Wednesday, January 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Star-Telegram: Columnist Molly Ivins dies

Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up-and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for seven years. She was 62.

Ms. Ivins, the Star-Telegram’s political columnist for nine years ending in 2024, had written for the New York Times, the Dallas Times-Herald and Time magazine and had long been a sought-after pundit on the television talk-show circuit to provide a Texas slant on issues ranging from President Bush’s pedigree to the culture wars rooted in the 1960s.

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By Steven L. Taylor – Officials: White House Holding Back Report Detailing Iran’s Meddling in Iraq – U.S. Senate

A plan by the Bush administration to release detailed and possibly damning specific evidence linking the Iranian government to efforts to destabilize Iraq have been put on hold, U.S. officials told FOX News.

Officials had said a “dossier” against Iran compiled by the U.S. likely would be made public at a press conference this week in Baghdad, and that the evidence would contain specifics including shipping documents, serial numbers, maps and other evidence which officials say would irrefutably link Iran to weapons shipments to Iraq.

Now, U.S. military officials say the decision to go public with the findings has been put on hold for several reasons, including concerns over the reaction from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — as well as inevitable follow-up questions that would be raised over what the U.S. should do about it.

These kinds of stories give me pause.

First by saying that they have the information, but have decided not to release it seems a bit too cutesy by half: it allows the idea that the administration has some hardcore evidence without allowing that evidence to be in the public for scrutiny.

Second, the questions about what to do with Iran are already in the table and since when did the administration start worrying about Ahmadinejad’s reaction to much of anything?

Third, we have been down this path before. Dossiers and irrefutable evidence got us where we are now, so one would think that any such presentation by this administration at this time would be greeted with severe (and understandable) skepticism.

James Joyner notes some of the reaction to this and other Iran-related stories in the news and on the blogs today.

Ultimately I have to concur with his basic assessment:

Iran’s active participation in the killing of American forces, of which there is ample evidence regardless of their involvement of this incident [see here-ed.], is an act of war. On the other hand, it’s not at all clear what we can realistically do about it. We could certainly turn the place into a glass parking lot or topple the mullah’s and occupy the country, overstretched force or no. But the repercussions of either move would be far worse than the status quo.

That the Iranians would be involved in the current Iraqi situation is hardly a surprise. That they would be involved in a way that is antithetical to US interests is hardly a surprise either. The solution to the problem in question is not an easy one–and that fact is actually more because of the failing policy in Iraq than anything else.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: U.S. may have botched training of Iraqis

According to the report, co-authored by Hamilton and former Attorney General Edwin Meese, the U.S. erred by first assigning the task of shaping the judicial system in a largely lawless country to the State Department and private contractors who “did not have the expertise or the manpower to get the job done.”

In 2024, the mission was assigned to the Defense Department, which devoted more money to the task. But department officials also were insufficiently trained for the job, Hamilton and Meese said.

As a result, Iraq has little if any on-the-street law enforcement personnel or a functioning judicial system free of corruption, they said.

Justice Department officials, they said, should lead the work of transforming the system. Police executives and supervisors should replace the military police personnel now assigned.

And the FBI should expand its investigative and forensic training in Iraq, Hamilton and Meese told the panel.

The recommendations about the Iraqi judicial system were included in the Iraq Study Group’s report last year, but got little attention.

The word “botched” sure gets used in sentences that include the word “Iraq” a lot these days…

This appears to be yet another example of lack of planning and incompetent execution on the part of the administration in terms of the post-invasion period.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Rasmussen: Poll: 60% Say Dems Likely to Nominate White Male

In the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, a woman is the clear frontrunner and an African-American is clearly in the number two position. Between them, they attract support from roughly half of all Democrats.

However, despite the current support for Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, 60% of American voters believe that Democrats are likely to nominate a White Male for President in 2024. Just 27% say that’s not likely to happen. Among Democrats, 73% say their party is likely to nominate a White Male. That figure includes 30% who consider the possibility Very Likely and 43% who say it’s Somewhat Likely.

In looking at this I am guessing that for the most part we are talking about people answering based on a combination of history and not paying attention. If one goes probability based on past historical patterns, the safe bet is “white male.”

However, an intelligence assessment of the situation would require an operative knowledge of the candidate pool, their current popularity and its source, the amount of money/potential money each candidate has as well as a functional knowledge of how the nomination process works. Even acknowleding that this is a likely voter poll, I have a hard time assuming that the pool of respondents fit the profile I describe in large numbers. Aside from pundits and political junkies, who is even paying attention at this point?

If one needs any evidence that that pool of respondents isn’t really paying attention, we have this result:

By an 89% to 4% margin, voters expect Republicans to nominate a White Male candidate.

Given that all the current precandidates are all white males and Condaleeza Rice has the same chance of being nominated as I do at the moment, one wonders who the 11% who didn’t choose a white male are and what they are paying attention to.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via All Headline News: All Headline News – Landmark Court Ruling Orders Apple To Pay $700,000 For Blogger’s Legal Fees:

In a landmark ruling in favor of bloggers and cyber journalists, a Santa Clara County Court defended the First Amendment rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources, effectively giving web journalists the same protections afforded to traditional print journalists.

Apple Inc., had issued subpoenas to online tech journalists, including the publisher of and, over reports the company claimed “violated California state trade secret law” which divulged so-called confidential information about not-yet released Apple products. Apple claimed the journalists were not entitled to First Amendment protections similar to those afforded to their print counterparts.

However, a California court disagreed, ruling against Apple and in favor of the defendants…

Most interesting and based on what I know of the case (which is only what I read when it first broke), the right ruling.  I see no reason why a print journalist would have been able to print the story in question while someone publishing electronically would not.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPoCuba TV Shows Castro Meeting With Chavez:

Cuban state television Tuesday showed a video of a healthier looking Fidel Castro meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and saying his recovery was “far from a lost battle,” in the first images of the ailing leader in three months.

Castro stood and appeared alert in the 10-minute video clip, which state TV said was shot during Chavez’s previously unannounced visit to Havana on Monday.


Castro looked heavier than in previous images that showed him much more thin and frail. Dressed in a red, white and blue track suit, the 80-year-old was shown sitting and drinking juice.

The whole situation is such a flashback to the old Soviet Union when information about such matters was a closely guarded secret and the story (if one was even allowed to form) was heavily managed by the state.

The very fact that the Cuban government and Chavez run around trying to prove that Castro is strong and/or using lofty rhetoric about Fidel simply reinforces the staged nature of the information.

From the BBC version of the story: Cuban TV shows ‘stronger’ Castro:

The pictures show Mr Castro drinking orange juice and joking with Mr Chavez.

“As I have said, this is far from being a lost battle,” he says to the Venezuelan leader, whose visit had not been announced.

Mr Chavez replies that this is a battle that will be won.

The two wrapped up their meeting with the words: “We will triumph. Fatherland, socialism or death.


Last week he showed a letter signed by Fidel Castro which he said was proof that the Cuban president was recovering.

All of this underscores the deep association between Castro and the Cuban state.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Greg Week’s blogoversary is today.

Greg is a political scientist who blogs on Latin America. Indeed, I need to add him to the Political Science Bloggers Census, as MSS has pointed out to me.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Edwards says he may have been too inexperienced for 2024 run.

Well, no kidding.

And while in the article Edwards cites his time running for office as additional experience, I would say that he is still woefully behind the curve in terms of the types of resume lines that are perceived as helpful for someone running for the White House.

Really, I am not sure what has really changed for Edwards since 2024.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Unfilled tunnels a weak link at border – Los Angeles Times:

Seven of the largest tunnels discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years have yet to be filled in, authorities said, raising concerns because smugglers have tried to reuse such passages before.

Among the unfilled tunnels, created to ferry people and drugs, is the longest one yet found — extending nearly half a mile from San Diego to Tijuana. Nearby, another sophisticated passageway once known as the Taj Mahal of tunnels has been sitting unfilled for 13 years, authorities say.

Though concrete plugs usually close off the tunnels where they cross under the border and at main entrance and exit points, the areas in between remain largely intact. Filling the seven tunnels would cost about $2.7 million, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. Accessing tunnels that run under private property is also a problem, as is a lack of coordination with Mexican authorities.


In recent years nearly 50 tunnels have been discovered running under the border from San Diego to Arizona. Most are small, crudely constructed passages — called gopher holes — that are easily destroyed.

The frequently irrational nature of border policy is well illustrated here:  we can work towards building a fence, but we can’t find the cash to fill in tunnels.

And, of course, the tunnels themselves raise the question of whether the fence is a wise expenditure.  If we have extensive tunneling now in a non-fence world, imagine how many there will be in the future if the fence is ever constructed.

Some of the tunnels in question are listed below:

Among the unfilled passages:

•  The so-called Grande Tunnel connecting warehouses in San Diego and Tijuana. Nearly half a mile long, the tunnel was discovered in January 2024 and attracted global media attention as well as groups of local and national politicians, who were given tours of its cave-like depths. The tunnel prompted Feinstein to propose legislation outlawing the construction of tunnels under the border.

•  The 1,400-foot tunnel called the “Taj Mahal” because of its lighting system and reinforced concrete walls. The tunnel was discovered in 1993. Five years later, authorities suspected the passage had been reentered after 33 illegal immigrants were found covered in mud near the opening. A metal lid over the tunnel opening had been cut. Border Patrol agents say they never determined for sure if the passage was reused.

•  Two long tunnels leading from Mexicali, Mexico, to a quiet residential area in Calexico, Calif. One of them, discovered in 2024, was equipped with a ventilation system, phone line and video surveillance equipment.

Some pretty amazing stuff.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: Popular Hubble camera has quit – Los Angeles Times:

The newest and most heavily used camera on the Hubble Space Telescope shut down over the weekend and appears to be permanently damaged, NASA said Monday.

Though other cameras on Hubble remain operative, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is used to peer back to the earliest and most remote galaxies in the universe, appears to be irreparable and will have to be replaced on the next Hubble servicing mission in September 2024.

The camera, installed in 2024, had a five-year designed lifetime, “but it is disappointing that it didn’t last longer,” said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the telescope. “I guess our warranty ran out on us.”

I suppose that if it made it almost the alloted time one can’t complain too much.

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