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Saturday, May 29, 2004
By Steven Taylor

This Weekly Standard piece, PREVIEW: The Connection, is also worth a read.

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By Steven Taylor

From the WSJ:

One striking bit of new evidence is that the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir appears on three captured rosters of officers in Saddam Fedayeen, the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam’s son Uday and entrusted with doing much of the regime’s dirty work. Our government sources, who have seen translations of the documents, say Shakir is listed with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

This matters because if Shakir was an officer in the Fedayeen, it would establish a direct link between Iraq and the al Qaeda operatives who planned 9/11. Shakir was present at the January 2000 al Qaeda “summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the 9/11 attacks were planned. The U.S. has never been sure whether he was there on behalf of the Iraqi regime or whether he was an Iraqi Islamicist who hooked up with al Qaeda on his own.

It is possible that the Ahmed Hikmat Shakir listed on the Fedayeen rosters is a different man from the Iraqi of the same name with the proven al Qaeda connections. His identity awaits confirmation by al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody or perhaps by other captured documents. But our sources tell us there is no questioning the authenticity of the three Fedayeen rosters. The chain of control is impeccable. The documents were captured by the U.S. military and have been in U.S. hands ever since.

As others have reported, at the time of the summit Shakir was working at the Kuala Lumpur airport, having obtained the job through an Iraqi intelligence agent at the Iraqi embassy. The four-day al Qaeda meeting was attended by Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi, who were at the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. Also on hand were Ramzi bin al Shibh, the operational planner of the 9/11 attacks, and Tawfiz al Atash, a high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant and mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. Shakir left Malaysia on January 13, four days after the summit concluded.

That’s not the only connection between Shakir and al Qaeda. The Iraqi next turned up in Qatar, where he was arrested on September 17, 2001, six days after the attacks in the U.S. A search of his pockets and apartment uncovered such information as the phone numbers of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers’ safe houses and contacts. Also found was information pertaining to a 1995 al Qaeda plot to blow up a dozen commercial airliners over the Pacific.

After a brief detention, our friends the Qataris inexplicably released Shakir, and on October 21 he flew to Amman, Jordan. The Jordanians promptly arrested him, but under pressure from the Iraqis (and Amnesty International, which questioned his detention) and with the acquiescence of the CIA, they let him go after three months. He was last seen heading home to Baghdad.

As they say: developing.

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By Steven Taylor

So Joe Carter correctly notes.

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By Steven Taylor

is it just me, or is having to put your work number on a check one of the dumbest things that merchants make customers do? For one thing, if I am willing to float a bad check, am I not also rather likely to give a bogus work number? And since I always give my office number, if they call they are going to get me–what good does that do them? And what does my place of employ have to do with my checking account anyway?

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By Steven Taylor

This post over at OTB indirectly reminded me of a simple point I have been meaning to make for a while (and, indeed, started a longish post that is not yet complete) on the subject of nation-building. (And this post isn’t an argument with James, but simply his post reminded me of the topic–although I would quibble with his ref to nation-building, as will be clear by reading this post).

It is an oft-cited criticism of Bush that he campaigned against nation-building in 2000 and is nonetheless involved in two of the most audacious nation-building projects since the Second World War (i.e, Afghanistan and Iraq).

However, I would note that there is a radical difference between nation-building for the sake of nation-building, a la Somalia, and nation-building for the sake of national security, which is the goal in Iraq.

One can very easily argue that the experiment in Iraq is ill-conceived or the execution of the policy can be criticized, etc, etc., however, that doesn’t change the fact the goal in question is not simply democratization for democratization’s sake, or nation0building because we thought it would be a nifty thing to do.

However, it is clear that the nation-building exercises that we currently find ourselves engaged in are not the same sorts of deployments we were seeing in the 1990s where the national security ramifications of the policies were either questionable or non-existent. In my opinion there is a fairly realist argument to made for these actions, and the commensurate nation building–that the goal here is simply to further the national security of the United States by whatever means are necessary, and if the by-product of that action is democratization of Iraq, so much the better.

In short: to me the primary goal in Iraq and Afghanistan is security, not nation-building or even democratization. Democratization is a means to an end (although, granted, a desirable end of itself as well). And regardless of one’s position on the war, I think it is clear that the “nation-building” that we are currently engaged in isn’t the type that the President was campaigning against in 2000.

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By Steven Taylor

Here’s an interesting piece on one of my favotire topics: coffee. addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fpoliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D3684'; addthis_title = 'Colombia+Seeks+to+Expand+Coffee+Market+at+Home+and+Abroad'; addthis_pub = '';

By Steven Taylor

This story in today’s Montgomery Advertiser is interesting in terms of state Republican politics: Lawyers’ green finances 3 Supreme Court candidates. We have primaries on Tuesday, and the only races of real interest are those for the state’s supreme court, and the main drama is within the Republican party where many each of the three races features a pro-Roy Moore (the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who was removed for not following a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building) and those who are running campaigns that don’t even mention Moore.

I think that the outcome of the race could have a profound effect on the state’s Republican Party, because if the Moore-ites are successful this go ’round, I think that there will be more Moore-ites running in 2006, especially for the governor’s office.

The Advertiser piece in question confirms that there are more than casual connections between the three Moore-ites running:

Green is a primary color in Alabama’s judicial races, with nearly $3 million in campaign contributions pouring into Supreme Court candidates’ coffers as of Thursday, the deadline for preprimary financial filings.

And nearly $1 million in campaign money has been funneled to three Republicans by trial-lawyer funded political action committees, a group more traditionally supportive of Democratic candidates.

Seven Alabama firms channelled nearly $1 million through a series of PACs, before it reached the accounts of the “Roy Moore slate” of judicial candidates — Tom Parker, Pam Baschab and Jerry Stokes, according to campaign records filed at the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. And the records also show that Parker and Stokes failed to report $150,000 and $173,000 in trial lawyer contributions to the state.

[...]

Alabama’s business community and trial lawyers have been duking it out over Supreme Court seats for more than a decade. And as the fight continues, the amount of money invested in Alabama’s Supreme Court races has become the object of national attention.

In 2000, Alabama’s judicial races were among the five most costly in the nation.

In the past, the issue of tort reform has dominated the elections, with trial lawyers and business interests donating heavily in the races.

But publicity over former Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose removal from office over his refusal to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Judicial Building rotunda, has added a new element.

Baschab, Parker and Stokes, the three judges bankrolled by trial lawyers, are running as Moore sympathizers and Moore has voiced support for them. Parker, who served as Moore’s spokesman in the Supreme Court, said the Moore issue has generated interest, and money for his campaign.

I have no problem with PAC money–what I find interesting is the clearly concerted effort to support the pro-Moore candidates.

However, the following is interesting, and bespeaks of some monkey-business:

Four newly formed PACs compose the bulk of the trial lawyer money given to Stokes, Baschab and Parker — Honor PAC, Venture PAC, Covenant PAC and Conservative Response PAC.

Brant Crawley, who works for Baschab’s campaign and was listed as being reimbursed about $1,000 for travel and lodging on Baschab’s expense reports, is listed as the treasurer for all four PACs.

While Baschab could not be reached for comment on Friday, in an interview on campaign contributions last week, she told the Montgomery Advertiserthat she pays no attention to who donates to her campaign.

“I don’t find out who my contributors are. I really don’t want to know,” said the Court of Criminal Appeals judge, who walked the length of Alabama in 2000 to protest the amount of money spent on campaigns in the state.

Out of a total of $543,145 raised by Baschab, $537,950 came from the trial lawyer PACs.

Further, the interesting thing here is that the last time Baschab ran (and lost) she vowed not to take any PAC money whatsoever. I guess she has a change of heart, or of poketbook, anyway. She also has wisely dropped her previous campaign slogan of “Baschab can do the job.”

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By Steven Taylor

I have only spottily watched the last two seasons of Enterprise–it is a decent enough show, but it has never really become “habit tv” for me. Further, the show to date has largely missed the opportunities that the premise afforded them, i.e., the whole “formation of the Federation” bit–and don’t get me started on how the Vulcans have been portrayed. Really after the pilot the atmosphere of the show never really felt like they were exploring the original space of the Trek universe. Rather, it mostly came across as just another Trek show with somewhat different parameters.

At any rate, I watched the last couple episodes of the season, which were pretty good, including the finale that I finally watched on tape yesterday. The inclusion of the Andorians was nice, although I have never been fully happy with the whole “Temporal Cold War” bit. I will say for sure that given the ending, I am quite pleased that the show has been renewed for another season. It would have been painful for the show to end at that point.

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Friday, May 28, 2004
By Steven Taylor

While I have not made the full migration to ExpressEngine from MT as yet, I have been working to figure out how it works to determine if I will make the move. Right now I would put the odds at 70-30 in favor of a switch, as I have figured out a great deal about the program. I find EE itself to be more sophisticated than MT in terms of features and flexibility. However, the increased sophistication leads to more complexity, and therefore more to learn.

I also did some experimentation with WordPress, which is far less complex and was a breeze to set up and has an elegant interface. WordPress looks move to me like the next MT (i.e., a free, nicely written blogging packing), and EE has the feel of a professional package. I will say the WP feels a tad incomplete, but that may be due to my lack of experimentation.

INITIAL MISTAKES I MADE:

My initial trial run with EE was not successful (see here and here). However, I have messed with it some today and have found some errors in my approach and/or understanding of the program. Here are some observations:

  • Trying to do a quick, down and dirty, upgrade without really understanding the new software is a mistake–EE doesn’t work just like MT, and to assume that it does can lead to frustration.
  • Essentially I did the classic male/technogeek route and didn’t read any of the documentation. Reading the docs was quite helpful.

    EE STUFF I LIKE (in no particular order)

  • more stats (both in the control panel and for display on the blog)
  • template management is more complete than in MT.
  • The in-program new entry area and the bookmarlet have more features and HTML tags (which are customizable) than MT (also true of WordPress). Indeed, using the bookmarklet is about halfway between the features of MT and those of w.Bloggar.
  • the Deny Duplicate Data feature is a great anti-comment spam tool, given that lately I have been hit (even with the new MT-Blacklist) of multiple identical posts.
  • the built-in CAPTCHA support is nice.

    EE STUFF TO ADJUST TO

  • being used to static pages in MT, it takes a bit of a mental change to think it terms of dynamic pages.

    TRACKBACK ISSUES

  • The bookmarklet has checkboxes to allow you to ping other blogs
  • which not as nice as Mt’s automatic pinging, it isn’t a big deal, and it does work. For some reason the control panel version of the publish screen doesn’t have the checkbox. I had problems with manually cutting and pasting the trackbacks.

  • In test the EE test blog successfully pinged weblogs.com, blo.gs, and blogrolling without any problems (I did not follow-up on technorati). I have had an intermittent problem with blo.gs, however.
  • I have not testing to see what happens if a url is cut and pasted into the entry in terms of whether it will auot-trackback like MT.

    MISC PROBLEMS SOLVED.

  • The first time I tried to use the captcha system to block comment spam, I rec’d an error stating something about not being able to retrieve the glyph or somesuch–and the word did not appear in the catpha box. By going to Image Preferences (under System Preferences in the Admin menu), and turning off TrueType for Captcha solved the problem.
  • Make SURE you place the blogs name in the appropriate EE tags in the index page–otherwise it might call info from the wrong blog. Indeed, I would highly recommend reading the sections of the User Guide on templates and tags carefully, especially if you are used to static pages such as in MT.

    One I figured out the templates and their linkage to the individual weblogs in the Admin section and the EXP tags, having multiple blogs was a snap. And while this process is initially more involved than MT, I can see that EE provides more flexibility.

    In fact I think that it was misapprehension of the way the tags worked within the templates that caused the problems I had with comments the first time I tried to use EE.

    MISC EE INFO

  • Captcha info: words are stored in /lib/words.html
  • The query, tag and dynamic page cacheing, if it works as advertised, allays some of my fears about user-end speed.
  • You can ping pmachines to show updates on their site as well. The UserGuide has the info.

    WORDPRESS V. EE

    If you are looking to do an easier migration from MT to a new platform, the more to WordPress is easier–mostly because it is a less complex program than EE and therefore there is less to learn.

    The importation for both platforms was relatively easy, although I hit a few bumps with EE when I messed with it last weekend and eventually scrapped it and started from scratch. However, the problems were as much my lack of understanding of the way EE worked as it was anything to do with EE. Plus, I tried to do the templates and everything immediately, which was part of the problem.

    The WordPress import was a breeze–although I never tried to set up the templates and such.

    EE DISCUSSIONS

    blogoSFERICS: Template Work Is on Today’s Agenda

    Boots and Sabers: ExpressEngine after action report.

    TooMuchSexy.blog – ExpressionEngine Site Now Live

    WORDPRESS DISCUSSION

    Apropos of Something » The upgrade: sixteen hours later

    Insults Unpunished Plus!! and MT 3.0 And WordPress

    On The Third Hand : MT 3.0 redux

    COMPARATIVE DISCUSSIONS:

    Wizbang: WordPress vs. Expression Engine

    Blog Software Breakdown (via OTB)

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  • By Steven Taylor

    Hmm. All of a sudden if I leave off the “www” from “poliblogger.com” in trying to load any page on my server it bogs down and won’t load.

    In other words, www.polibblogger.com loads like normal, poliblogger.com just keeps loading and loading and loading and loading, etc.

    Any ideas?

    UPDATE: It was some sort of browser problem that I don’t understand: closing Firefox and re-starting it solved the problem. Odd.

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