Thursday, October 23, 2003

Counterleaks and the Truth Squad

Counterleak: That is Alton Frye's idea to resolve the "who outed Ambassador Wilson's wife, former CIA covert operative Valerie Plame" issue. (Frye is the presidential senior fellow and counselor at the Council on Foreign Relations).

In a NYT op-ed piece, "Let Someone Else Do the Talking, Frye notes that there are 2 kinds of leaks:

"leaks elicited by a reporter while investigating a story often serve the public interest — and merit the journalist's protecting the identity of that source. Leaks initiated by self-serving antagonists in the political process — and calculated to exploit journalists as convenient mouthpieces — rarely serve the public interest and deserve less protection."

Once we've created this philosophical dichotomy, argues Frye, it becomes easier to resolve the present problem, as "Most journalists are properly wary of the second type of leak, and often decline to publish them. That was true, it appears, for some members of the news media who received calls regarding Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, an undercover C.I.A. officer."

There are several problems with that approach. "Self-serving antagonists in the political process" often release information that incidentally serves the public interest. Of course guys like Karl Rove have a political agenda, and are calculatingly "exploiting journalists as convenient mouthpieces." But what they reveal sometimes has value.

Frye believes the reason journos don't reveal their sources is to ensure future access:

"Yet journalists are dissuaded from naming sources of all kinds by both ethical considerations and pragmatic concerns over future access. This creates a situation in which a devious leaker is shielded by the journalist's ethical restraint — and derives de facto constitutional shelter under the reporter's First Amendment privilege.

Is there a cure for this problem? Yes: call it counterleaking. To protect against such manipulative behavior — and to discipline those who practice it — reporters could themselves assume the status of confidential sources and share those names with other journalists."

I suspect Mr. Frye -- whom I've never read previously -- has spent too much time in Washington D.C. Divulging your sources under the cloak of plausible deniability is still, well, divulging your sources. Having a convenient lie handy to cover your ass doesn't make you any less of a liar, assuming you promised to guard the leaker's identity. (Perhaps Mr. Frye is ready to start consulting for Wall Street). As absurd as this idea may sound, some people prefer to maintain their integrity and keep their word just because it’s the right thing to do.

There may, however, be a hierarchy of competing ethics: When getting leaked info, a Journo must make a judgment call as to whether the leak content is newsworthy. What else influences that decision? I suspect that the more politically overt the motivation of the leaker, the higher level of "newsworthiness" the leaked data must contain in order to be published. Indeed, as we've seen in the present case, an obviously political leak with zero public interest content was not put into play by the 6 "legitimate" reporters who received the information. They made that political motivation/public interest analysis and decided on balance against publishing. The only columnist who used it was a well-known partisan hack with his own agenda.

So I find it unlikely that the 6 legit reporters would sua sponte follow Frye's advice to leak the information to other journos. Yet when we look at the entire process surrounding this leak from a strategic perspective, an interesting dilemma arises: What circumstances might pre-empt the confidentiality promise, and prompt the reporters to reveal their sources?

Consider this hypothetical: Let's take a random Senior Administration person (O.k., we'll use Karl Rove). Assume Rove testifies to a Senate committee about an unrelated matter. One of the Senators asks Rove a question about the Plame affair while he is under oath. Rove can either tell the truth, tell a lie, give an ambiguous noncommittal answer, or simply refuse to answer.

What happens if Rove lies under oath to the Senate?

That’s where things get interesting: The six journalists who received the original "tip" outing Valerie Plame have now become the de facto arbiters of all the leakers' public honesty. They are now a 6 man Truth Squad. The 6 journalists who know if Rove is lying or not would have to weigh which obligation is higher: Protecting the promise of confidentiality to a source, or reporting a newsworthy event. That event would create a competition of duties.

I believe that the reporters -- one of only 6 in the world -- who knew that Karl Rove committed perjury would have no choice but to publish that information. Thus, all future promises of confidentiality now come with a caveat: If you reveal data to me, but then lie publicly about it, my promise of confidentiality will disappear.

I imagine that the Plame leakers find themselves stuck in an interesting dilemma: Without any additional activity on their part, the Truth Squad will in all likelihood honor their confidentiality agreement and protect the sources; However, any public statements by the leakers or their surrogates is now subject to a high level of scrutiny by the Truth Squad.

Very interesting dilemma . . .

Posted at 03:30 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Expletive deleted

It has been taboo for more than 500 years. But from fcuk to Four Weddings and a Funeral, the f-word has become so commonplace it now seems acceptable in everyday conversation. Is it no longer obscene? And if it isn't, what is? Guardian reporter Jonathan Margolis investigates:

"The first time I heard the word fuck, I was seven. My 12-year-old brother asked me if I wanted to know the worst word in the world. He whispered it to me and, although he wasn't quite sure what it meant, we both loved the idea of a word so rude that it could barely be uttered."

-Jonathan Margolis, Expletive deleted,
The Guardian, November 21, 2002

Why do I get the feeling that in terms of maturity, our culture is still in its teenage years versus the Brits?

Posted at 03:59 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

US Fatalities in Iraq


This does not bode well for continued public support for the war effort.

Military Fatalities Data

Military Fatalities Chart

Posted at 07:44 PM in War/Defense | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Views on Jews By Malaysian

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's speech on Thursday at the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia:

"We are up against a people who think. They survived 2,000 years of pogroms not by hitting back but by thinking. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power . . ."

How on earth can you ever fight "people who think?" Here's a clue -- STOP BLOWING YOURSELVES UP AND KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

I'm not saying that Israel is flawless in all their actions -- they deserve plenty of criticism for some of their less informed decisions. But please, get a damned clue, will ya?

Posted at 04:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, October 20, 2003

Chart of the Week: 31 day SPX

S&P 500 31 Day chart highlights the 2 failed attempts near approx. 1,050 (red arrows) and the breaking of a minor trend line (green line).

31 Day S&P Chart
Source: RedTech Research

As long as prices stay below 1,050, the market has a bearish tone as this level is a more significant overhead supply zone as the above chart highlights.

Random Items
Templeton feeling bearish
Overcapacity Stalls New Jobs
Big Banks & Enron: Partners in Crime
Gilder's Telecom Revolution Is Coming -- Eventually
Old Lessons for Modern Economic Policy? (The Austrian Theory)

Quote: "Some people skate to the puck. I skate to where the puck is going to be."
-Wayne Gretzky

Posted at 01:00 PM in Finance | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

10,000 hits

Wow! That's some move in a few short months -- most of it in the past few weeks. Thanks to everyone who visited, and I hope y'all come back agin!

Posted at 08:35 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Fronkensteen Economy

Dug up from the local graveyard, the economy lies on a slab in the basement of the mad scientist, Dr. BushNGreenspan. Poking and prodding at the lifeless hulk sprawled out upon the lab table, but all the usual tricks failed to work. He replaced all the body parts with enlarged versions (including the Shwanstooker). He reversed the polarity. He even tried deficit spending . . . all to no avail. The dead body would not get off the cold slab.

Dr. BushNGreenspan sighed as recalled the most recent mishap. His trusted lieutenant, Herr Vogel Cheneywitz, was supposed to come back with the brain labeled “Early Stages Recovery.” At the brain depository, Herr Cheneywitz grabbed the wrong brain. He brought back one labeled “Post Bubble/Excess Capacity.” Even though Cheneywitz tore off the label before returning to the lab, BushNGreenspan suspected something was amiss.

A storm approached, and that gave the Doctor an idea. He fixed a copper cable to the lightening rod on the roof of the castle. The line ran down to a transformer which would step up the voltage. Desperate times called for desperate measures. The mad doctor jammed the copper cable into the nether regions of the beast, and waited for the next Fed meeting.

Finally, lightning struck! The room lit up white as the energy raced downt he copper into the machinary terminating in the beast.

BushNGreenspan called out to his assistant, Snowgor, “Throw the 1st Switch!”

Never before seen levels of electricity flowed into the hulking corpse. Nothing happened.

Throw the 2nd Switch!”

More and yet more amperage poured into the lifeless body of the creature. And still no moment, no animus.


No, not the 3rd switch, master!”


Gigajoules of of juice flowed into decaying behemoth.

And then, it stirred. Slowly, the creature lumbered off the table. At first, he twitched this way and that. As more and more amperage poured into his body, he began to dance, to jump, to move about.

And yet, something was not right. He walked, but awkwardly. He was alive, but still hooked up to the electrical stimulus. The big question: When the madman pull the cable out of the monster, will he be reanimated? Is it alive, or was it merely twitching dumbly to the powerful surge of electrical stimulus?

Will it collapse back once again when the juice is cut off?

I fear we are living in a “Frankenstein Economy.” That, IMHO, is the big question with the present economy. Can we defeat the normal business cycle? Can we take a dead piece of inanimate tissue, and by applying historical levels of tax cuts, interst rate cuts, increase monetary supply, devalue the currency, and any other trick you can think of, to defeat the usual refractory period?

Are we seeing the beginnings of a new cycle, or are we witnessing temporary effects of historical levels of stimulus? If its the latter, what sort of problems might this engender when we slump back onto the slab?

We hope the economy is getting better on a self sustaining basis; We fear it merely been “reanimated” due to the incredible levels of stimulus we’ve applied over the past few years (most especially, since the Iraq war started). The recent data points to a recovery that may be showing early signs of decay. The next 60 days will be crucial . . .

For an informative (and more serious) sequel to this piece, see the "Frankenstein Economy."

Posted at 09:35 PM in Film, Finance, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rebuilding Iraq -- The Contractors

I was reviewing some docs on OpenSecrets -- the excellent online guide to money raising in American politics. I came across their older analysis of the corporate winners of the rebuild Iraq contest.

Of all the possible "real" reasons for invading Iraq we discussed in "Not-So-Hidden Agenda: Strategic and Economic Assessments of U.S. led Invasion in the Middle East (A Pre War Analysis, March 19, 2003), we never considered the possibility of enormous politcal largesse / corporate giveaway. Oh well, chalk up my lack of venal cynicism to naivete.

The OpenSecrets analysis -- Rebuilding Iraq -- The Contractors -- is a fascinating study, and worth reviewing. Here's an excerpt:

Even before the war in Iraq began March 20, the Bush administration was considering plans to help rebuild the country after fighting ceased. According to news reports in early March, the U.S. Agency for International Development secretly asked six U.S. companies to submit bids for a $900 million government contract to repair and reconstruct water systems, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in Iraq.

The six companies analyzed -- Bechtel Group Inc., Fluor Corp., Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, Louis Berger Group Inc., Parsons Corp. and Washington Group International Inc. -- contributed a combined $3.6 million in individual, PAC and soft money donations between 1999 and 2002, the Center reported on its news site, Sixty-six percent of that total went to Republicans.

The bidding process has been criticized for including only a handful of companies, some with substantial political clout and none of which is based outside the United States. USAID officials said the recent invitations to bid on reconstruction contracts went to U.S. corporations for security reasons, and that foreign companies may compete for subcontracting work, Bloomberg News reports.

As the winners of this and other contracts to rebuild Iraq are announced, we will post their campaign contributions -- large or small -- below. (Figures represent total contributions made between 1999 and 2002, and include PAC, soft money and individual contributions to federal candidates, party committees and leadership PACs.^)

The full article (Rebuilding Iraq -- The Contractors) has a breakdown of each of the companies (not including subcontractors) by contribution percentage to each political party, dollar contribtutions to President Bush, a blurb about the company amd a description of the specifics of the contract. Fascinating reading.

The six companies are: Bechtel Group Inc., Halliburton Co., DynCorp, Stevedoring Services of America, Abt Associates Inc., SkyLink Air and Logistic Support (USA) Inc., International Resources Group, Research Triangle Institute, and Creative Associates International Inc.

Posted at 08:19 AM in Politics, War/Defense | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 18, 2003

A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies

This is a brilliantly executed piece of political commentary -- devastingly effective in making its point. All the text is verbatim comments from the Administration (or its spokepeople); All has been demonstrated to be totally false. Simply ingenious.

Harpers Magazine: The Revision Thing
All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers.
(In places, tenses have been changed for clarity)

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before. For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them. It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror . . .

You can see the rest of it at Harper's Magazine

Hat tip to LinkFilter

Posted at 08:35 PM in Media, War/Defense | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Very Funny 404 Message