If You Don’t Build It, They Won’t Come

Obama iPhone application

With another year or so on my Sprint contract tying me to my trusty old Treo, I missed out on the Obama iPhone application frenzy during the last month of the election.

Politico has a story out this weekend about a panel on campaign technology in which the McCain participants spin the story that it was simply impossible for them to put together something similar because all the tech people supported Obama:

“Memo to self: next time get the co-founder of Facebook on your team,” said McCain-Palin veteran Becki Donatelli. “The CEO of Google was in the Obama commercial. I mean, you don’t get more out front than that.”

Speaking on a panel about the role of technology in the 2008 campaign, Donatelli said the McCain team had plans for using the Internet to reach voters, but ultimately lacked the resources and the personnel to put them into action.

“We’re very jealous. We loved your iPhone application,” she told her co-panelists from the Obama campaign, Joe Rospars and Sam Graham-Felsen, explaining that the McCain campaign had wanted to harness the iPhone for their effort as well. “We had it sketched out. We had it planned and no way to get it done.

A couple of things ought to be mentioned here, however. John McCain’s national campaign co-chair for most of the year was Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay. McCain mentioned her as a potential choice for Secretary of Treasury in one of the presidential debates. The idea that McCain’s campaign was shut out of the world of high-tech should end right there.

But what should really put a nail in the touchscreen of this conceit is that Republican Congressman Ron Paul was on the iPhone with a Web 2.0 application months before the iPhone Software Development Kit was publicly released and the App Store was up and running, with a number of the same features as the Obama application.

Paul iPhone application

Bad enough for McCain’s people to lie about how they couldn’t keep up with Obama because all the competent programmers were on the other side, but they couldn’t even bring themselves to take notice of what Ron Paul had done a year earlier. Surely that would have given them some time to build something.


A post from kos (based on an AP story) praised newly-minted Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley for siding with members of the Democratic caucus who called for Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to be removed from the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Problem is, AP changed their mind half an hour later.

(This version CORRECTS by DELETING Merkley from lawmakers who opposed Lieberman; Merkley did NOT oppose Lieberman.)

But I enjoyed one of the comments from poster Churchill (who did correct himself in a subsequent comment):

Meatley should replace Reid (2+ / 0-)

[UPDATE] The story never ends. Politico reported via “Democratic sources” that Merkley spoke out in favor of Lieberman. Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian says he expressed “disappointment bordering on anger” although he doesn’t attribute that to anyone (he does have direct comment from Merkley in the same piece, saying he “stopped just short of saying Lieberman should be stripped of his committee chairmanship.”)

Hard to pin down and he’s not even in office yet.

Write, Baby, Write!

Governor Sarah Palin may be getting $7 million for her presumably forthcoming book, but I hope the eventual publisher has set aside a chunk for whoever’s going to have to edit that baby.

“We realize that more and more Americans are starting to see the light there and understand the contrast. And we talk a lot about, OK, we’re confident that we’re going to win on Tuesday, so from there, the first 100 days, how are we going to kick in the plan that will get this economy back on the right track and really shore up the strategies that we need over in Iraq and Iran to win these wars?”

Sarah Palin, suggesting we are at war with Iran,
FOX News interview, Nov. 1, 2008

The Gross Lock

There have been seventeen Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The first of them to be appointed in the era of the “modern” Democratic/Republican two-party system was the sixth Chief Justice, Salmon Portland Chase, who was brought to the Court by President Abraham Lincoln shortly after his re-election in 1864.

Of the eleven other Chief Justices who’ve served in the 144 years since that appointment, only three were selected by Democratic presidents, and those three served a total of about 24 years (Democratic presidents were in the White House for 60 years of that span). The last Chief Justice selected under a Democratic administration was Fred Moore Vinson (appointed by Harry Truman), who died in office more than 55 years ago.

Missed Fortune

I don’t remember when I got this (although it’s almost certainly from Fujin) but it was tucked underneath some business cards on my desk:

Your careful nature will bring you financial success.

Doesn’t sound like me, but I’ll take what I can get considering the times.

Sen. Wyden, Do You Trust These Guys?

In August of 2007 at his Town Hall on Iraq, one of the bones of contention between members of the audience and Sen. Ron Wyden was his repeated statements about the implication of Iran in providing weapons to people making attacks in Iraq. Each time he brought it up a hubbub would rise from the crowd — many of whom were uneasy about Bush administration intentions to attack Iran — and Wyden would assert that it was all real.

A number of reports since then have cast doubt on the scale and scope of Iran’s activities within Iraq (you’d have to be an idiot to think that there was no Iranian influence in Iraq given that many of the Shi’ite leaders in the government spent time in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s reign). but the US military has repeatedly made claims about large weapons caces of supposed Iranian origin, only to have those stories disproved or walked back by the military themselves. By May of this year, even TIME magazine reported on the Iraqi pushback of the view promulgated by Wyden and others.

Indeed, the U.S. allegations appear to be based on speculation, spurred by the appearance about a year ago of a new breed of roadside bomb in Iraq. Explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, proved effective at piercing American armor by firing a concave copper disc from a makeshift cannon, which transformed the slug midair into a molten jet of super-heated metal. Accusations that Iran was shipping the things into Iraq grew louder as U.S. casualties from the weapon rose. But no concrete evidence has emerged in public that Iran was behind the weapons. U.S. officials have revealed no captured shipments of such devices and offered no other proof.

And speaking of “captured shipments” brings us to the latest bit of information, based on a paper by Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman at West Point (via IPS’s Gareth Porter):

According to the data compiled by the task force, and made available to an academic research project last July, only 70 weapons believed to have been manufactured in Iran had been found in post-invasion weapons caches between mid-February and the second week in April. And those weapons represented only 17 percent of the weapons found in caches that had any Iranian weapons in them during that period.

The actual proportion of Iranian-made weapons to total weapons found, however, was significantly lower than that, because the task force was finding many more weapons caches in Shi’a areas that did not have any Iranian weapons in them.

The caches that included Iranian weapons thus represented just 2 percent of all caches found. That means Iranian-made weapons were a fraction of one percent of the total weapons found in Shi’a militia caches during that period.

Only two months before the new high-level propaganda push on alleged Iranian weapons supply to Shi’a militias, the U.S. command had put out a story suggesting that large numbers of Iranian-supplied arms had been buried all over the country. On Feb. 17, 2008, U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told reporters that Iraqi and coalition forces had captured 212 weapons caches across Iraq over the previous week “with growing links to the Iranian-backed special groups”.

The Task Force Troy data for the week of Feb. 9-16 show, however, that the U.S. command had information on Iranian arms contradicting that propaganda line. According to the task force database, only five of those 212 caches contained any Iranian weapons that analysts believed might have been buried after the U.S. invasion. And the total number of confirmed Iranian-made weapons found in those five caches, according to the data, was eight, not including four Iranian-made hand grenades.

The task force database includes 350 armour-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) found in Iraqi weapons caches. However, the database does not identify any of the EFPs as Iranian weapons.

That treatment of EFPs in the caches appears to contradict claims by U.S. officials throughout 2007 and much of 2008 that EFPs were being smuggled into Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The allegedly Iranian-manufactured EFPs had been the centrepiece of the U.S. military’s February 2007 briefing charging Iran with arming Shi’a militiamen in Iraq.

Press reports of a series of discoveries of shops for manufacturing EFPs in Iraq in 2007 forced the U.S. command to admit that the capacity to manufacture EFPs was not limited to Iran. By the second half of 2008, U.S. officials had stopped referring to Iranian supply of EFPs altogether.

Felter and Fishman do not analyse the task force data in their paper, but they criticise official U.S. statements on Iranian weapons in Iraq. “Some reports erroneously attribute munitions similar to those produced in Iran as Iranian,” they write, “while other Iranian munitions found in Iraq were likely purchased on the open market.”

The co-authors note that Iranian arms can be purchased directly from the website of the Defence Industries of Iran with a credit card.

Wyden implied that he’d seen hard evidence of Iran’s involvement in supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. I think it’s time for him to put his cards on the table or tell us how he;s going to provide actual oversight on stuff like this in the future.