free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003

--- More Powell To Ya ---

Colin Powell raised a multitude of eyebrows yesterday morning when he announced the existence of a new bin Laden tape, one that proves Osama and Saddam are in cahoots.

As the news cycle unfolded, al-Jazeera did indeed have a tape. [BBC transcript here.] Assuming the tape is genuine, bin Laden does indeed address the looming Gulf War II. He calls on all good Muslims to repel American "crusaders" and "infidels". And he shares his assessment of US military:
"... in combat, they mainly depend on psychological warfare. ... They also depend on massive air strikes ..."
But bin Laden clearly marks Saddam and fellow Ba'athists as "socialists" and "infidels" [not as bad as "apostates", but sword-worthy nonetheless], whose regime is illegitimate, whose "jurisdiction ... has fallen a long time ago", who remain infidels "whether they are in Baghdad or Aden".

[Some confusion arose over whether bin Laden includes Saddam among the "hypocrites of Iraq" who are "apostates and outside the community of Muslims", such that true Muslims may permissibly "spill their blood and take their property". As I read this, it applies not to Saddam, but to those in Iraq and elsewhere who collaborate with "crusaders".]

None of this plausibly supported Powell's morning testimony, and thus raised another multitude of eyebrows. Speculation grew that Powell would reappear to amend his remarks or adjust his position.

Instead, Powell appeared on the Hill again this morning, insisting the tape confirms his interpretation. Here, we have a problem.

To paraphase Powell's UN presentation: "My charges are based on solid intelligence -- intelligence not unlike the impressive-looking artifacts you see here today (which do not address such charges). Take my word for it, similar undisclosed artifacts do support these charges, and I would not interpret them falsely." [see posts below]

Powell's case rests on his reading of privileged evidence. Yet the Osama tape lets us look over his shoulder as he reads public evidence. We can see bin Laden's original lines bent to intersect Powell's predetermined target ... and we imagine this interpretive motif recurring and compounding as information percolates through the pipelines and pyramids of our intelligence infrastructure.

Obligatory note: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was so dissatisfied with existing agencies' failure to validate the link between Saddam and al Qaeda, he chartered his own agency. Has CIA's George Tenet now become a true believer? Alone, or with agency buy-in? Or is he playing a classic double game to keep himself and/or his agency in the loop?

UPDATE: Powell's credibility took another hit today when he announced "The ricin that is bouncing around Europe now originated in Iraq". Per CNN:
A French intelligence source said he was "stunned" by Powell's comment. "There is no, repeat, no suggestion that the ricin was anything but locally produced," he said. "It was bad quality, not technically sophisticated."

Further, the source said, British authorities "are clear" that the poison was "home-made."

State Department officials said that Powell was likely referring to the "knowledge and capability" to produce ricin ...
Iraq processes castor beans (source of ricin) on industrial scale, and has produced ricin in quality and quantity, but does not appear implicated in the current case. Members of the European poison web have contacts with al-Zarqawi, but the ricin cookbook has been open-book since the late 1800's, and current contacts seem linked to Chechnya and Pankisi Gorge.