Man Without Qualities

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Strange Case Of Reasonable Doubt v. Marthahate

Douglas Faneuil is the government's chief witness against Martha Stewart, a witness on whose credibility before the jury the government's entire case hangs.

Douglas Faneuil has now testified that he believed he would lose his job unless he lied to cover up the true reason Stewart sold. So, faced with that kind of choice, Mr. Faneuil now says he lied: "I felt I would be fired if I didn't lie."

Mr. Faneuil is testifying pursuant to deal he cut with the federal government. If he hadn't cut the deal, he faced a good deal of time in prison. The deal provides that in exchange for saying bad things about Ms. Stewart, Mr. Faneuil does not have to go to jail.

How likely is it that a man who admits he lied to federal investigators to avoid losing his job is above lying at the behest of federal investigators to avoid losing his freedom?

This single admission of Mr. Faneuil should alone be more than enough to create reasonable doubt as to his credibility in the minds of any sensible jury. And if that happens, the case against Ms. Stewart falls.

Indeed, the government's case has already fallen objectively. The government is now relying on its hopes that this particular jury is not really listening or effectively processing the testimony. In other words, the government is trying to pull a fast one to put Ms. Stewart in prison. Perhaps the government can "win." Perhaps the prosecution can use Ms. Stewart's many and egregious personality defects to obscure the fact that it's key witness lacks substantial credibility.

But however this case turns out, it is nothing short of a disgrace for the United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. But that's nothing compared to the disgraceful - almost irrational - behavior of the trial judge, who seems to think that Ms. Stewart could be found beyond a reasonable doubt to be guilty on the basis of "strong circumstantial evidence" even without Mr. Faneuil, an opinion voiced to my knowledge by no other participant in this case. Not even the prosecutors or anyone covering the trial in the media have to my knowledge expressed such a bizarre thought.

Perhaps the judge was merely attempting to spur a plea bargain by Ms. Stewart. But Ms. Stewart's lawyers have almost certainly already tried this case before more than one "dummy" jury prior to this trial (being able to do that is one of the many benefits of having a very rich client), and the Stewart attorneys therefore have a pretty good idea of how this actual jury is likely to deal with this case. They don't need disingenuous judicial posturing to help them make up their minds. They probably just thought she sounded ridiculous - except to the extent the judge's bias may ultimately be reflected in incorrect jury instructions.

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Friday, February 06, 2004

From The Frozen North

It seems that only 15 per cent of Canadians recently polled would vote for George Bush. Even setting aside the obvious questions of what the circumstances of such a vote could be, does this surprise anyone?

Isn't it fairly obvious that almost any Canadian who would vote for George Bush for any office whatsoever has probably already moved to the United States, and therefore is not included in this poll? After all, Canada has a standard of living recently running at about 1/3 less than that of the United States.

I have to go talk to my neighbor now. He's a medical doctor, as is his brother. The two brothers were both born and raised in Newfoundland, but they live here in Los Angeles. Until recently they simultaneously directed the emergency room residency programs at both Cedar Sinai Hospital and Los Angeles County Hospital (two of the most important hospitals in Southern California). They now run another hospital emergency room - where they make a lot more money. And, O yes, my neighbor also somehow found time to write and publish a book on trauma treatment, The book seems to be doing quite well.

Of course, one thing my neighbor wasn't able to do was respond to that Canadian poll.

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Who Thinks They Can Win This Way? II

A new Associated Press article by the same AP reporter now backtracks considerably from the reporter's prior assertion that the President's "main argument" in invading Iraq was that Saddam Hussein's rule posed an "imminent threat." The new article fails to correct the former article's mistake expressly, but now reports:

Intelligence analysts never told President Bush before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein's rule posed an imminent threat, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday in a heated defense of agency findings central to the decision to go to war. The urgency of the Iraqi threat was Bush's main argument for the war.

This still misstates the President's justification for the war. But the new article is quite a retreat from the AP's prior, absurd attempt at playing "gotcha."

Too bad the AP hasn't the guts to confess its error.

The new AP article offers some clarifying explanation, but without admitting the clarification is inconsistent with its prior article:

White House aides have pointed out that Bush, while he cited the urgency of Saddam's threat, never called the threat "imminent."

In his State of the Union address in January 2003, Bush said: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late."

In general, the Bush administration before the war cited three main justifications for military action: preventing Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction, protecting America from terrorists and liberating Iraqis from a repressive regime.

So, in the course of a single article, the Iraq threat goes from Bush's main argument for the war to just one of three main justifications for military action.

But who's counting?


An astute reader e-mails to say that he complained to the AP about the "imminent threat" error discussed above, and received back the following e-mailed response:

Thanks for your e-mail. I am embarrassed to admit you are in fact correct. Our anchor mispoke. I assure you it was an honest mistake, not an intentional "lie", but, a mistake just the same.

We take great pains to ensure that our material is fair and accurate. This one slipped through the cracks. While the Bush administration repeatedly stressed the "urgency" of stopping Saddam Hussein, and referred to Iraq as a "grave and gathering danger", President Bush never used the words "imminent threat."

We regret the error. I assure you, the newsroom has learned from this.


Wally Hindes
Assistant Managing Editor/Radio
Associated Press Broadcast

I find it more than odd that the AP will confess to an error in an e-mail that it will not acknowledge publicly. In any event, the assertion that the Bush administration repeatedly stressed the "urgency" of stopping Saddam Hussein is misleading, at best.

"Imminent" is a term of international law, as well as a word used in ordinary English. Reporters confused the two meanings in their questioning and their articles - and continue to do that.

But no matter what word one uses, Bush simply did not argue that the United States was justified in attacking Iraq because Iraq was poised and ready to attack us. If that's what one means by "urgent" then Bush did not argue that Iraq posed an "urgent" threat any more than he argued that Iraq posed an "imminent" threat. His arguments did imply that it was urgent for the United States to correct the Iraq threat before it got any worse than it already had been allowed to become. For example, in a Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations, the President called Saddam's regime "a grave and gathering danger." The next day, he told reporters that Saddam was "a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible." In an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Ohio, he said "the danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time." None of those statements is the same as saying that Iraq was then poised to attack us. That's why the international law crowd was so critical of the Administration at that time.
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Daschle Descending II

Prior posts have noted that Senator Tom Daschle is in surprisingly deep trouble, in part because he no longer has a position that can effectively deliver federal benefits to South Dakotans. One group of South Dakotans particularly dependent on effective Senate representation is native Americans, who traditionally have strongly favored Democrats in South Dakota. But as a measure of what is happening to Senator Daschle, we have this report sent by a savvy reader:

A major player in Indian politics has endorsed the man running against South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle.

Russell Means, a Lakota Sioux activist and former candidate for governor in New Mexico, announced his support Wednesday for John Thune. The Republican is campaigning throughout the state to defeat Daschle. ...

Means said he hoped his support for Thune would help him work with the Republican Party to change its Indian policy. Thune said he is focusing on drumming up support among the state's American Indian population.

Daschle officials said they are not worried about the endorsement.

"Senator Daschle hopes that during this campaign there is a very vigorous debate over the best way to improve the quality of life in Indian Country," Daschle spokesman Dan Pfeiffer told the Native American Times. "There are very real differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issues-most notable with regard to Indian health care. This is a newfound effort by Republicans to court the Indian vote. It has nothing to do with helping Native Americans, it is a pure mathematical calculation that they need that vote to win."

"John Thune as a congressman worked very closely with tribes in South Dakota on many projects and he has a very clear track record," said Thune spokesman Dick Wadhams. "It is clear that this endorsement from Russell Means has stung Senator Daschle and his campaign, and we would expect them to react they way they did."

The Indian vote has been important for Thune, 43, and was his undoing two years ago when he faced Tim Johnson for the state's other Senate seat. Johnson narrowly won, a victory attributed to his Native American support. There were allegations of ballot box stuffing in that race, charges that were brought up again last month by conservative commentator Robert Novak.

Thune called the allegations "inappropriate."

Means isn't the only prominent American Indian figure to criticize Daschle. Newspaper publisher Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota, is challenging him for the democratic nomination. Giago, 69, said he thinks that the Indian vote in South Dakota is taken for granted.

Can there be any doubt as to the wisdom of Mr. Thune's decision not to go the Gore route to court to challenge the South Dakota Senate election he lost in 2002? Not doing that has allowed Mr. Thune to garner this native American support, and lots of other benefits.

Mr. Gore, on the other hand, ....

POSTSCRIPT: An alert reader points out that there is no reason to conclude from the articles cited above that Russell Means is motivated by a desire to use the Republican Party as a channel to deliver to native Americans the same kind of federal benefits that Democrats such as Senator Daschle might favor. Effective Senate representation does not have to equate with a Senator's ability to bring home more federal pork. Russell Means has in the past identified himself as a variety of Libertarian, and his desire to change Republican and federal policies may be motivated by a desire for a less intrusive and less dependency-generating government.
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Remember That Bar Code Incident ...

... that so bedevilled the first President Bush's efforts to present himself as in touch with ordinary people?

Well, Senator Kerry has a list of stories (link from DRUDGE and John Ellis) to top that one as long as your arm:

[P]eople ... call in and tell their John Kerry stories. The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives. The tales often have one other common thread. Most end with Sen. Kerry inquiring of the lesser mortal: "Do you know who I am?" .... In 1993, for instance ... he managed to give a total of $135 to charity.

Yes, Senator Kerry seems to be a quite ordinary person in at least one very important respect. He's an ordinary jerk.

Incidentally, some bar code experts say former president Bush didn't deserve the derision heaped on him when he expressed amazement at product scanning for supermarkets. "It was a new, two-dimensional bar code that contained far more data than the old kind." Senator Kerry doesn't seem to warrant any such benefit of the doubt in the stories reported above.

It would be ironic if the difference in this election were made by simple, old-fashioned good breeding. The kind of good breeding that wealthy Yankee families traditionally inculcated into their children. It's the kind of good breeding that's practiced in the Bush family - the kind of good breeding that makes Maureen Dowd fume. Don't cut in line. Always send thank-you notes. Always be "nice." Remember, you have more than others. Support charities. And most of all, don't ever, ever say things like "Do you know who I am?" This kind of good breeding is not just a product of benevolence - although there's plenty of that stuff to go around in old, rich, Yankee families, which are often both very personally thrifty and very socially generous. This kind of good breeding is the product of enlightened intelligence. It is just plain stupid for any person, especially a wealthy person enjoying high elected office, to say something like "Do you know who I am?" in public.

Get that: It's stupid.

Senator Kerry is not a stupid man. But it's not too strong a word to describe the activity.
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More Winning Through Word Magic

One of the more curious arguments now being circulated by some Democrats and media representatives is that President Bush's approach to the war on terror has failed because people don't "feel safer" now. A typical formulation of this argument proceeds along the lines of "Do you feel safer now? With Orange Alerts and Ricin discovered in the Capitol?"

On September 10, 2001 almost everyone "felt" safer than they do now simply because they were unaware of the horrible, imminent danger the country was in. There was no Red Alert on September 10 to disturb the good feelings - but there should have been. If Ricin had been received at the Capitol on September 10 as an envelope with funny white powder in it, some aide probably would have tasted it to determine what it was - exactly because the aide "felt" safer than he or she does now. That "feeling" of safety is a big reason people reacted too slowly - and some died - in the 2001 mailed-anthrax incident.

Here's a little thought experiment for those flirting with the Democratic argument to try out for themselves: Imagine yourself in a car that hits an icy patch and is careening in reduced control. Do you think you would "feel" safer if you just closed your eyes and waited for the problem to pass? Of course not.

Often, being more aware of a risk makes us "feel" safer in the only meaningful sense of that term. That's why such things as Orange Alerts and evidence of Capitol Hill vigilance do make us "feel" more secure. Most people know that - and if the Democrats keep pushing this argument it will almost certainly work to their serious disadvantage. Indeed, its handling of the war on terror is already an especially strong card for the Administration.

Democratic arguments to the contrary are transparent word magic. The arguments sink of their own weight even before their proponents are required to explain exactly what they would do to keep the Orange Alerts and Ricin stories from happening - other than by just terminating the expensive, disturbing vigilance efforts so we can all be happy, doomed, Democrat-led idiots.
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Who Thinks They Can Win This Way?

I'm sure that this Associated Press article will draw plenty of comments in and out of the blogosphere today, but it is still amazing:

In his first public defense of prewar intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday that US analysts had never claimed Iraq was an imminent threat, the main argument used by President Bush for going to war.

It has now been well documented, although the matter was never really in doubt, that the President did not argue that Iraq was an imminent threat. His State of the Union message, in fact, specifically argued that the United States could not wait until a potential enemy posed an imminent threat. Further, he was seriously criticized for his argument that no imminent threat was needed to justify the Iraq invasion by those (especially many denizens of the green glass she-bang on the East River) who believed that international law only tolerates an invasion in the face of an imminent threat. The President's clear rejection of the principle requiring that an imminent threat be demonstrated was, in turn, the basis of his critics' arguments that he and the United States had rejected international law. All of this has been exhaustively demonstrated in many places - yet here is the AP repeating the canard (link is to a terrific Instapundit wrap-up) while terming an argument never used by the Administration at all as the President's "main argument." Remarkable.

The Spinsanity article linked to above accurately describes how reporters used the term "imminent threat" in questioning of Administration officials such as Ari Fleisher. But those questions used the term "imminent threat" as if it were synonomous with "serious threat" - an ambiguous usage which the AP article weirdly continues to employ:

In the months before the war, Bush and his top aides repeatedly stressed the urgency of stopping Saddam Hussein. In a Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations, he called Saddam's regime "a grave and gathering danger." The next day, he told reporters that Saddam was "a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible." In an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Ohio, Bush said "the danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time."

Tenet said U.S. intelligence accurately reported that Saddam's regime posed a danger.

Yes, and each an every one of the supposedly damning quotes of President Bush in the AP article is fully consistent with Mr. Tenet's characterization of the CIA approach.

That the Administration's detractors (such as this AP reporter diluting her own credibility and professionalism with this article) are reduced to repeating a demonstrably false characterization of the Administration's justification for war seems, more than anything else, a sign of increasing desperation on their part. But why? Aren't they cheered by those polls showing Senator Kerry leading President Bush in the general election? Or has their delusion not yet extended that far?

I do not believe Mr. Bush is unbeatable in November. But Democrat and media tactics like trotting out discredited misrepresentations of his arguments and challenges to his national guard service record are almost sure to make him so.

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Monday, February 02, 2004

Election Preview

President Bush is in big re-election trouble, at least some quarters. The Man Without Qualities recently received in this e-mail an example of what's to come as the campaign heats up:

Bush cost me my job, my kids and my houses

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak my mind. I lost my job this past year. When Clinton was president I was secure and prosperous, but in the last year, we had to close our operations. We simply could not compete with foreign labor. This foreign labor worked for low pay under very bad conditions.

They worked very long shifts, and many even died on the job. This competition could hardly be called "fair." I was forced out of the place where I had worked for 34 years.

Not a single government program was there to help me.

How can Bush call himself "compassionate?" Far worse, I lost two of my sons in Bush's evil war in Iraq. They gave their lives for their country, and for what? So that Bush's oil buddies can get rich. My pain of losing my sons is indescribable.

While it is trivial next to the loss of my sons, I regret to say that I also lost my home. I simply have nothing left. How can Bush call himself a Christian when he neglects people like me?

I am a senior citizen with various medical problems. I'm not in a position where I can begin a new career. I was reduced to the point where I had to live in a hole in a ground, all because of President Bush.

And when the authorities found me there, did they have any compassion for my misfortune and ailments? No, I was arrested. Mr. Bush, I dare you to look me in the face and tell me you are a compassionate man! I dare you to look me in the face and tell me you are a Christian.

If I had any money left, I would donate it to the Democrat Party.

If Al Gore had been elected in 2000 I would still have a job, a home, and most importantly, my dear sons!


Saddam Hussein

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