Thursday, May 31, 2012

Did the FBI close the anthrax case too quickly?

Additional Forensic Investigation of 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The major implication of this study, as the authors note, is “that the evidentiary spore material was not diverted directly from RMR-1029.”1 This fact means that if the anthrax spores used in the attack were taken from RMR-1029, their preparation would have required extra steps prior to mailing. That type of purification would have required specialized machinery and likely would have left traces of the material on machinery. No such material was found, though, and in a recently settled civil case in Florida, the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged that the specialized machinery was not available at USAMRIID.

HT: Dr. Meryl Nass

Getting the Cold War wrong

A new book on the Alger Hiss case:
The case that shouldn’t go away

The author, Christina Shelton, frames the case in a completely ahistorical manner:

The story doesn’t go away, because it has become a symbol of the ongoing struggle for control over the philosophical and political direction of the United States. It is a battle between collectivism and individualism; between centralized planning and local/state authority, and between rule by administrative fiat and free markets.

This ignores the basic facts of the domestic political struggle set in motion by Whittaker Chambers's revelations. Plenty of social democrats (e.g. Sidney Hook) and liberals (the AF of L and other unions) took a hard line against Stalinism at home and abroad.

Chambers himself was hardly a radical individualist. His review of Atlas Shrugged in National Review was less than glowing. As Buckley put it, "Chambers did in fact read Miss Rand right out of the conservative movement."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Faux pas

Barack Obama has insulted 38 million Poles with his crass and ignorant 'Polish death camp' remark

President Obama has a long track record of insulting the Poles. In 2010 he chose to play golf on the day of the funeral of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Polish First Lady, and 94 senior officials who perished in the Smolensk air disaster. Eight months earlier he humiliated Warsaw by pulling out of the agreement over Third Site missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. And last night Barack Obama caused huge offence in Poland by referring to a Nazi death camp in Poland as “a Polish death camp” while awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish resistance fighter.


Poland: First to Fight

Tone deaf diplomacy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The lies of Watergate

James Rosen:

Why Bradleegate Matters: Woodward and Bernstein's Deception

This desecration of that holiest of sacred texts raises the question: What about the rest of the book? If we can't believe the assertions about Deep Throat -- and there is much there that is demonstrably untrue, of which the flower pot is only the beginning -- and we can't believe the portrayal of Informant Z, then what can we believe? How might the rest of All the President's Men -- indeed, the entirety of the Woodward-Bernstein canon -- fare under such strict Haldemanian scrutiny? It is, for honest and courageous researchers, a future avenue of enormous scholarly potential.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Getting Watergate Right

Max Holland rips the halo off Deep Throat:

New Questions About Deep Throat in ‘All the President’s Men’

Yet Deep Throat, far from being principled, was consumed with ambition and leaked only for the most self-serving of reasons: to subvert the acting FBI director, L. Patrick Gray. Nor was Felt even a truth teller. His boundless contempt for the press—and even Woodward admits Felt was no fan of the fourth estate—is illustrated repeatedly by the numerous outright lies and half-truths he told Woodward in the year following the break-in, and simultaneously, the damaging facts he knew but consciously withheld from the cub reporter.

Our Story So Far

Holland also points out that All the President's Men has a host of other problems:

Apart from transforming Mark Felt into an undeserving hero, Woodward and Bernstein, via their account, have distorted the true history of how the Watergate scandal unfolded and who deserves the credit for cracking it. To believe Woodstein is to believe that the original federal prosecutors “missed the real story” when the truth is these same U.S. attorneys handed the Watergate special prosecutor a literal road map to every single successful prosecution of a higher-up.

The sad thing is, this is something that has been known for nearly forty years. Edward Jay Epstein made this point in his review of ATPM in 1974:

What was the role of the press in all this? At best, during the unraveling of the cover-up, the press was able to leak the scheduled testimony a few days in advance of its appearance on television. IF Bernstein and Woodward did not in fact expose the Watergate conspiracy or the cover-up, what did they expose? The answer is that in late September they were diverted to the trail of Donald H. Segretti, a young lawyer who had been playing "dirty tricks" on various Democrats in the primaries. The quest for Segretti dominates both the largest section of their book (almost one-third) and most of their "exclusive" reports in the Post until the cover-up collapsed later that March. Unidentified sources within the government gave Bernstein and Woodward FBI "302" reports (which contain "raw"-i.e., unevaluated-interviews), phone-call records, and credit card records, all of which elaborated Segretti's trail. Through ~ the FBI reports and phone records, they located a number of persons whom Segretti had tried to recruit for his "dirty-tricks" campaign. The reporters assumed that this was all an integral part of Watergate, and wrote that 11 the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage.... The activities, according to information in FBI and Department of justice files, were aimed at all the major Democratic Presidential contenders." They further postulated that there were fifty other Segretti-type agents, all receiving information from Watergate-type bugging operations.

As it turned out, this was a detour, if not a false trail. Segretti (who served a brief prison sentence for such "dirty tricks" as sending two hundred copies of a defamatory letter to Democrats) has not in fact been connected to the Water, gate conspiracy at all. Almost all his work took place in the primaries before any of the Watergate break-ins in June 1972; he was hired by Dwight Chapin in the White House and paid by Herbert Kalmbach, a lawyer for President Nixon, whereas the Watergate group was working for the Committee for the Re-election of the President and received its funds from the finance committee. No evidence has been offered by anyone, including Woodward and Bernstein, that Segretti received any information from the Watergate group, and the putative fifty other Donald Segrettis have never been found, let alone linked to Watergate. In short, neither the prosecutors, the grand jury, nor the Watergate Committee has found any evidence to support the BernsteinWoodward thesis that Watergate was part of the Segretti operation.

Howie the Weasel never disappoints

The high utility of myth and ignorance

On leaks, bias and truth

Woodstein gets played: Deep Throat, Gray, and Hunt's notebooks

Deep Throat: The irreconcilable differences between image and fact

Duke lacrosse: Custom, interest, and the pursuit of truth

Monday, May 14, 2012

A revealing look at how news gets made

'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

George Orwell, 1984

An interesting piece by Tony Lee over at Breitbart:

Media and Permanent Political Class Attempt to Rewrite 2008 Election

POLITICO reported on a memo, "Shield Steve Schmidt From McCain Blame," put together in the waning days of the 2008 presidential campaign by associates of Schmidt to absolve him of campaign mismanagement. The memo lays out a strategy to shape conventional wisdom by targeting mainstream journalists and Republican talking heads and to blitz the media landscape with friendly talking points that would make it seem like even Ronald Reagan could not have won in 2008.

The obvious purpose was to absolve the professional operatives of all blame, allowing them to get hired again and sell their “snake oil” magic to the next politician. The quid pro quo was simple: we give you exclusive “gossip” and minutiae and you get exclusive reporting and access.

It's nice to that the professionals around McCain had their priorities in order.

Kind of funny that when it was crunch time, the only person still trying to win the election for McCain was Sarah Palin. The campaign professionals were already in CYA mode.

Lee makes a telling point here:

If the mainstream media is not stupid, then it deliberately plays along with false narratives, knowing they are being spun, because reporters need scoops and access in the future from the permanent class of political operatives.

Playing nice is not a strategy (at least not a winning strategy)

Moran's bogus history lessons are part and parcel of the "permanent campaign" mode that now defines our politics. That mode goes beyond starting the next election cycle as soon as the last vote is cast. It also has a retrospective component as partisans try to re-write the history of past campaigns to gain useful talking points or to neuter issues that hurt their party.

Thus, Willie Horton becomes evidence of Republican racism instead of the liberalism of Michael Dukakis. The Swift Boat Veterans become partisan liars even when they present unchallenged facts about John Kerry. John McCain lost because of Sarah Palin.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Roger Scruton:

Gehry belongs to a small and exclusive club of "starchitects," who specialize in designing buildings that stand out from their surroundings, so as to shock the passerby and become causes célèbres. They thrive on controversy, since it enables them to posture as original artists in a world of ignorant philistines. And their contempt for ordinary opinion is amplified by all attempts to prevent them from achieving their primary purpose, which is to scatter our cities with blemishes that bear their unmistakable trademark. Most of these starchitects-- Daniel Libeskind, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas--have equipped themselves with a store of pretentious gobbledygook, with which to explain their genius to those who are otherwise unable to perceive it. And when people are spending public money they will be easily influenced by gobbledygook that flatters them into believing that they are spending it on some original and world-changing masterpiece.

David Frum goes from triumph to triumph

David Frum’s new novel is awful

Frum is a former conservative who is now trending liberal and may in fact be headed for the netherworld of Andrew Sullivanville; he has written many good nonfiction books about politics and culture, including my favorite, “How We Got Here: The 70s: The Decade that Brought You Modern Life — for Better or Worse.” The man knows how to write. But “Patriots” is a stinker. The thing is so filled with clichés, bad dialogue and obvious plotting that I’m not sure where to start....

In short, “Patriots” is an alternate take on The David Frum Story. It tells the story of a clueless rich guy who comes to Washington (although Frum was never stupid), is mentored by the conservative movement, and then rebels against that same movement.