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Saturday, November 02, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Ouch ... the "Heat" dropped to 2-2 after a 4-0 pasting by the Strikers this morning. The Strikers also beat us on opening day. The only good news from the game was that pictures were distributed and all the kids looked good. The coach looked like a fat loser.

Two noteworthy unanimous decisions from the Virginia Supreme Court came down yesterday. In the first, the court upheld the General Assembly redistricting plan drawn up in 2001. Democrats, including Governor Mark Warner, had challenged it on racial grounds:

"The use of race as a factor in designing these districts is conceded," Justice Eizabeth B. Lacy wrote in the majority opinion.

"This record shows that along with race, accommodations for population equality, incumbency and political party voting patterns were made by the General Assembly."

In drawing up the new boundaries, using population figures from the 2000 census, the 2001 General Assembly drew 12 House of Delegates and five Senate districts with a majority of black residents. This maintained the ratio that the Democratic majority created in 1991

This is a big win for Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. Democrats took shots at him for defending the plan before consulting with the Governor and who the AG really works for--if anyone but the Commonwealth--is still unclear.

The second case is more interesting, touching on journalism and the death penalty:

Neither the First Amendment nor the Virginia Freedom of Information Act gives the press or the public a right to test evidence in a criminal case, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Four newspapers and a charity had sought sophisticated DNA testing of seminal fluid from the rape and murder of Wanda Faye McCoy in 1981. Roger Keith Coleman was executed for McCoy's murder in 1992.

DNA testing did not exist when Coleman was condemned in Buchanan County Circuit Court in 1982. Ten years later, the procedure still was crude, by today's standards, when testing shortly before his execution put him in the 0.2 percent of the population that could have contributed the fluid retrieved from McCoy's body.

Today's DNA testing probably could conclusively establish Coleman's guilt or innocence

I agree with the decision, but also believe the Virginia authorities should voluntarily test this evidence and report the results. I'd be interested in your take, Tony, and that of the many legal bloggers who report on such things.

Finally, Tony, I have to agree that "striking" was an understatement when I reported results of Larry Sabato's Youth Leadership Initiative voting. I was working on deadline and didn't ponder the right word choice. Your "those crazy kids" captured it better.

When I was watching the soccer team play today, I was thinking, "Wow, a bunch of future conservatives!"

I just hope that a few kids who voted Republican in the YLI election are the offspring of liberal bloggers ....

Friday, November 01, 2002

More Shootings Linked to Muhammad & Malvo

Tony Adragna
Just heard that Muhammad & Malvo have been linked to the September 14th shooting outside a liquor store in Silver Spring, MD ["Man shot outside beer and wine store" is a contemporaneous report from local press] I know the area well — Hillandale is up the road from where I lived in Langley Park, MD, headed toward the Naval Surface Warfare Center [or what's left of it there].

Police have said that the ballistics test is inconclusive — could they have used the handgun that was gotten rid of in Alabama?[If that gun found is their gun]

And how far can we go in matching unsolved cases to Muhamad & Malvo? How 'bout the Sept. 6 Gaithersburg shooting:
At 9:10 p.m. a 21-year-old Potomac man, a 27-year-old Gaithersburg woman and a 24-year-old Gaithersburg man were walking on a wooded path near Mill Stream Drive and Wheelwright Drive. A man approached them, showed a handgun and yelled for them to get on the ground, while demanding money, said Officer Joyce Utter, a police spokeswoman.

When the men and the woman did not comply, the suspect fired a round into the ground, Utter said. One of the men told the others to run.

The Potomac man tried to run and the suspect shot him in the back before running from the scene.


"[The victims] may have seen another person in their periphery but right now there is only one suspect,"
Utter said.

The suspect is described as a black male, 6 feet tall, wearing a dark hat and a dark shirt, she said. He is wanted on a charge of aggravated assault with a handgun...
Don't know when we'll be done with these two suspects...

Erratum [because I forgot something again]: Of course, some people were on the Hillandale item before it broke, and Ye Ol' Unqualified One is still on top of it...

It's The Licensing Agreements, Stupid!

Tony Adragna
OK, I've finally gotten around to skimming though United State of America v. Microsoft Corporation. Last time I wrote on this I said it's "the anti-competitive licensing agreements", and that's mostly where the District Court comes down this time. The settlement does require Microsoft to provide access to source code [so that "applications" competitors can write software that will work in the Windows environment], but in a very limited manner.

And I do enjoy instances where judges quote the "Immortal Bard" — see page 30 of the pdf version

By the way, you know what the opposite of Microsoft is? It's megahard... [actually, it's "macrohard", but it's still Greek and "mega" sounds better]

Those Crazy Kids...

Tony Adragna
They must be still rushing on sugar from all that candy they ate last night. Parent's are gonna love seeing these selected returns for Maryland:

Maryland's 4th Congressional District [Tony's home since redistricting — he used to vote for Steny Hoyer, it'll be the first time voting for Al Wynn]
John B. Kimble (Republican) 52.63%
Albert R. Wynn (Democratic) 43.49%
Wynn won in '94 with 75% of the vote. In Wynn's three previous contests against Kimble he won with over 80% of the vote [ 85% in '96, 86% in '98, and 87% in 2000]

In Maryland's 3rd they've got Ben Cardin losing by 20 points
Benjamin L. Cardin (Democratic) 40.00%
Scott Conwell (Republican) 60.00%
Looking at Cardin's number for the same four year's as above [use the same links] we see that he won with 71%, 67%, 78% and 76%.

These kids don't just vote differently from their parents — they're in a completely different political universe! Either that, or we're in for some real changes when these folks get to vote.

"Striking" is understatement, Will...

Young Voters Speak

Will Vehrs
Tony, consider me suitably chastened for believing that the Kennedy magic could transcend a dreary record and uninspired campaigning.

Larry Sabato's Youth Leadership Initiative has announced the results of its voting. Their Internet poll closed at noon and the results of voting by almost 67,000 students is here. Here are some selected races:

Maryland Governor: Ehrlich (R) 54.4%; Kennedy-Townsend 33.4%

Missouri Senate: Talent (R) 44.3%; Carnahan 41.7%

South Dakota Senate: Thune (R) 67.2%; Johnson (D) 25.6%

Arkansas Senate: Hutchinson (R) 77.8%; Pryor (D) 22.2%

Colorado Senate: Allard (R) 46.4%; Strickland (D) 37.7%

Minnesota Senate: Coleman (R) 41.9%; Mondale (D) 41.7%

New Jersey Senate: Lautenberg (D) 40.1%; Forrester (R) 39.3%

Florida Governor: Bush (R) 51.0%; McBride (D) 42.3%

California Governor: Davis (D) 45.4%; Simon 24.2%; Camejo (Green) 16.9%

New Hampshire Senate: Sununu (R) 62.5; Shaheen (D) 30%

Massachusetts Governor: Romney (R) 45%; O'Brien (D) 32%

This results, while meaningless, are pretty striking. Are there Republican high schools? Were they the only ones to participate? Do these kids' parents know about their children's political leanings? The Green candidate's numbers in California were interesting and many libertarian or other minor party candidates got good totals in most contests.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Decides

Tony Adragna
Judge Kollar-Kotelly issued Memo Opinions and Orders in both United States v. Microsoft Corp. and State of New York, et al v. Microsoft Corp. (Settlement). I haven't read either opinion yet.

There was also an order issued today in Judicial Watch, Inc. v. National Energy Policy Development Group and Sierra Club v. Vice President Richard Cheney, et al. on:
"motion for a stay of proceedings pending appeal of this Court's October 17, 2002, September 9, 2002, and July 11, 2002 Orders authorizing limited discovery from defendants on threshold issues, and ordering defendants to produce non-privileged documents responsive to plaintiffs' discovery requests, along with a privilege log identifying those documents for which defendants believe there is a valid basis for the assertion of a privilege. Upon careful consideration of defendants' motion, the response and reply thereto, and the relevant legal authority, and for the following reasons, it is by the Court hereby

ORDERED that defendants' motion for a stay is DENIED.[emphasis original]
This has gone on long enough — makes on wonder whether there's something to hide...

Wellstone on DOMA: How even "Unreconstructed Liberals" sometimes are less than appears...

Tony Adragna
Glenn Reynolds and Orrin Judd are just now discovering that Paul Wellstone voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, and used an argument from religion in explaining his vote.

QP didn't cite the argument — it's boilerplate — but did (on Oct 10th) note Wellstone's vote on DOMA, as well as the votes of his confriars. [Scroll down in the same post to "Contemptible Campaigning"]

While noting that there wasn't a a single Senate GOP vote against, and only a single House Republican voted Nay, it's also worth noting that the overwhelming majority of Democrats in both chambers voted Yea...

Erratum: Link to QP's Oct 10 post was originally pointing to Orrin Judd — all fixed now...

Partisans v. Independents in '02

Tony Adragna
Good morning, Will! Thanks for pointing me to Sabato's analysis on the MD governor's race — it confirms my own "analysis" on August 16th. 'Course, I never did appreciate her candidacy, and I'm still convinced that she got it by default.

I've also got to tweak you a little for suggesting the "Kennedy connection" would get votes for any old Kennedy cousin — didn't help Mark Shiver in the primary against Van Hollen [though I'm not sure if Shriver's "connection" is widely known, or was even mentioned by either camp].

I also did a bit of "analysis" on the Morella v. Van Hollen race in MD's 8th. The Crystal Ball has this race "leaning Democrat", so we agree. What I didn't know is that the seat Ehrlich is leaving is also "leaning Democrat". If KKT ekes out a win — a possibility that both Sabato and I leave room for — and Ruppersberger (D) wins in MD's 2nd, that's a double-fault against Ehrlich: woulda called it "solid Republican" if he was in that race[Ehrlich consistently pulled over 60% in the general election for that seat — 63% in '94, 62%in '96, and 69% in '98 and 2000].

I'm grokking the significance of which way independent voters are gonna go next Tuesday, and I've two innovative (I think) examples of how the GOP has tried to sway the less partisan folks. The examples come from the Cleland-Chambliss and Morella-Van Hollen contests. In the former, Cleland is compared to Zell Miller and non-partisan voters are urged to vote for Chambliss because his views are closer to those of Miller & the people of Georgia. In the latter, Van Hollen is taken to task for distorting the views of his primary rival (the aforementioned Mark Shriver) and non-partisan voters are warned that he's done the same to Morella & non-partisan voters are urged to vote for Morella.

Is this the first campaign season where a candidate's differences with own party has been used in attacks by opponents? I don't think so, but the way it's been done in the examples I cited seems to me something new.

It's also worth noting — as Dan Balz and Jo Becker do today — a striking contrast between the Morella and Van Hollen campaigns with regard to "independent v. partisan"...

More Tipping-In [I'm always forgetting something]: I think E.J. is correct — Mr. Bush's proposal solves not the problem in attempting to advance judicial nominations against partisan opposition when the opposition controls the body whose Constitutional prerogative it is to "approve" — and, therefore, whose prerogative it also is to reject — such nominations. Note E.J.'s closing:
If the Democrats hold the Senate on Tuesday, the president may well keep trying to shove as many conservatives onto the courts as he can, with predictably rancorous results. Or he could acknowledge the reality that divided government accurately reflects a nation closely split in its politics -- and perhaps especially so in its attitudes toward the judiciary. Divided government can produce gridlock. It can also produce compromise and balance. Where the courts are concerned, compromise and balance are exactly what's required.
Jeff Cooper wrote on the 27th:
The realist in me says that the relationship between the administration and Senate Democrats is too badly poisoned for a plan like this to be accepted. If the Republicans retake control of the Senate in next week's elections, the plan will be unnecessary, as the new Senate leadership would move the president's nominations forward with dispatch; if the Democrats maintain control, their incentive to cooperate will be further diminished. And the political observer in me suspects that, if such a plan were somehow to take effect, the likely result would be a lot more nominations rejected by partisan vote—at least as long as the president continued to nominate sharply ideological candidates for judgeships.
The realist in me says that if the Democrats maintain control of the Senate, and maybe even pick up a seat or two, the administration may end up doing as E.J. recommends — the alternative is as Jeff suggests...

Hyattsville Hollowen After-action Report: 'Twas another disappointing year, Will. We only got a single hit last night, though there were eight children in that group. And William forgot to buy my punkin ..

Two Minute Drill Election Extra

Will Vehrs
Four Bag Night It was a low to medium turn-out Halloween at our house as we went through four bags of candy. The cold weather probably had something to do with lowering the numbers. I didn't see any of my favorite trick or treaters--middle school age boys in hastily thrown together costumes, sweaty from running house to house, dragging heavy pillowcases of candy. I admire kids who turn Halloween into an athletic-style challenge--covering as much ground as quickly as possible.

Same Old, Same Old Once again, yours truly and posters from The Refuge were shut out in Dodd's famous Caption Contest. There have been too many distractions lately ... after the election, I'm sure QP contestants will re-claim their rightful place as the ones to beat.

Crystal Ball Highlights UVA Professor Larry Sabato is not only a leading academic in the fields of government and politics, he's also an entertaining pundit, always quick with a quip. I took a look at his rationale for some key races that he called in his latest Crystal Ball:

Missouri Senate It is difficult to impossible to pick a winner here, but the Crystal Ball is inclined to think that Carnahan is the weakest Democratic Senate incumbent up for reelection this year. We will bet she has gotten a slight boost from the Minnesota Wellstone tragedy, so reminiscent is it of the 2000 Missouri plane crash that catapulted her into the Senate. Still, we'll place a tiny bet on Talent, knowing full well that Missouri voters will show us the truth on Tuesday.

Louisiana Senate More and more, Louisiana observers seem to believe that a December 7 runoff is likely, and the Crystal Ball tentatively agrees. But even if control of the Senate hinges on the Bayou runoff, and the full attention--and money--of both parties is focused on the state, Landrieu [D] will still be favored.

New Hampshire Senate The Crystal Ball stuck with Sununu for many weeks because we believed that the Republican tide in the Granite State would be sufficient to carry him in, despite a lackluster campaign. Two developments have changed our mind. First, Bob Smith has earned the title of "worst sport of 2002," and his write-in effort will certainly take at least a percent or two from Sununu. Second, New Hampshire voters--who are among the most independent in the nation--appear to be resisting a straight party vote, so that the likely GOP victories for governor and for both House seats may actually be working against Sununu. But for the first time, we give a tiny edge to Democrat Shaheen. As for the retiring Senator Smith, he will not only be denied an ambassadorship in the Bush administration, he will be lucky to even get a passport.

Colorada Senate To say the least, neither candidate has set Colorado on fire, which may be a good thing after the blazes of last summer. Still, here we are, forced to choose much as the Colorado voter is. Without much confidence, we choose Allard, believing anew that the Republican nature of Colorado, the pending Owens landslide, and the almost-desperate efforts of President Bush will drag the man now known as Senator "Dullard" across the finish line first.

Arkansas Senate The race has continued to tighten, and Republicans are feeling more confident. They may be right, but the Crystal Ball believes that this most vulnerable Republican seat in the country is still likely to switch to the Democrats.

Georgia Senate The election now has real upset potential, and Chambliss is making a closer run at Cleland than anyone foresaw a month ago. Again, with low confidence we believe Cleland will survive by the barest of margins, thanks to both Governor Barnes' likely ticket-leading victory and a healthy African-American turnout.

Just for You, Tony, Maryland Governor This is a contest that even the CB has difficulty predicting, and a large African-American turnout could shatter both the Ball and the prediction. But Glendening has proven to be an enormous ball and chain for Kennedy Townsend, and we suspect that after election day, the only thing he will not have recently fathered is a Democratic successor. Whatever slight momentum exists, it appears to be for the Republican. We do not have great confidence in this particular prediction ....

Massachusetts Governor But after 12 years of Republican governors in this heavily Democratic state, and with strong debate performances by O'Brien, we believe the Democrat will narrowly edge Romney in the Bay State's political Olympics.

Florida Governor The Crystal Ball has greatly enjoyed this race, and we take this opportunity to thank the people of the Sunshine State for the endless entertainment. With that out of the way, we believe that the worst is over for Jeb Bush, and despite a fairly healthy African-American turnout on November 5, he will manage to win the second term for which Bill McBride has made him work very hard. This year the Democrat may be the "McBridesmaid," but next time he may well be the "bride." [Jeb Bush lost his first race for governor before coming back to win.]

Just to recap, the Crystal Ball, "Official Predictor for Quasipundit," sees +3 GOP for the House, +1 Democrats for the Senate, and +5 Governors for the Democrats.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

"Sniper rifle linked to Louisiana killing"

Tony Adragna
CNN reports:
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (CNN) -- The Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle used in the Washington-area sniper shootings has also been identified as the weapon used in the killing of a shopkeeper here, police said Thursday.
Ballistics testing has already confirmed that it's the same weapon. These guys really got around, and people are going to start demanding answers to how it is that they kept on going.

Josh makes a salient observation:
In all seriousness, random gun killings may just have been too common a matter to arouse that much suspicion, until these two decided to pump up the volume one day in early October.
I think he's right, as I noted previously regarding Alabama's seeming failure to enthusiatically pursue evidence in their case.

There is a difference between the Mid-Atlantic crimes and those others — the others seem to be "robbery homocide" [except the murder of Ms. Cook in Tacoma]. Investigatiors had no problems linking the Mid-Atlantic murders, but likely would never have made the connection to Alabama without Muhammad's arrogance. I think Josh's half-joke is right — these guys wanted to get the attention of law enforcement...

Hasta La Vista, Harvey

Will Vehrs
Tony, after a long holdout, I've got to agree--Harvey Pitt has to go. It's one thing to have a political tin ear. It's quite another to embarass the president and his party five days before an election. Pitt's failure to disclose Webster's little "secret" is gross negligence.

Larry Sabato has issued his "almost final" Crystal Ball. He's coming down almost exactly where I said I would have had I not been faint-hearted.

The UVA professor might tweak things on Monday. This Pitt problem might even rise to be a factor that he considers ....

Oh, The Irony! (cont.)
Why hasn't Tim Noah started a "Deathwatch" on Harvey Pitt?

Tony Adragna
Will, it looks like I've come to an opinion 'bout Judge Webster's appointment. When I previously agreed "that there's absolutely no reason he shouldn't be on the board", I didn't know that Judge Webster's got his own "audit committee" problem:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — Shortly before William H. Webster was appointed to head a new board overseeing the accounting profession by the Securities and Exchange Commission last Friday, he told the commission's chairman, Harvey L. Pitt, that he had until recently headed the auditing committee of a company that was facing fraud accusations, Mr. Webster recounted today.
This isn't about Judge Webster — it's about Chairman Pitt's ability to exercise good judgement.

Harvey Pitt has got to go...

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Will Vehrs
Has it been a year, Tony? Wow! I'd almost forgotten about that day when I signed on to this delightful wagon train--it's such an integral part of my life now, even when I'm away.

It's hard to know what life has in store for us over the next year--lord knows we've had some ups and downs getting to this first anniversary--but I'm game to try for another year if you'll have me. Thank you so much, Tony, for inviting me to join you way back when. We have a great stable of dedicated readers whose comments and encouragement make this all worthwhile. I'm actually crushed whenever I go to The Refuge and there's nothing new ... it's my favorite part.

I better quit now before I get all sappy and start telling stories about Army deprivations ....

Clarification: One of those dedicated QP readers--and a dear relation to boot (no, not you, Mom)--has written to say that I might have been a bit too harsh on Prince William County, VA Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert when I wrote this. I poked some fun at Ebert for losing both sides of the infamous Lorena Bobbitt case, but I did not mean that to disparage his qualifications (here and here) to try the Beltway snipers for murder:

Paul B. Ebert, the commonwealth's attorney in Prince William County, Va., where a victim was fatally shot through the head at a gas station on October 9th, chuckled at the notion Virginia's prosecutors aren't up to the task of trying the sniper for capital offenses.

Ebert has secured a dozen death penalty convictions and has tried more than 400 murder cases during his career.

He has the most of any other prosecutor in the state.

"I don't take any pride in that title," Ebert said. "I do think there are some circumstances when the death penalty is appropriate. I think this is one of those cases

My point was that Ebert, who has been Commonwealth Attorney since 1968, was probably not looking to make a name for himself in a political context, in contrast to some other younger, more ambitious prosecutors in other jurisdictions.

Reply by Endorsement

Tony Adragna
To: Will
From: Tony
Subject: Your memo below and a response to some critics

I must confess that the item below is, in fact, a "sea story". I do, however, stand by its value as an illustration.

I also refuse to withdraw the imputed "whiner" to those servicemembers who "circulated [the photos] at the Pentagon and at U.S. Central Command in hopes they will result in improved living conditions at the epicenter of the war on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network."

While noting that members of the United States Air Force have always taken a good bit of ribbing over that service's tendency toward the provision of what are, by comparison, luxuries to even the most junior enlisted members, I do not mean to impugn the character of the service branch in its entirety. Indeed, I do not even begrudge Air Force servicemembers their comparative luxuries — in service you learn to take whatever comforts come your way, how to increase the liklihood of comforts coming your way, and not to mess with somebody else's good thing.

But, I insist that there's something wrong with the "complaints" out of Bagram, and it's not just a couple of squids making that charge:
Even some Air Force officers fear the photo presentation may brand the Air Force as being full of complainers. What's the use of complaining about tacky volleyball nets when most of Afghanistan lives in poverty, asks one officer. "The Army and Navy would laugh at us," he said.
I am, respectfully, having trouble containing my laughter.

Addendum:Sgt. Stryker speaks in defense of the USAF. He is, of course, correct that the USAF's culture and mode of operation are different because the mission demands. The USAF is not an "expeditionary force" accustomed to conditions in the field. Rather, they tend to work from improved sites located away from the immediate vicinity of conflict. Living conditions at an "improved site" are naturally going to be better than in the field, and are not due to any special considerations.

The USAF is also a bit less regimented than the other branches, and for good reason [though, the other branches aren't quite as " conditioned to accept orders without question" as John generally suggests. Also, speaking from experience, there are technical specialties in the USN that are just as demanding of intellect & skill as any you'll find in the USAF, and sailors must be proficient at more than just their specialty in order to fight the ship and handle casualties to crew & vessel]

John's explanation for the disparate conditions is not only a defense, but also true.

Having said that, the "Naval officer['s]" point is valid: The USAF deployment to Bagram is in the nature of "expeditionary warfare", and the conditions on-site are what ought be expected. While I was in the Navy I would have loved to stay at the BEQ all the time, but when underway it's a "coffin" rack for everybody [update: I'm reminded by an old "bubblehead" friend that sometimes it's a "coffin" rack for every two bodies]. I don't know a single Marine who wouldn't prefer a cozy two-man room like what they get at their permanent duty station, but when in the field it's tents & foxholes. Complaining that conditions aren't what you're accustomed to while not on deployment seems to me to be... well... whining.

No Faint Hearts Here,
Just Settled Stomachs

Tony Adragna
I see you dove into the important stuff first, Will. We decided not to do out traditonal full-bore Holloween prep work this year. That's because of last year's disappointing turnout, and I think the same situation will obtain this year due to similar factors. Even if not for the the events of last year & this, the trend in our community has been toward communal Holloween celebrations replacing door-to-door trick-or-treating, and that's out of public safety concerns in general.

But, just in case, William is going to pick up some c-a-n-d-y on his way home, and I hope he grabs a punkin for me to work some of my artistic magic on — it just ain't Holloween 'less I've carved a jack-o'-lantern.

We agree on Novak, nothing new there. I may end up with an upset tummy if I hafta eat a lot of leftover c-a-n-d-y this year, but my gut has settled down on where the election is headed. All I had to do was give up on trying to figure out what's gonna happen. Way back when we started our dialogue I had predicted that the economy would be the big issue with potential to secure Democratic majorities in both houses. I was correct, but Democrat failings and intervening issues spoiled the opportunity.

'04 isn't that far away...

How 'bout Hoagland's submission today on the administration's use of rhetoric? Need I say where I stand on Hoagland's opinion...

Tipping In: A bit of non-sniper related legal news, our favourite government attorney notes a 9th Circuit decision upholding an earlier District Court injunction against bringing the federal government's power to bear in investigating doctors, and revoking their authority to prescribe drugs, for telling certain patients to get stoned.[Y'all know I'm a native of Northern California and a great fan of the 9th Circuit]

And A QP Anniversary

Will, today marks an entire year since we began Shouting 'Cross the Potomac [and a few other bodies of water]

Shall we try for another?

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Happy Halloween! I carved the pumpkin last night and I'll rush home tonight to fix a quick dinner and get ready for the trick or treaters. I'm hoping that parents will let their kids cut loose tonight now that the Beltway Killers are safely in jail.

As always on Halloween, there's hand-wringing over folks like me who go all out to celebrate:

"The gravestones and people coming out of the ground are upsetting to some of our members," said Nancy Ruhe-Munch, executive director of Parents of Murdered Children. "I just think it's sad when we make a game or a costume out of death."

"I wouldn't allow my child to dress up as a junkie or a pimp or an AIDS victim," she said. "Why would I let him dress up as a murderer or a victim? We're sending the wrong message."

I think it's just as likely that Halloween helps kids deal with their fears.

"These Democrats really are tough guys." That's Bob Novak's assessment as the days dwindle toward election day:

Democrats excel at the ''ground game''--not merely mechanics of getting out the vote but a relentless determination to be elected. The unprecedented candidate substitution of 78-year-old former Sen. Frank Lautenberg to save New Jersey's Senate seat is the best example, but Mondale's candidacy comes close.

I would agree with Novak on that point and add that Democrats are much better at tying Republicans to charges of "politics as usual" or excessive politicking than the Republicans are at linking Democrats to the same kind of charges. It's a huge advantage, especially near the end of a campaign.

Novak also makes the explosive charge that the Minnesota Democrat Farm Labor Party blocked African-American Judge and former NFL player Alan Page from replacing Paul Wellstone:

According to Minnesota sources, he was eager to seek the Senate seat. But the DFL apparently did not want to risk running the African-American Page in an overwhelmingly caucasian state, and Page was swiftly discouraged.

Page might have required a campaign, and that is not what the DFL wanted

Maybe Mondale will not serve his full term so that Page can be appointed.

Predictions I have not joined numerous bloggers in making predictions for Tuesday's contests. The predictions I've seen invariably wind up with the writer predicting what he/she wants to happen. I haven't seen any Republican-leaning bloggers or commentators saying, "My god, we're going to lose the House and fall further behind in the Senate." I haven't seen any Democrat-leaners moaning that the GOP will end up controlling everything. A lot of commentators even try to "push" momentum to their side by reporting gauzy positive trends such as secret "internal" polls or the the number of absentee ballots returned. This election is too close for a casual observer of faraway campaigns like myself to call and I have no desire to push or predict on the basis of my bias.

I continue to respect and flack Professor Sabato's analysis because that's what it is--analysis. The best predictions are made by analyzing quantitative data while dispassionately evaluating a large number of subjective observations about candidates, issues, and ads.

William Safire does not share my compunction and he makes a useful observation along with a contrarian prediction this morning:

But when a bunch of campaigns seems so tight, often a last-minute lurch causes the races to break mostly one way. Funny, but the squeakers don't all average out. I'll guess against the grain that the Senate will go Republican by two or three votes as the House goes Democratic by a dozen votes. My gut feeling has a 75 percent statistical probability of error, but that fazes only the fainthearted.

If I wasn't faint-hearted, I'd predict that the GOP holds the House with a slight gain and Democrats hold the Senate with a pick-up of maybe one. The Democrats should pick up a net of five statehouses. There will be one surprise that no one saw coming, but I can't tell where it will be. That's why it will be a surprise.

Memo to Tony You really shouldn't mess with co-workers like that ... civilians just aren't equipped to handle military story-telling.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The Senior Service tells Junior the Facts of Military Life

Tony Adragna
Bill Herbert has an outstanding item on Air Froce complaints over living conditions at Bagram. I direct your attention to the last graf Bill quoted:
"It's about time they grew up and learned the hard lessons of expeditionary warfare," said a Navy officer. "I expect that our Marines have been dealing with equally poor or worse conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, and I'm sure they haven't been complaining."
What the Naval officer shoulda said — what woulda really got under the fingernails of our friends in the Air Force — was something 'bout Air Force pilots having 10,000 feet of stable runway to play with... that's what I woulda said...

'Course, you don't wanna give me an opening like somebody at the office did today. I was going outside to smoke a cigarette, but I didn't take my brolly with me. A coworker asked, "How you gonna smoke in the rain without an umbrella"[nevermind that there's a substantial overhang along the whole front of the building] "Easy" I said, "in the Navy I learned how to smoke on deck during a storm. You just cup the business end in your hand, and leave enough of the butt exposed that your lips can get a purchase"

"Oh", she says, "that makes sense."

I wasn't done yet — that was only a ranging shot, and now I'm after hitting the target.

"The real trick is getting it lit" I continued.

"And how do you do that" — I got her now. There's just one problem: Nobody ever taught me how to do that. So, what do I do now?

Not to worry! I planted my feet 18" apart — remembering to not lock my kees — as if I was back on a rolling deck, and I did what any old tar would do: I proceeded to make up a "sea story" on the spot.

"Well" I begin, " some, like the old Chiefs, can light a match in gale force winds. That I can't do. Others engage in a very dangerous practice — kerosene in the Zippo. I'm too fond of my facial hair to attempt that evolution. Me, I prefer one of those refillable butane lighters with an electric starter"

"That works, huh?" she asks.

"Certainly" I responded, "you just turn that puppy all the way up, hit the ignition, and you're good to go."

"But doesn't that make like a really big jet of flame?" — just the opening I needed for the big send-off.

"Sure does. In fact, last time I did it I heard the growler behind me squealing, so I picked it up to hear the OOD asking if I was using my lighter back there on the fantail, because he'd just got flash traffic 'bout a missile launch at our coordinates"...

She walked away vowing never to talk to me again: that's a good thing far as I'm concened — the less stupid questions & petty complaints I've got to deal with, the better my life will be...

Green, Not Damp

Will Vehrs
Tony, you haven't convinced me that the Wellstone memorial service/shameless partisan rally wasn't unseemly, but you make a good point. Those preening Democrats weren't interested in carrying on the Wellstone legacy. Anyone who truly believes in the causes Senator Wellstone espoused should be voting for the Green Party candidate, not wildly cheering warmed over Mondale.

Of course, you might point out the self-serving nature of that comment--a vote for the Green Party is a vote for Norm Coleman, the candidate I favor. But, absent Mondale vowing to continue Wellstone's tradition of being at the losing end of 98-2 votes, you know it's true. Wellstone was closer to the Greens than to "New" Democrats.

That said, I won't mind if Mondale is, as expected, the winner on Tuesday. There's a lot to be said for having the experience of a former vice-president in the Senate. I just hope that if Mondale is elected he will be an elder statesman, not a partisan hack trying to help his party hang on to the Senate by whatever means necessary.


The real cause for shame at Paul Wellstone's memorial.
Tony Adragna
Will, I've got to disagree with you, and others, on what was wrong with what happened at the memorial service. It's not that I think you guys are all wet, but maybe just a little damp.

There's an old tradition of rallying 'round the fallen hero, taking up the banner and following the example in the same cause to which the hero was dedicated. This same tradition has been evident in memorial tributes to populist politicians. In this context I think Paul Wellstone's partisans — those who had always enthusiatically supported him the causes he championed — did him great honour.

What I find distasteful — yea, shameful — is the audacity of his supposed compatriots in the senate — that chamber's Democratic caucus. How dare they parade themselves at a rally for this people's hero as if he was their hero, too! Where was the Democratic caucus when Paul Wellstone was fighting losing battles all by himself?

They were reaching 'cross the aisle making deals with Wellstone's adversaries. They were behind closed doors negotiating with the political rivals' general-in-chief. They were everywhere doing anything they could to win their own battles, rather than lending support to Wellstone's struggle when it really mattered.

Now they want to go forth on "Saint Wellstone's Day" and urge their own troops "onward into the breach" — or they'll plug it with Wellstone's dead body.

The shame befalls not on the loyal troops, but upon the duplicitous generals...

OH, The Irony!
Looking at a Defense of Harvey Pitt at the SEC

Tony Adragna
You know how I feel about Harvey Pitt, Will — eminently qualified, but a bad choice for his conflicts. Well, I was watching a Newshour discusion last night on the Accounting Oversight Board imbroglio. In answering Ray's question regarding the administration's proposed funding of the SEC at $200 million less Sarbanes-Oxley called for, Mr. Joseph Grundfest, who argues that the money is needed, said the following:
I think the evidence is clear that if we're going to give the SEC the responsibility to clean up the markets and prevent the sorts of frauds that we have incurred to this point, what we need is more cops on the beat. We need litigators who can actually go to court against some of the largest law firms in the United States, against some of the smartest lawyers in the United States who are hired to represent these defendants. And we need the litigators representing the American people and the SEC and the small investor to have the wherewithall necessary to win... [emphasis added]
Who are the lawyers Mr. Grundfest speaks of as "hired to represent these defendants"? Can we come up with any name off the top of the head? The tip of the toungue, maybe? Let me run a name up the flag pole and see how it looks: Harvey Pitt.

I'll not quarrel with Mr. Grundfest's argument that we need more enforcement. But, I've also got to note, as I've argued in the past, that we need clearer regulatory standards that smart — or even just clever — lawyers [and accountants] aren't able to play so many games with. I say this because despite Mr. Grundfest rightly pointing out that there are already laws on the books which need aggressive enforcement, and notwithstanding that the most egregious violations we've seen to date involve clear violations of law that are currently being prosecuted, there's still a lot of questionable stuff going on that ain't quite illegal but can cause just as much harm to the market and investors.

I'm of no opinion on Judge Webster's appointment, other than agreeing that there's absolutely no reason he shouldn't be on the board, and a very good reason for the inclusion of someone with no accounting background but experience in resolving complex issues that impact folks beyond the body being overseen. Having said that, I also agree with Mr. Grundfest's remarks regarding the process itself — Judge Webster may be the right man for the job, but Harvey Pitt's conduct inspires not confidence.

Of Course It's Politics

Tony Adragna
That I failed to note the political considerations shows that I still need practice at playing the cynic, Will. 'Course, there are practical concerns, too. Like, for instance, dealing with the possibility that each trial could cause the "circus" atmosphere to to get worse. I discount that concern, because other similar circumstances have actually evidenced a dropp off in coverage.

But, after having thought about the issue a little more, I think there are a couple of constitutional issues — other than the "double jeoppardy" issue I raised below and the "supremacy" issue raised by the explainer — that may be high on the list of items that prosecutors are considering as they make a decision on the best place to try this case.[btw & n.b.: I did happen to beat Slate to the press this time, by a hole 13 minutes. Advantage QP?]

The first concern is about the problems with finding an impartial jury in such a high profile case, and how that might affect the final determination of the case. Then, how do you deal with finding impartial jurors to hear a case in Alabama after all of the coverage given to a Maryland trial.

The second concern — though I'll admit upfron that my thinking may be flawed here — is a "full faith and credit" issue. To wit, how do rulings in one state court — whether the triat court or at appeal — on questions with a constitutional flavor impact the ability of a prosecutor in another state to present the same case in the trial of the same defendant on a separate but related crime? That's one for the law profs, 'cause I just don't know. I do feel confident saying that if the Feds try first and misfire on the issue I've raised, then the state prosecutors have a harder time making their case.

More Post Hoc Look-Sees at Where We Went Wrong: Thomas Nephew asks a pertinent question in re Alabama's investigation into the September 21 shootings of two ABC store employees. I do remember reading somewhere (though I may have misread) that Alabama isn't yet fully linked in to the "national database" [the "scare quotes" are because my understanding is that there's not so much "a database" as there are linkages between seperate databases, and all are searchable over a network].

In fairness, that robbery/murder did at the time seem an isolated event and a fairly run-of-the-mill crime — no special reason to move it ahead of other cases. Once those prints did make it to the FBI the match was made quickly, and the investigation took off. Lesson: Make full use of those information technology solutions, folks — not only can it save time, but it can also save lives...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
I'm back.

Minnesota Spectacle I'm with Instapundit in finding the Wellstone tribute last night to be "unseemly." The Wellstone family was certainly entitled to remember the Senator in any way they wanted. Their choice to turn the memorial service into a political rally, however, relenquished any high ground the Democrats might have occupied in decrying "politicization" of the Wellstone tragedy by Republicans. It actually appears to me that the GOP suspended politics in the wake of the death far more than Democrats.

Chicken-Hawk Slur Put to Rest We've argued about "chicken hawks" quite a bit here at QP and in The Refuge. I think Michael Kelly gets the last and most definitive word this morning:

The inescapable logic of "chicken hawk"-calling is that only military men have standing to pronounce in any way on war -- to advocate it or to advocate against it. The decision not to go to war involves exactly the same issues of experiential and moral authority as does the decision to go to war. If a past of soldiering is required for one, it is required for the other. Chicken doves have no more standing than "chicken hawks." We must leave all the decisions to the generals and the veterans.

Somehow I doubt that anti-war non-veterans want to give up their standing just to be consistent when they challenge "chicken hawks."

Broder's Bias The "Dean" shows his political leanings more than usual today as he assesses Arnold Schwarzenegger's California after-school initiative. Broder examines Democrats who have signed on to the "Terminator's" cause and concludes:

Are they letting themselves be used to create a new Ronald Reagan for the embattled California Republican Party? Is all this simply positioning on Schwarzenegger's part? I don't know. But it's not the worst -- or least worthy -- way to join the political dance.

The Politics of Venue Tony, I understand the wrangling over who gets to prosecute the snipers--it's politics, of course. Ambitious politicians want first crack at Muhammad because it's the best ticket to the kind of profile one needs to run for office. Later trials won't nearly have the interest of endless subsequent trials. I don't know the Maryland players, but certainly Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore would benefit if Virginia tried the killers first, as would the local prosecutor in Spotsylvania County or Hanover County. In Prince William County, local prosecutor Paul Ebert probably wouldn't benefit if he went first. He's the guy who lost both sides of the Lorena Bobbitt "snipper" case.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Why the fight over who gets to prosecute the snipers?

Tony Adragna
I don't understand the wrangling between Maryland, Virginia, and Alabama over who gets to prosecute Muhammad & Malvo — they all get a shot. Protections against "double jeopardy" don't apply because each jurisdiction will be trying the defendants only for crimes committed within those jurisdictions.

So, if Alabama or Virginia end up dissatisfied with the outcome in Maryland, they're still able to reach for the desired result — i.e. the death penalty handed down and executed on both defendants. And, thanks to Unqualified Offerings, we've also learned that the state of Washington can be added to the list.

I do have to ask myself what the Justice Department is about doing in this case. Yes, there are federal crimes charged, and a U.S. Attorney could make a good case for conviction. But, does the Justice Department really want to prosecute? I'm not so sure — looks to me like the Feds just want to be ahead of the curve lest somehow [I haven't a clue how] Muhammad & Malvo get off in state court.

"Chattering" Timothy meets "Note Taking" Howard

Tony Adragna
Tim Noah suggests something that I've argued affirmatively:
[...] can't a "new Democrat" or "neoliberal" be just as true to his beliefs as Wellstone was to his? Are they all really just mountebanks and blow-dried weathervanes? Or is it possible, just possible, that some of them have arrived at their centrist views on the merits, after observing the experience of three decades during which certain core leftist beliefs were tested, and some found wanting?
I think there's too much disingenuous posturing on both sides of the aisle, and some of it even comes from supposed "progressives" who seem to be "courageous" in "standing up against Mr. Bush." But, I think there are also a lot of centrists on both sides of the aisle who are sincere in their views, yet their sincerity is made to seem doubtful for not fitting the stereotypical extremes of "liberalism" or "conservatism".

There is certainly some truth to Tim's point that Paul Wellstone represented The Liberal that conservative campaign rhetoric is so fond of targeting even when the candidate in question comes up well short of the mark. [To be fair, as I always try to be, liberals use the same type of rhetoric vis a vis The Conservative]

Tim goes too far, however:
Conservatives grieve Paul Wellstone because there is little or no chance that anyone as far to the left as Wellstone will be elected to the Senate anytime soon. Since the start of the Clinton administration, the main Republican project has been to maintain the fiction that an overwhelmingly centrist Democratic Party lies to the left of the American mainstream. Without Wellstone, that point will be a little harder to argue.
Again, the kernel of truth re maintaining a fictional image of ones opponent. There are. however, several problems with Tim's message here. First, painting the entire opposition with the same hue that you find at the extreme end of the spectrum isn't a uniquely "Republican project". Then, it's not so clear that without Wellstone the point is even the slightest bit harder to make — there are, after all, in the House still plenty of members of what's come to be known as the "looney left".

What I find most fault with is that Tim needs to ascribe some ulterior motive to expressions of grief from the GOP. Why can't Tim acknowledge, as Howard Kurtz does, that "some of them just liked the guy". Maybe because Tim would have to consider a proposal that the reason he hasn't seen as many eulogies from the left is because some of them just didn't like the guy — Wellstone was undoubtedly an irritant to centrist Democrats.

Rather than looking for some "Machiavellian reasons", I'd simply take expressions of grief at face value and consider that some may yet be at a loss to express their grief...

Monday, October 28, 2002

"Can't win with dysphemisms"

Tony Adragna
Eugen Volokh writes today of "dysphemisms", and that takes me back [someone named A.G. Android — aka InstaPundit — even chimed in with approbation].

Set aside your personal feelings, Dear Reader, on our government's drug laws and the policy aims of the same. What I want to write a little bit about is something touched on in that Feb '01 item — the dysphemistic "Drug War". Whether or not you agree with the policy, there can be no doubt that we've never approached that goal with anything like a "war".

So, why use that word? Because, my friends, to say that we're engaged in a "war" makes it sound as if we've devoted the kinds of resources to the fight that we would if we were actually... well... fighting a war. Ditto the "war[s]" on poverty, illiteracy, hunger... you get the picture.

Now we're engaged in the "War on Terrorism", and this one is for real. But, there's a certain strain of cynicism that questions what we're on about here in our current "War on..." While I disagree with the cynics who see the "War on Terrorism" as a pretext for "American Imperialism" (or, as the mayor of Hisoshima would put it "Pax Amercana", or "American hegemony" as still others would call it), there is a kernel of truth to the criticism: We've too often used "war" when it shouldn't be used — as a rhetorical device supporting questionable policy.

That's [one of] the problem[s] with rhetoric sans commensurate action — that it's seen as insincere — and the reason I've been so outspoken on "The Disconnect"...

Addendum: Nope! "Warblogger" isn't one, though I don't particularly care for the term.... But "unilateral action" is, because what we really mean is "America leading a coalition"...

”What we’ve got here is failure to communicate…”

Tony Adragna
That classic line is from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”, and the full quote reads:
What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach, so you get what we had here last week which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you men.
What made me think of that line? Read NEWSWWEEK’s ”Descent Into Evil”.

The most troubling aspect of all the post hoc revelations isn’t the “missed cues”. We’ll always be kicking ourselves — and others — in the butt for missing things that appear obvious after the fact. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say — because it’s true — that even hindsight isn’t all that 20/20.

But, this case evidences two failings that we’re familiar with from the Massauoi investigation: (a) there were people on-the-ball whose communications weren’t given due attention, and (b) once law enforcement had developed certain credible information that should have been shared throughout the law enforcement community they, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t get the info out to where it needed to be.

On the first count we can go all the way back to warnings from people who knew Muhammad in Washington. I would concede that law enforcement might have been justified in not following up on that info. What I can’t understand is why nobody followed up on at least three credible witness reports on a suspicious car:
As it turned out, a witness had reported seeing a Caprice driving slowly with its lights off near the scene of the Oct. 3 shooting in northeast D.C. But in the dark, the witness remembered the car’s color as burgundy, not blue, and the lead was lost in the chatter over white vehicles. A witness outside the Fredericksburg, Va., Michaels craft store, scene of a shooting on Oct. 4, reported a “dark-colored vehicle with New Jersey tags” leaving the scene. A woman calling the tip line on Oct. 7 said she had spotted a black man crouching beneath the dashboard in a dark Chevy Caprice. The woman was struck by the intensity of the man’s stare. The agent on the tip line brushed her off. “We’re looking for a white truck,” she said.
If police had been on the lookout for such a car earlier, then they might’ve realized that it had been under their noses.

Then, as investigators finally began to get the act together:
News of the fingerprint match was not widely shared, and many investigators learned of the breakthrough only from water-cooler gossip. Communication between locals and Feds and rival agencies like the ATF and FBI was erratic.
There’s no excuse for the failure to communicate — the folks leading the investigation were all in the same room (if not on the same page).

I still think that Chief Moose did an outstanding job notwithstanding the “fixation” on a bad profile and the length of time it took to actually get at the content of the letters. In fact, I think problems in the way the investigation proceeded may have been more the fault of interference from other than local law enforcement agencies [yes, I’m taking back what I previously said in support of the FBI in these types of cases].

Unfortunately, the criticism doesn’t end here. There are always going to be “some men you just can’t reach”, so to speak — missed clues and failures at communication — whether or not we want things this way. The best we can do is learn from mistakes — let’s hope some lessons were learned in this case…

Sunday, October 27, 2002

"The Dean" on Wellstone

Tony Adragna
Broder got two in today, but the one he really didn't want to have to write is his tribute to Wellstone, "Senator Without Airs". Some really poignant stuff that points up the humility of the man oft described as genuine and self deprecating:
When I found myself standing among the thousands of candle-carrying mourners, gathered in a cold drizzle on the steps of the state capitol Friday evening to memorialize Sen. Paul Wellstone, my mind turned back 10 years to an incident on the Senate subway.

The diminutive Minnesota Democrat, dressed in a rumpled suit he had brought from his old life as a Carleton College professor, and I were seated opposite a tourist family also headed from the Hart Senate Office Building to the Capitol. "Hi," he said to them, "I'm Paul Wellstone," omitting the title almost any of his colleagues would have used. "Where are you from?"

They gave their home town and asked, "Do you work here?" He laughed, and said, "Yes, but not as hard as most people. I'm a senator."...

One young supporter, John Gunner Tarpe, told me that he and Wellstone patronized the same video rental store in St. Paul, and that Wellstone had told him recently of a plan he and his wife had hatched for the immigrant couple who ran it. "Sheila and I are going in there one evening and taking over the cash register, so they can go out to dinner and have a night out for themselves."...

Related in the news: Mondale Likely To Yield to Pleas To Run for Senate

More Answers, Maybe, From DC

Tony Adragna
Following up on what I wrote last night, there's a bit more info form WaPo today.

We've already read of a Tacoma murder possibly linked to Muhammad "that Keeyna Cook was shot at close range with a high caliber handgun, possibly a .45 caliber handgun - not a direct match with the type of gun used in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings." Now learn from WaPo that a handgun was found in Muhammad's Caprice:
The [arrest of the cars co-owner] yesterday came as investigators probed whether bank robberies in the Washington area were committed by the sniper suspects to bankroll the operations. They also scrutinized a handgun recovered in their car for possible links to shootings elsewhere and the records of a Tacoma gun shop where the rifle allegedly used by the suspects was obtained.
None of the Montgomery Advertiser [Montgomery, AL] coverage metions what type of gun was used, but the police chief there did aver that it was of a different caliber than was used in the Mid-Atlantic shootings. But, it does appear that the victims were shot at close range during what police believe was an attempted robery and:
While fleeing the scene, the man ran into the front of a slowly moving blue sedan and maintained his balance by placing his hands on the car's hood, Martino said. The collision occurred in the parking lot of a nearby Captain D's or Krystal restaurant, and police are hoping to talk to the driver, Martino said.

"The driver might not have known what was going on," he said. "We'd like to talk to him. We'd like to see if we can get any fingerprints from that car."
Could it have been the blue Caprice? Don't know, but I'd bet on it.[Jim Henley noted in an email to me that "[...] the 'dark Caprice' sighting at the scene of Pascal Charlot's murder was at least as credible as the 'white box truck' sighting earlier in the day [...] the Petworth witness said he saw the Caprice pull away slowly with its lights off ten seconds after the shot. That's a level of specificity and contextual sense that the box truck sighting didn't have" — True]

I've also speculated that Muhammad may have been a smooth talking boaster who "could've just been feeding his friends in Bellingham a load of crap". Another WaPo story gives some weight to that argument
Master Manipulator

In 1988, Muhammad showed up for his class reunion in Louisiana, looking spiffy and buff. He rolled up in a white Pontiac Trans Am, a sports car he liked to call "Lady."

He was no longer "the ugly duckling," said classmate Sandra McFollins Patterson. He had a "chest like a six-pack," she said.

She thought he was single, and they dated for several months, she said. But she was infuriated to learn that he was married. He was a master manipulator, she said, and "knew how to charm."...

Looking Good

Muhammad returned to his old Baton Rouge neighborhood this year. He stayed with Edward Holiday, a first cousin who grew up two streets away.

Holiday had not seen Muhammad for years but remembered him fondly. When Holiday was 16 and had a hot date, Muhammad, who was in his twenties, lent him his new Cutlass Supreme -- even though Holiday didn't have a license.

Muhammad boasted that life was sweet. He had a great wife and had bought her a Jaguar. He said that he owned an aerobics studio. He was dressed well and looked great.

"If you'd tell me he was running for president, I would have believed it," Holiday said.

The reality, which Holiday would not learn until later, is that Muhammad had been divorced and agreed to turn over an old Jaguar to his wife as part of the breakup.
Muhammad was boastful and arrogant, but had no accomplishments to justify that pride. In fact, it seems that Muhammad was a failure in his personal and business dealings. I think Muhammad blamed others for those failings, and would say anything to put himself in the best light and excuse his conduct.

My own read on "what made John Muhammad tick" is rage at being a "victim" [in his own mind]. He turns to crime to finance his agenda, but it was about "more than the money" — it was personal.

Update: A story from Tampa Bay Online also confirms my suspicion that Muhammad was running scams:
Keithly Nedd, who lived in the house where Muhammad rented a room, said the 41-year-old U.S. Army veteran also had a scam involving Jamaicans flying to the United States on the return tickets of people who flew to the island legitimately. Muhammad would organize papers or a passport for a would-be migrant in Antigua, usually Jamaican, to use the return ticket.

"A lot of people just came to him, gave him their birth (certificate) and he would just get them passports within days," Nedd said Friday.

A message was left for Muhammad's lawyer, who could not be immediately reached.

Neither police nor government officials could be reached for comment Saturday.

The passports allegedly sold for between $1,000 and $1,500.
[via Instapundit]