Patterico's Pontifications

5/15/2007

Confirmation Bias: The Real Problem with the U.S. Attorney “Scandal”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:08 am

The Bush Administration’s nefarious plan to unravel the prosecution of Dusty Foggo and Brent Wilkes is finally bearing fruit:

Kyle Dusty Foggo and Brent Wilkes head to federal court today where they will likely plead not guilty to new conspiracy and money laundering charges.
Indictments against the pair came Friday that expand the charges filed against them in February.
In addition to the old charges, in the new indictment, Foggo, former executive director of the CIA, is accused of slipping his lifelong friend, Wilkes, a $132 million federal contract to provide commercial cover for CIA air operations.

See? All Bush had to do was replace the prosecutor, and the case went down the tubes . . .

Oh. Wait, I’m confused: if there are new charges, doesn’t that sound like . . . they are being prosecuted with zeal and diligence? B-b-b-but I thought Carol Lam’s replacement was supposed to make that prosecution go away??

But you won’t find a word about the U.S. Attorney’s scandal in the TPMmuckraker entry on the new Foggo and Wilkes charges. It doesn’t fit the storyline, you see.

And that’s what bugs me about this whole scandal. It’s something researchers call “confirmation bias.” When something comes along that confirms your preconceived view — such as the recent (and admittedly suspicious-sounding) revelation that David Yglesias’s name was added to the list on Election Day — you just pile it on the mound of evidence. But when something comes along that flies directly in the face of your preconceived notion — like the new Wilkes and Foggo charges — you note the evidence, but don’t ask how it affects your theory . . . because the answer is inconvenient.

Confirmation bias. It’s the main problem with this whole scandal.

29 Responses to “Confirmation Bias: The Real Problem with the U.S. Attorney “Scandal””

  1. I would go further than “because the answer is inconvenient” and say because the answer is irrelevant.

    TB (c4562d)

  2. “Confirmation bias.” You make me laugh.
    And Gonzalez’ lies to Contress. And Monica Goodling

    “Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.
    “You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”

    And “the secret order signed by Alberto Gonzales in March of last year that gave Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, two young aides with close ties to the White House, the power to hire and fire junior political appointees at the Justice Department.”
    You can read it yourself now.
    There’s may be a difference among the priorities of democratic and republican administrations regarding prosecutorial discretion that this is well beyond that.
    Just go to Muckraker and scroll your way down the page.
    And don’t forget to read up on Bradley Schlozman.
    Keep trying

    AF (683024)

  3. Yeah, but they would have been prosecuted much harder but for the Carol Lam firing – I’m positive that you’ll find Foggo eats babies for breakfast, and that Wilkes is actually a snake worshipping devil-fiend, and this Administration has covered up for them. At the heart of it, you’ll surely find that somebody who attended Regent Law, Liberty Baptist for undergrad, or maybe Boston College, Notre Dame, Fordham, Marquette, Loyola, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows Elementary School or some other fly by night Christer religious school had something to do with these charges being delayed.

    Ahh, yes, that’s it. The Carol Lam firing got these charges delayed, for political purposes That’s the ticket. BTW, have you met my wife… Morgan Fairchild…

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  4. Comey’s up today at the SJC.
    I had a longer post responding to the absurdity above but it
    seems never to make it to the page.
    I tried.

    AF (683024)

  5. The rush to Ashcroft’s bedside. Hilarious.

    According to Comey, he was on his way home when he got a call from Ashcroft’s wife that Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card were on their way to the hospital*. Comey then rushed to the hospital (sirens blaring) to beat them there and thwart “an effort to overrule me.”
    After Comey arrived at the hospital with a group of senior Justice Department officials, Gonzales and Card arrived and walked up to Ashcroft, who was lying barely conscious on his hospital bed. “Gonzales began to explain why he was there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Comey testified. But Ashcroft rebuffed Gonzales and told him that Comey was the attorney general now. “The two men turned and walked from the room,” said Comey.

    A “very upset” Andrew Card then called Comey and demanded that he come to the White House for a meeting at 11 PM that night.
    After meeting with Justice Department officials at the Justice Deaprtment, Comey went to the White House with Ted Olson, then the Solicitor General to the White House. He brought Olson along, Comey said, because he wanted a witness for the meeting.

    But Card didn’t let Olson enter and Comey had a private discussion with Card. This discussion, Comey testified, was much “calmer.” According to Comey, Card was concerned about reports that there were to be large numbers of resignations at Justice Department. Gonzales entered with Olson and the four had an apparently not very fruitful discussion.
    The program was reauthorized without the signature of the attorney general. Because of that, Comey said, he prepared a letter of resignation. “I believed that I couldn’t stay if the administration was going to engage in conduct that Justice Department said had no legal basis.”
    At this point, according to Comey, a number of senior Justice Department officials, including Ashcroft, were prepared to resign.

    AF (683024)

  6. Patterico, you talk about confirmation bias as if you are immune. In fact you often come across as an advocate for the Bush administration rather than a dispassionate observer.

    As to the particular point about Lam it seems pretty obvious that the Bush administration did not intend for the USA firings to play out the way they have so this says little about what they were trying to do. What do you think the firings were intended to accomplish?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  7. There is also the notion of “Hindsight Bias.” Things that look clear as mud now will seem obvious in hindsight. This is a big problem in malpractice cases.

    DaSarge (758ab4)

  8. Foggo and Wilkes were toast, especially once high-price women got mixed in. Now we can speculate who else would be in trouble (e.g., Rep. Jerry Lewis R-CA) if not for the convenient change in staff.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  9. Patterico, your point about these charges is a fair one and one TPM should address.

    I’m guessing the TPM reply would be that if the Bush admin had gotten their druthers they would have buried these cases. It’s just all the publicity brought by the noble, hard-working folks at TPM that foiled their plans and forced them to take a hard line.

    Sure “confirmation bias” is an issue, here or pretty much in any instance that a human being with a point of view identifies a pattern. I think it’s quite a stretch to claim it as the grand unifying theme that explains the U.S. Attorney Scandal though.

    Crust (399898)

  10. Andrew:
    Now we can speculate who else would be in trouble (e.g., Rep. Jerry Lewis R-CA) if not for the convenient change in staff.

    Andrew, note that the Lewis investigation wouldn’t be effected by the Lam firing (though it may have effected by Yang’s resignation).

    Crust (399898)

  11. Thanks AF for repeating year old stuff as if it was hot off the presses (or freshly leaked).
    Now can you cut and paste something new for us to read?

    kyle (9d9e73)

  12. Well, there you have it. Surely Rove must be innocent of any baseless charges.

    The emails just prove incompetence, nothing else.

    If only Al Capone had paid some income tax.

    Semanticleo (710d38)

  13. James:

    What do you think the firings were intended to accomplish?

    I’d say, offhand, they were intended to accomplish the firing of the attorneys. The political appointees that got ‘un-appointed’ so to speak.

    Lord Nazh (62fa3b)

  14. 12

    That the best defense you can come up with?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  15. One of the leitmotivs of the Overblown Personnel Matter is the incompentence involved, generally localized in Alberto Gonzalez himself, but not confined to his person. So it blends with the general level of incompetence to find that the purpose of the firings did not achieve their purpose (if the purpose of the firings was to sidetrack these investigations).
    Or simple delay may have been sufficient for the purposes of Rove et al–delay beyond the election, etc.
    Or the replacement US Atty may not have gotten the memo and gone ahead with the investigations.

    Your explanation is merely one of several possibilities. The fact that it seems the most reasonable to you is merely a reflection of your own biases.

    kishnevi (03a14b)

  16. kyle, it’s was about an hour old when I posted it. I watched it myself on the teevee (or the computer with realplayer)
    Here’s the timeline.
    As John McKay said “I think there will be a criminal case that will come out of this…
    This is going to get worse, not better.”

    Monica Goodling

    “Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.
    “You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”

    AF (683024)

  17. Wouldn’t it be confirmation bias only if they didnt post the story?

    TPM was on the Dusty Foggo-Brent Wilkes story long before the DOJ sewer was opened.

    alphie (015011)

  18. I can’t take these ‘scandals’ seriously anymore, this card has been over-played too many times with too much resulting bullshit for me to bother believing in anything anyone from the Democrat Party has to say; even Joe Liebermann is losing my confidence.

    Just to get Bush, Democrats have blown all that is left of their party.

    syn (7faf4d)

  19. in re: “I can’t take these ’scandals’ seriously anymore,”

    COMEY: I got out of the car and ran up — literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.

    SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.

    COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to that.

    SCHUMER: Right, OK.

    COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly.

    And so I raced to the hospital room, entered. And Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed, Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.

    SCHUMER: At that point it was you, Mrs. Ashcroft and the attorney general and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.

    COMEY: Just the three of us at that point.

    I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn’t clear that I had succeeded.

    I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room.

    AF (683024)

  20. in re: “I can’t take these ’scandals’ seriously anymore,”

    COMEY: I got out of the car and ran up — literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.

    SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.
    COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to that.
    SCHUMER: Right, OK.
    COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly.
    And so I raced to the hospital room, entered. And Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed, Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.
    SCHUMER: At that point it was you, Mrs. Ashcroft and the attorney general and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.
    COMEY: Just the three of us at that point.
    I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn’t clear that I had succeeded.
    I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room.

    AF (683024)

  21. syn writes:

    I can’t take these ’scandals’ seriously … [I don’t believe] in anything anyone from the Democrat Party has to say

    OK, what about what Republicans have to say? E.g. Tom Tancredo said ‘he didn’t think immigration cases had “a single thing to do with” the firings…

    So if Tancredo doesn’t believe the official story as to why Lam was fired does that make it worth paying attention? Not that Tancredo is in any way unique. Plenty of Republicans have called for Gonzales to resign or made noises in that direction.

    Crust (399898)

  22. syn, in case you’re not a Tancredo fan, here’s TPM’s GOP Gonzales Resignation Roll Call. (Their headline is a little misleading. Some, e.g. Senators Coburn and Sununu, did call for AGAG to resign or be fired. Others on the list stopped just short of saying that e.g. Senator Sessions saying “it might just be best” if AGAG weren’t there.)

    Crust (399898)

  23. your list it out of date, crust. chuck hagel just came on board.
    i hope gonzalez stays. i want this to continue until the next election. it’s like having your adversary handcuffed to a corpse.

    assistant devil's advocate (d7b695)

  24. Confirmation Bias. Or as cognitive psychologists say, “perceptual readiness.” We read things as we expect to read them. We interpret stimuli as we would prefer to interpret them.

    Damn, I completely dismissed the favorable interpretation that Andy Card and Alberto Gonzo were rushing to the hospital to give flowers to Ashcroft before they wilted. And they just wanted him to sign the card. Silly me.

    nosh (de5a83)

  25. Crust

    The attempt to scandalize every aspect of the Bush Administration is rather a waste of time. Do you not see that the only difference between Bush and the Democrat Party is Bush supports the troops.

    Keep scandalizing Bush, you are going after one of your own.

    syn (7faf4d)

  26. SUPPORT THE TROOPS

    The Bush administration today threatened to a veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House today 397-27.

    ThinkProgress noted last night that the White House opposed the pay raise for troops:

    Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. […]

    The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

    Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

    The White House says it also opposes:

    – a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”
    – additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees
    – price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents

    AF (683024)

  27. What AF is leaving out is that the white house full endorses a 3% pay increase, and would like the 40 bucks added, but would rather that it not come out of the Military Retirement Fund.

    Also, the Libs seems to skip over the following:

    Refusal by lawmakers to approve Tricare fees for beneficiaries, something administration officials view as an important step in holding down health care cost, also drew opposition, along with a provision imposing price controls on prescription drugs dispensed to Tricare users.

    So give them 40 bucks (which they should simply ADD to the existing annuity, not create a new and seperate one), but don’t give free healthcare to the widows…

    Yeah, you folks aren’t treying to lie and obfuscate your way through this… Not at all.

    This rings of when Dems want a 10% increase (or whatever) and the repubs want a 7% increase, and the Dems cry that Repubs wants to cut by three percent…

    Tell the WHOLE story AF. The WHOLE story…

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  28. So when AF says the Administration opposes

    – a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”
    – additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees
    – price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents

    He’s lying.

    I know, I know… You’re shocked. I am too folks… I mean, AF? What’s the world coming too…

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  29. Scott-

    “Refusal by lawmakers to approve Tricare fees [more money out of pocket by soldiers] for beneficiaries, something administration officials view as an important step in holding down health care cost, also drew opposition, along with a provision imposing price controls on prescription drugs* dispensed to Tricare users.”

    *”The Administration believes market competition is the most effective way to promote discounts in the community setting.”

    Read the statements by the administration

    Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President’s proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is unnecessary. When combined with the overall military benefit package, the President’s proposal provides a good quality of life for servicemembers and their families. While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the three percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that. The cost of increasing the FY 2008 military pay raise by an additional 0.5 percent is $265 million in FY 2008 and $7.3 billion from FY 2008 to FY 2013.

    Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance: The Administration opposes section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the DoD Military Retirement Fund. The current benefit programs for survivors, DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Department of Veterans Affairs’ Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), provide sufficient benefits and avoid duplication of two complementary federal benefits programs established for the same purpose — providing a lifetime annuity for the survivor of an active, retired or former servicemember. This offset policy is consistent with private sector benefits. The provision is estimated to cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through FY 2013. It appears to be the first step toward eliminating the offset between SBP and DIC; full elimination of this offset would cost the Military Retirement Fund between $6 and $8 billion over 10 years.

    And read The Army Times
    Scott, you are an idiot.

    AF (683024)


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