Political Animal

JOHN LOTT UPDATE….The Washington Post

JOHN LOTT UPDATE….The Washington Post wrote a story about the John Lott/Mary Rosh fiasco yesterday:

Lott said he initially used his own name in online debates with critics. “But you just get into really emotional things with people. You also run into other problems.” So he started using the name Mary Rosh. “I should not have done it, there is no doubt. But it was a way to get information into the debate.”

As it turns out, the Post went pretty easy on Lott, accepting without comment his claim that the “Mary Rosh” review of his book on Amazon was actually written by his 13-year-old son. The article also failed to excerpt some of Mary Rosh’s most embarrassing quotes, but blog readers who want the straight dope can find a complete list here.

Unfortunately, all this attention means that my own chances of interviewing Lott have apparently been seriously compromised. Lott wrote to me last night:

The end of the week I had interviews with the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and one other place. More than a few hours were spent on this. I have only done a tiny fraction of what I have to do for the paper that I told you about before. When I get done with the paper, which now may not be before the end of the week, we can talk, but I have to tell you that at this point I feel interviewed out. I also have a hard time believing that there were any questions that you were interested in that weren’t already covered.

Well, he’s definitely wrong about that last sentence, but it doesn’t look like I’ll ever get the chance to prove it. Hopefully somebody with more clout than me will manage to pin him down on the mysteriously vanished 1997 survey some day.


SECURITY COUNCIL PREVIEW….Bruce also points out this interesting story in Newsweek previewing the evidence from NSA intercepts of Iraqi conversations that Colin Powell has promised to present to the Security Council on Wednesday:

?Hold onto your hat. We?ve got it,? said one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the evidence gathered by the NSA.

….?They?re saying things like, ?Move that,? ?Don?t be reporting that? and ?Ha! Can you believe they missed that?,? the official said. ?It?s that kind of stuff.?

….One official who had reviewed a transcript of the conversations disputed suggestions that the Iraqis were ?joking? about deceiving the inspectors, describing them as ?straightforward? discussions that nonetheless clearly showed concealment by the Iraqis in their dealings with the inspectors. A White House aide said the electronic intercepts were only one part of a much broader picture that would include satellite photos and other evidence showing Iraqi noncompliance. ?There won?t be a smoking gun, but when people hear it all you?ll see a burning forest,? said one senior administration official.

The story claims that NSA intercepts are so sensitive that it’s “stunning” that the administration would decide to use them publicly, even in a case like this. But apparently one argument for disclosing them is that compromising sources “may not matter if the U.S. military is about to invade anyway.”

That makes sense.


NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM….Well, it looks like Josh Marshall was right: Bush has known about North Korea’s uranium enrichment program for more than a year. Bruce Moomaw emails to point out this story in yesterday’s Washington Post:

In November 2001, when the Bush administration was absorbed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, intelligence analysts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed a highly classified report and sent it to Washington. The report concluded that North Korea had begun construction of a plant to enrich uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons, according to administration and congressional sources.

….The findings of the Livermore report were confirmed in a June 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a major assessment by the CIA and all other intelligence agencies. These reports are part of a complex and hidden trail of intelligence about the North Korean effort that has raised questions about why the Bush administration waited until early October 2002 to confront officials in the capital, Pyongyang, with the intelligence — and to go public several weeks later — when details had been accumulating for more than two years.

The Bushies no doubt have some good reasons for treating North Korea differently than Iraq, but this is one they’d probably rather keep quiet about. After all, how can you demand immediate action on the peninsula when this is a problem you’ve known about for a year and done nothing about?

This also puts the lie to is the administration’s continual insistence that they can handle multiple things at once. Don’t worry, we can invade Iraq and keep fighting al-Qaeda full tilt at the same time. We’re big boys.

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein may be the right thing to do, but it’s not without costs. Paying too little attention to problems elsewhere in the world may be one of them.

WHERE WERE YOU?….When Richard Nixon

WHERE WERE YOU?….When Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, I heard about it in Provo, Utah, where I was attending a conference for high school newspaper editors.

When Reagan was shot in 1981, I heard about it in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times, where I was working as an intern for a semester.

When Challenger exploded in 1986, I heard about it at work, where I was a technical writer. The only TV we had was over in the marketing department, so that’s where we all went.

When the OJ verdict was announced in 1995, I was again at work, this time as VP of marketing. The nearest TV was in our training room, and about half the company crowded in, waiting breathlessly for the jury’s decision.

When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, I was at home in bed. My sister-in-law called and told me to turn on the TV.

Today, when Columbia disintegrated on landing, I first heard about it from Matt Yglesias’ blog. After a double take, I realized what he meant and turned on CNN.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right that it’s mostly bad news and disasters that stick so vividly in our memories. Where was I when I heard the Berlin Wall had fallen? Or the hostages had been released from Tehran? Or Princess Di got married? I don’t remember. I know where I was when Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon (at the dinner table, in a rare relaxation of the rule against TV during dinner), but that’s about it.

It doesn’t seem right, but for better or worse, this is the way we humans seem to operate, retaining a vivid memory of disasters while turning the good times into a homogeneous fog. It’s a pity that we’re built that way.