Pontificator: News and Commentary

Saturday, November 02, 2002 :::
Here is pollster John Zogby's latest word on the election:

"Barring a late calamity or anything else unforeseen, neither party goes into this election with the upper hand. The economy is the issue, as we have been saying for months, but the Democrats do not seem to be poised to take advantage. The last few Congressional elections have been virtually tied. Add another tie."

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:36 PM

Richard Shelby and Instapundit, not necessarily in that order of importance, are both hammering Harvey Pitt for his failure to come clean about William Webster. It's amazing corporate clients (and Ivan Boesky!) once paid this baffoon upwards of $500 per hour to defend them. . .

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:15 PM

Friday, November 01, 2002 :::

President Bush is visiting the following States this weekend:

New Hampshire

Kentucky ??? Tennessee ??? We've got him playing defense, on his home court. Looks like another good reason to be confident going into Tuesday.

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:57 PM

If you watch nothing but the national media, you probably think Jeb Bush has Florida locked up. If that is the case you are, happily, mistaken. The leading polls show that McBride is only between 2 and 4 points behind Bush, and that Jeb's support is under 50%. Considering that undecided voters tend to break in favor of the challenger on election day, I think it's fair to call this race a "toss up."

::: posted by Pontificator at 2:43 PM

Will a Neil Bush scandal "ignite" McBride's campaign in the remaining days?

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:20 AM

Thursday, October 31, 2002 :::
Also check out www.nosbois.org. "Nosbois," in case you were curious, is an acronym. It stands for "National Organization to Shoot Bill O'Reilly into the Sun." Amazingly, this bizarre little site was featured as one of USA Today's "hot web sites."

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:34 PM

Query whether the unethical push polling apparently conducted by Diversified Research Inc. on behalf of Republican Senate Candidate Thune violates South Dakota Law?

South Dakota law states the following:

Copyright; 1968-2002 by The State of South Dakota. All rights reserved.
Current through the 77th Session of the Legislature of South Dakota.

37-30A-2 Required disclosures.

Any telemarketer who makes an unsolicited consumer telephone call to a residential telephone number shall:
(1) Immediately identify themselves with their true name, the true name of the telemarketer by whom they are employed, and the true name and address of the business on whose behalf the person is soliciting and the purpose of the call;
(2) Within thirty seconds after beginning the conversation, inquire whether the person being solicited is interested in listening to a sales presentation and immediately discontinue the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response; and
(3) Immediately hang up the telephone any time during the solicitation that the consumer expresses a disinterest in the good or service offered."

The issue of illegality would probably rest on whether Diversified Research Inc. is a true telemarketer, since they're hawking votes, not goods and services. Nevertheless, even if their behavior is not strictly unlawful, it certainly is sleazy.

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:21 PM

Jim Talent can't escape the ghost of scandals past.

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:38 PM

Harvey Pitt is toast.

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:16 PM

Andrew Sullivan notes that Bush may be about to deliver a November surprise.

Not on my watch!!

Note to McAuliffe -- the best defense is a good offense. You must lay the groundwork NOW for the public to understand that any big move on Iraq before Tuesday would be a crassly political maneuver to gain votes. The American public will not tolerate a President sacrificing national security on the alter of politics. But if we wait until after the deed is done, it will be too late.

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:21 AM

Instapundit bravely delivers the bad news to his readers.

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:15 AM

Wednesday, October 30, 2002 :::
Talking Points Memo is uncovering a sleazy push-polling campaign by the Republicans in South Dakota (how long before we see another panicked Thune press release deriding "little read liberal Washington-based web sites.") Talking Points Memo is fingering a shadowy research group called "Diversified Research Inc." as a possible culprit, in conjunction with the Republican Party. Diversified Research apparently fancies itself as a high-brow outfit publishing primly respectable white papers on topics such as government regulation, of all things.

Nice little reputation, it's got there. It's shame to see it knocked down. . . by a wrecking ball!!!

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:14 PM

Tuesday, October 29, 2002 :::
This article by Dick Morris on the upcoming elections bodes well for Democratic candidates. All the cable news talking heads (including Fox news talking heads), read Morris and are likely to mimic his arguments over the next week and a half. I think I'm starting to feel something. Could it be. . . . .momentum?

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:52 PM

I figured out who Ed Lake is. Here's Mr. Lake's suspect:

"Lake has compiled a profile of the refiner-mailer that is striking in its specificity. It's a man, he writes, probably in his 40s, who lives within commuting distance of New York City; reads the New York Post; subscribes to cable TV; watches Bill O'Reilly on the Fox News Channel; was in the Trenton, N.J., area on Sept. 17 and Oct. 8, 2001; and may have traveled last year to Indianapolis, Ind. (from where a threatening letter to O'Reilly was mailed, its handwriting resembling that on the anthrax-tainted letters). You won't read anything like that on the FBI website. On the other hand, Lake isn't bound by the constraints that keep the FBI from broadcasting even informed speculation; that's part of what makes his work so interesting."

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:39 AM

For those interested in the anthrax investigation, you can't get more thorough than Ed Lake at www.anthraxinvestigation.com. Who is Ed Lake? I have no idea. One of his more shocking conclusions (arrived at only after considerable analyses) is that the Anthrax letters were written by a child. He also discounts the latest Washington Post story as politically motivated and suspiciously timed to coincide with the present focus on Iraq.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:29 AM

Monday, October 28, 2002 :::
The Washington Post has a fascinating article on the anthrax attacks. The gist is that, given the sophistication needed to create the powdered anthrax, it was likely created by a governmental entity, and that the FBI's "lone nut" theory is just not possible in the real world:

"A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI's view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year.

These sources say that making a weaponized aerosol of such sophistication and virulence would require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual.

As a result, a consensus has emerged in recent months among experts familiar with the technology needed to turn anthrax spores into the deadly aerosol that was sent to Sens. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) that some of the fundamental assumptions driving the FBI's investigation may be flawed.

'In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them,' said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. 'And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good.'"

Unfortunately, unlike the Beltway Snipers, the Anthrax mailers are not calling Chief Moose and asking him to compare them to a noosed duck on TV. It seems likely that they will will never be caught using traditonal investigative methods. Solving the case might require armed forces storming a weapons lab (in Iraq?) and finding samples that match the samples mailed to Daschle and Leahy.

The questions surrounding the Anthrax attacks are all unanswered.

1) who sent the letters?

2) how did they make or acquire the anthrax?

3) why did they mail the letters?

4) how did they choose their targets?

5) what is the purpose of the text of the letters?

6) why did they stop their activity?

and, most frighteningly,

7) will they resume?

I think it is highly likely that left-wing targets (Daschle and Leahy) were purposely chosen to throw investigators off the trail. The Anthrax mailers were familiar with the way the FBI profilers think, and presumed (correctly, in the short term) that they would think the left-wing targets evidenced a Timothy McVeigh soldier of fortune type right winger trying to protect his guns, and who further tried to throw off the profilers by referencing Al Qaeda-type terrorist threats.

Here are some more realistic models of the "Anthrax Mailers":

1) The U.S. Government has a secret Anthrax program which created the powder, and an employee with access to that program smuggled out a small quantity. If this is the case, the purpose may have been a "wake up" call so that the authorities would realize how grave the threat was and pour resources into prevention. The fact that the letter had a warning to take penecilin supports this theory. This is the "best case" scenario, since the letter writer presumably would no longer have a motivation to send any more letters.

2) A hostile nation with a secret weapons program (Iraq?) gave a small amount of powder to an operative, who stuck it in his pocket, got on a plane, stuffed it in an envelope and mailed it. This pupose here would be terror. This is a worst case scenario, because it could happen again just as easily, and we have no way to stop it.

3) A "lone nut" type with money to burn and some expertise (perhaps a one-time intelligence agent) obtained powder on the black market from one of the former Russian republics. The motive here would be a sick mind, a la the snipers. Of the three scenarios, this is the only one that holds promise in terms of catching the culprit through traditional law enforcement methods. If the sellers are caught selling drugs or something else, they could then flip on the nut-job.

4) A conspiracy of several operators who developed the Anthrax and delivered it. They would need money, access to lab equipment and materials, and time. As the Washington Post illustrates, you can't make this stuff with run of the mill basement chemistry lab. Motive -- who knows? Given the number of people though, they could be caught. This one, however, seems highly, highly unlikely. There simply aren't many precedents for such extensive non-governmental conspiracies operating in absolute secrecy.

The FBI has probably pushed the lone-nut theory becuase the first two options are utterly beyond their capacity to resolve. It's like the drunk who drops his keys at night and only searches for them under the streetlight, because he can't see anywhere else. For the FBI, the lone nut is under the streetlight, and the governmental operatives are in total darkness.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:32 AM

Sunday, October 27, 2002 :::
Guns don't kill people. . . .

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:26 PM

How long before Bush adds Brazil to his axis of evil?

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:21 PM

Putin's secret recipe.

Approximately 150 former hostages are still in intensive care. Yet the Russian Government refuses to name the gas used to knock them out. According to the linked NYT report:

"Moscow's top anesthetist, Yevgeny Yevdokimov, made clear that doctors had been hampered by the fact that they did not know what gas they were dealing with."

Perhaps Putin can justify using the gas in the first place -- that may have been the only feasible way to knock out the Chechen terrorists with explosives strapped around their waists. But how does he justify not releasing the name of the gas to the doctors trying to save people from dying?? Is he afraid the world will find out that he violated various chemical weapons treaties? If that's the case, I think the cat is already out of the bag. Is he afraid that if the terrorists knew which gas was used, they'll bring antidotes with them next time?? I think the terrorists will be well-prepared next time for a gas attack, even if Putin doesn't release the name. The cold fact is that the Russian Government is sacrificing its own citizens for realpolitik. I guess that's what Bush saw when he looked into Putin's soul.

My guess is Bush will stop making a big deal about the fact that Saddam gassed his own people. Embarrasing Putin is not a good way to get him to sign our security counsel resolutions.

::: posted by Pontificator at 8:57 PM

More sketchy business practices from the Bush family. You'd think Neil would have learned from his Silverado escapades.

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:49 PM

Sometime a picture (or in this case, a cartoon), is worth a thousand words.

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:42 PM


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