front than a smirking frat-boy all on his own, who doesn't quite understand the questions. So it's a trade-off. And he cannot bring his daddy to bail him out. Uncle Dick will do.
___

But there will be testimony. There has been a reversal here, with quite odd caveats of course.

What is going on?

Even Aaron Brown on the often-bland CNN has this to say.
There are problems you can't avoid and then there are problems that you create and we submit that the White House's problems with the 9/11 commission fall into that latter group. There never should have been any, at least not big ones, and there still has been hardly anything but big problems for the White House.

The White House opposed the creation of the commission, preferring it be left to Congress. The families objected. Polls showed the country did as well. The president gave in.

The White House resisted documents the commission said it needed and, after a nasty public spat, the White House relented again. When the commission said it needed more time, 60 more days to do its work, the White House again said no and, again under political pressure relented.

And now today, after weeks of saying no to public testimony by his national security adviser and absorbing all the political heats that position entailed, the president gave in again. The president, a very sharp politician, has been slow to learn that where the commission is concerned resistance, to steal a phrase, is futile and should be.
When this sort of thing hits the mainstream Bush needs to do some damage control.

Posted by Alan at 19:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 31 March 2004 09:07 PST home


Topic: Bush

On getting your enemies...
Of note today, Paul Krugman in the Times pulls together a lot of threads that have been a bit troubling. In the play Lady Macbeth tells her husband not to worry - just get some sleep, because "sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care." Well these loose threads will still be loose after any number of naps. And when awake, one notices such things.

See This Isn't America
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Krugman opens with this:
Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."

So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power.
Now that is funny! And this is our ally. The implication is the game is over. The whole world is onto us- as in the title of the Sartre play, Les Jeux Son Fait.

Krugman's point is that the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies provides more evidence of "something rotten in the state of our government." Yeah, echo Hamlet, Paul.

Krugman contends that among experts, what Clarke says about Mr. Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources - including Bush at War, by Bob Woodward. That's the book I called a puff piece recently. And Krugman cites sources other than Clarke (and Paul O'Neill) saying Bush had a Jones for Saddam Hussein and Iraq that keep us from being overly worried about Al Qaeda and all that state-free terrorism stuff. Yes, yesterday in USA Today you get stuff like this - "In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures."

So, if the facts Clarke brings up, facts other sources confirm, cannot be disputed, the mode becomes character assassination.

How does the press handle this? Here's Krugman:
Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."
Yes, I see today all over the net the rumblings are out there that Clarke is secretly a homosexual. Well, Bob Novak and Ann Coulter have already started the campaign to call him a racist who hates black folks, particularly black women. ( See Public Relations and Political Gain - Getting the Tone Right for that.)

But is it really wrong for Bush and his crew to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics? Senator Bill Frist suggests that Clarke may have committed perjury and wonders if previous testimony to congress should be declassified to see if this is so. Clarke says fine, declassify it all. Ha! But then this from NBC News -
U.S. officials told NBC News that the full record of Clarke's testimony two years ago would not be declassified. They said that at the request of the White House, however, the CIA was going through the transcript to see what could be declassified, with an eye toward pointing out contradictions.
Yeah, cut and paste is much more fair. Skip the silly context, rearrange the sequence and shuffle the words. Pretty blatant, but folks will love it. It's what this gay racist queen deserves? Maybe so.

Krugman points out that this perjury business reminds folks of the White House's reaction to revelations by the former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: an immediate investigation into whether he had revealed classified information. He didn't. The best they could come up with is that the stuff SHOULD have been classified but, well, really wasn't. Paul implicitly SHOULD have thought about that - damned traitor! And yes, Krugman is right - the "alacrity with which this investigation was opened was, of course, in sharp contrast with the administration's evident lack of interest in finding out who leaked the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame to Bob Novak."

Oh well. The leak was a felony. So what? They'll get around to that issue later.

Anything else, Paul?
... A few examples: according to The Hill, Republican lawmakers threatened to cut off funds for the General Accounting Office unless it dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney. The Washington Post says Representative Michael Oxley told lobbyists that "a Congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican." Tom DeLay used the Homeland Security Department to track down Democrats trying to prevent redistricting in Texas. And Medicare is spending millions of dollars on misleading ads for the new drug benefit -- ads that look like news reports and also serve as commercials for the Bush campaign.
Yeah, yeah. That's politics. Terrorism is more important.

Krugman gives us this:
On the terrorism front, here's one story that deserves special mention. One of the few successful post-9/11 terror prosecutions -- a case in Detroit -- seems to be unraveling. The government withheld information from the defense, and witnesses unfavorable to the prosecution were deported (by accident, the government says). After the former lead prosecutor complained about the Justice Department's handling of the case, he suddenly found himself facing an internal investigation -- and someone leaked the fact that he was under investigation to the press.
Hey, you don't mess with John Ashcroft. John Ashcroft says his only king is Jesus. The two of them make a team you don't want to pick a fight with.

Krugman asks where this will all end and quotes John Dean (remember him from Watergate?) in his new book Worse Than Watergate - "I've been watching all the elements fall into place for two possible political catastrophes, one that will take the air out of the Bush-Cheney balloon and the other, far more disquieting, that will take the air out of democracy."

But not if we sleep through it all.

Posted by Alan at 09:42 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 30 March 2004 20:03 PST home

Monday, 29 March 2004

Topic: Oddities

Slicing and dicing odd kinds of data... facts are not the same thing as intelligence?

So... plug in you zip code here.

Just click on Zip-Code Look Up for all sorts of information.

The premise is clear.
People living in the same neighborhoods tend to have similar lifestyles, proving the old adage that "birds of a feather flock together" still holds true. To a large extent, you are where you live!

PRIZM NE, Claritas' newest segmentation system, defines every neighborhood in the U.S. in terms of 66 distinct lifestyle types using ground-breaking segmentation techniques. You can get a first look at your neighborhood using PRIZM NE using MyBestSegments.com-and you can still access the lifestyle detail of Claritas' legacy systems, PRIZM and MicroVision.

Select the segmentation system you prefer and enter your 5-digit ZIP Code - you'll get your neighborhood's top five segments, along with some descriptive detail about each segment's lifestyle traits.
My zip code (90046) is cool -

I see the count for my neighborhood, according to PRIZM NE, is this:

31 Urban Achievers
16 Bohemian Mix
59 Urban Elders
03 Movers & Shakers
01 Upper Crust

Let's assume I'm an Urban Elder -

US Households: 1,429,902 (1.33%)
US Population: 3,496,741 (1.22%)
Median HH Income: $25,866

Lifestyle Traits
1. Shop at Banana Republic
2. Collect stamps
3. Watch Steve Harvey show
4. Watch Daytime TV
5. Drive a Dodge Neon

Demographics Traits:
Ethnic Diversity: High Black, Asian and Hispanic
Family Types: Singles
Age Ranges: 55+
Education Levels: Elementary/H.S.
Employment Levels: Service, BC, WC,
Housing Types: Renters
Urbanicity: Urban
Income: Poor

Nope, that doesn't work....

Well, a year and a half ago when attending a wedding in the bayous south of New Orleans, I rented a Dodge Neon. It was a nice little car. But this is not me. I don't collect stamps

So I toggle to LifeP$YCLE and get this population distribution for my zip code:

19 Affluent Renting Equity Beginners
55 Downscale Metro Lower Market
03 Metro Estate Planners
15 Young Elite Equity Beginners
42 Metro Young Carefree Renters

Let's assume I'm one of these "Metro Estate Planners" for example...

US Households: 2,580,318 (2.39%)
US Population: not applicable
Median HH Income: $113,268

Lifestyle Traits
1. Buy a Montblanc/Waterman pen
2. Own/lease a Mercedes
3. Own/lease an Acura
4. Buy an umbrella policy
5. Go sailing

Demographics Traits:
Ethnic Diversity: not applicable
Family Types: No Children
Age Ranges: 35-54
Education Levels: not applicable
Employment Levels: not applicable
Housing Types: Homeowner
Urbanicity: Metro
Income: $75,000 or More

Closer. I lease a Mercedes SLK. But I don't have Montblanc pen - not even a Waterman. And I rent. And I'm a few years over the age limit here.

Oh well.

But this is endless fun.

___

On the political side you can click in a zip code here and find out who is donating to which side in the current races ... Try FUNDRACE.ORG

And you can find out things like this about the center of Manhattan -

Top Democratic Buildings

770 Park Ave $52,000
300 Central Park W $51,125
211 Central Park W $36,650
120 E End Ave $36,300
895 Park Ave $34,000

Top Republican Buildings

85 Broad St $29,500
345 Park Ave $27,750
383 Madison Ave $22,500
834 5Th Ave $18,000
70 Pine St $17,000

Fascinating stuff...

The most interesting thing is you can see, by name and address, and occupation, exactly who sent in what funds to whom. Really. Individuals are named.

Cool.

Posted by Alan at 19:51 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 29 March 2004 19:59 PST home

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