Friday, December 30, 2005

And rightly so

The Justice Department announced today that it is beginning probes into both the leaking of details about the NSA program to the NY Times but also the leaking of info pertaining to the CIA's "secret prisons" in Europe, a story that ended up in the Washington Post. And rightly so.

These leaks are far more clear-cut than the Plame affair ever was, and the implications far more detrimental to the Administration's effort at maintaining American security. The folks who opened their mouths, for whatever reason, have stepped in it, but big:

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—

(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or

(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or

(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or

(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

I look forward to seeing and hearing the Plame-zealots find ways to de-legitimize these investigations, all the while watching the Times especially and it's reporters try to fend off the new-found powers of the special prosecutor that they helped unwittingly create.

Michelle Malkin examines the situation with the usual wit and intelligence.

Irony can be so ironic sometimes.

Nuthin' but Blue Skies

We've been promised serious rain, beginning sometime this afternoon and extending through the long weekend. Nothin' but blue today.

Where is it!?

Breaking out the crystal ball

From NRO's 2006 predictions:

Valerie Plame poses in Playboy. Husband continues to complain others outed her.

So strange it could almost happen.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Still waiting for a good argument

Like Mark Levin (who pointed this out yesterday at the Corner), I'm still waiting for an actual legal argument against the President's Executive Order instructing the NSA to listen in on suspected terrorist communication's with Americans here in the US. So far I've seen plenty of opinion, articulate and otherwise but little in the way of a legal case.

That being said, 'til somebody comes up with something, Robert F. Turner's piece for the WSJ sums it all up neatly:

Our Constitution is the supreme law, and it cannot be amended by a simple statute like the FISA law. Every modern president and every court of appeals that has considered this issue has upheld the independent power of the president to collect foreign intelligence without a warrant. The Supreme Court may ultimately clarify the competing claims; but until then, the president is right to continue monitoring the communications of our nation's declared enemies, even when they elect to communicate with people within our country.

Heavy lifting with the UN

A year or so ago, in the wake of the devastating Asian Tsunami Sim and I were treated to more than one long-winded treatise about how the UN was doing,and would continue to do the heavy-lifting in relief efforts. As you might recall, initial government aid from America was small in comparison to amounts sent from other countries early-on in the relief effort.

As a result many dog-piled on the Bush administration for being "stingy" and simultaneously down-played the huge amounts of dollars given privately by Americans wishing to help. Meanwhile, the declaration that the UN would be doing the heavy lifting in the months following the tsunami was something that both Sim and I--loudly and often--resisted.

Well, here we are nearly a year later and I'm reminded of this from a very odd place indeed. Robert Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground in an interview with Hugh Hewitt today made a passing reference to the UN that caught my attention:

RK: Yes, one of the things that I think really kind of unnerved the elite, is that while there are all these conferences and discussions in Washington and elsewhere about should we support Afghan warlords or not, should we create an Afghan national army or not, what should our foreign policy be in Yemen or Colombia or in Iraq. I discovered a world of basically working-class people, who were operationally far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about all these issues, who spoke languages, who had personalities that didn't fit into any one neat division. They were evangelical, but they spoke two exotic languages. People like that while all these discussions are taking place, foreign policy is being enacted on the ground by majors and sergeants and lieutenants, who are utterly oblivious to most of these discussions. And you know what? They're doing these things very, very well.

HH: And they're very clear-eyed. In Yemen, a U.N. retired special forces officer, working for the U.N. now, described his mission as doing favors for everyone until the day came he had to get his people out, and he would collect. That's very clear-eyed.

RK: Yes, and who is this U.N. officer? He's a retired American army special forces lieutenant colonel, and this is proof that I've seen this around the world, that when the U.N. has a real important tactical mission to do, it hires Americans, Australians and Brits to do it. And then the U.N. takes the credit.

Heavy lifting indeed.

P.S. After reading the interview American Grunts is now on the reading list.

CIA Leak Case Takes Unexpected Turn

In a shocking turn of events, former CIA operative Valerie Plame was outed by her 5 year old son during a joint media interview with husband Joseph Wilson at a Washington airport:

"My daddy's famous, my mommy's a secret spy," declared the 5-year-old of his parents, former diplomat Joe Wilson and retired CIA operative Valerie Plame.

And before you think the link is to The Onion, it isn't. It's Reuters. You can't make this stuff up.

Hopefully someone is on the phone reporting the tyke to Patrick Fitzgerald as we speak. I look forward to months of discussion of the boy's legal jeopardy on every show from Hardball to This Week with George Stephanopolous.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Thank you sir, may I have another?

What do Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck have in common? Apparently, they don't do their homework. Read all of Bill Roggio's post. It's well worth the price of admission.

Additionally, if you're interested, the beatdown continues at Tapscott's Copy Desk and The Belmont Club.

Another shameful performance from Big Media. Aren't they supposed to be the professionals?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What We're Dealing With, Part ___

Sorry, can't remember which number this is in the series.

So why am I on such an environmental tilt this morning? Perhaps it's because of this article, which once again demonstrates that the debate over the environment is filled with irreality and that one needs to reach far beyond the headlines if he or she wants to get a real handle on things.

Remember the Kyoto Treaty? You know, the treaty negotiated by 156 countries with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions? The same treaty which President Clinton negotiated and signed but never submitted to the Senate for ratification? Yes, the treaty which President Bush has also refused to send to the Senate. You know, the one that Bush has been roundly criticized by people and governments around the world (most specifically Europe) for not sending to the Senate? That one.

Well, it seems that only two European countries, Britain and Sweden, are currently honoring their commitments established under the Kyoto Protocol.

Although the US is portrayed as the ecological villain for refusing to sign up to the agreement, 10 out of the 15 European Union signatories - including Ireland, Italy and Spain - will miss their targets without urgent action, the Institute for Public Policy Research found. France, Greece and Germany are given "amber warnings" and will only achieve the objectives if planned policies are successfully carried out.

But wait, there's more!

It seems that in Europe, CO2 emissions are actually increasing:

Recent figures show carbon dioxide emissions increasing in 13 out of the 15 countries, including Britain, the report says.

While I am concerned about global warming and the environment more generally, and would like to see the US do more in both of these areas, isn't it the height of hypocrisy to condemn Bush and the US for not signing a treaty with which even signatories cannot or will not comply? Isn't it rather silly to argue that Bush paved the road to bad relations with Europe by not signing on to a treaty with which he had legitimate concerns (primarily the domestic economic costs and the fact that developing nations like China and India did not have targets for reduction, even though they are the greatest source of emmissions growth)? Especially, now, in light of the fact that most of Europe is not even compliant? Isn't it better to stay out of a treaty you cannot commit to rather than to sign up and miss the targets? Where is the outrage in Europe? Where are our own dmoestic environmentalists? Why are they not marching in protest of Italy, Ireland, Spain, Germany and France?

The fact is that European governments have been triple-dipping on Kyoto for far too long. They received short-term political mileage out of signing the protocol. Then, they used the US as a whipping boy for not signing. But what many of us who have followed the situation have known for several years is that European governments realized that they were not compliant and would not make the targets set out by the agreement. So not only were they making political hay at America's and Bush's expense, they were doing so knowing all the while that they themselves were unlikely to meet their obligations under Kyoto. Stultifying, to say the least! Of course, domestic environmental groups and Bush opponents have been making similar arguments since Kyoto was signed, and many of them knew the truth as well. So don't go looking to any of those folks if you're in search of intellectual honesty or the straight scoop on the environment.

That's just what we're dealing with.

74 Degrees in December

You'd think I live in Lompoc! So far so good in the post-Gotham era. The Simster's got a nice gig which hasn't gotten too ridiculous (yet), he's enjoying a mild winter and a lower cost of living. He's also enjoying closer proximity to the all-important familial units. Life's pretty good.

Soon he'll be investing in an ozone depleting, Middle East Oil-dependent SUV which will serve as a big FU to the naybobs who don't realize that lawnmowers are responsible for more pollution and that private jets and any cars produced prior to 1995 are probably more fuel inefficient. Similarly, I'll be sticking it to those Greens out there by renting a small, albeit environmentally unfriendly house. Don't let the lawn and trees fool you. Urban and suburban sprawl are far more harmful to the environment than a highly efficient and population dense city like, say, New York. Don't believe me? Ask the Sierra Club.

And I'm eating plenty of brown food.

Alive and kicking

Still here, and so are the family visitors. Needless to say, as if it were possible, blogging will be light-to-non-existent for a couple of more days.

In the meantime, check out the reflections of Capt. James S. Eadie, Bill Kristol's examination of Paranoia on the Left, and a final review of the season's retail numbers.

A note on the retail numbers; that's not what I heard yesterday...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Much ado

The NSA's 'eavesdropping' of conversations involving American citizens has been all over the media, print and broadcast. Who's getting it right?

Hugh has done yeoman's work on this subject, starting with his own observations as a professor of Constitutional law, moving on to his interview with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter (in which Alter revealed that he hadn't done all his homework before calling the President a 'law-breaker'), and now his interview with noted liberal law professor Cass Sunstein, who has been outspoken on this as well.

Likewise, the gentlemen at Powerline have written several posts fine posts on the subject. This one ties many of them together.

From Hugh's interview with Professor Sunstein:

HH: Do you consider the quality of the media coverage here to be good, bad, or in between?

CS: Pretty bad, and I think the reason is we're seeing a kind of libertarian panic a little bit, where what seems at first glance...this might be proved wrong...but where what seems at first glance a pretty modest program is being described as a kind of universal wiretapping, and also being described as depending on a wild claim of presidential authority, which the president, to his credit, has not made any such wild claim. The claims are actually fairly modest, and not unconventional.

Just screaming about an abuse of power doesn't make it an abuse of power. I have yet to read a criticism of the project that makes a solid legal case against the NSA's activities.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Tis the season

Snow in Lompoc!?

No, not in Lompoc. Reno, home to old friends who emailed this along with a family shot this afternoon. At first I was's the essence of Christmastime what with the snow and the cold.

Then I thought for a moment about how I'm struggling to re-acclamate myself to the cool California nights and decided they can keep their snow!

Sure is nice to look at, though!

What troubles your constituents, Senator?

According to Babs:

Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents.

As an unfortunate constituent of Senator Boxer, allow me to say with total and absolute clarity that I will never be half as troubled by the NSA's eavesdropping as I am with the very presence of such as she in the Senate Chamber for these last 13 years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Don't flatter yourself

Just because my dogs happen to exhibit more common sense on a daily basis than I've ever seen from you, you ought not to jump to conclusions. Hear it from the horse's mouth here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

People Who Shouldn't Matter...But Do.

According to Time Magazine, these two are "People Who Mattered in 2005." And in this example of them trying to keep their deep cover identities a secret, you can see why.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

4th and 35

It's fourth down, you need 35 yards for a first down to keep the drive alive. Not very likely, even against a bad defense. So what will you do? Punt.

Apparently, politics is football to the Democrat party. When I saw this yesterday I was flabbergasted:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

Took a double take to be sure what I was reading. The Democrats will have no official position on the single biggest issue of the day?

Just when I had begun to think they couldn't abdicate any more responsibility on the issue, we have this. 'Course there is a bright side I guess.

It's not going to matter what Howard Dean has to say on the subject, as his Congressional leader has done her best to make him irrelevant. That, in and of itself, may do more than anything else to improve their chances in '06!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The roundups

Protein Wisdom with a window into the soul of the anti-everything left.

Michelle Malkin with a sampling from multiple blogs and such.

Last but not least, Pajamas Media was everywhere there was commentary on the elections.

As for me, all I can offer to my friends who would wash their hands of everything we've tried to do there, to tell the families of over 2100 American men and women that their fathers and brothers and sisters died for nothing, is a heartfelt "Bite me!" You obviously want nothing to do with the effort, so fine.

We'll do it without your sorry asses.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Name that blogger

And they say I have no sense of humor...

My Dogs are Smarter (Or How to Cure the Holiday Blahs)

I went Christmas shopping for my wife on Tuesday night and for the first time since we've been back in California, wished that I weren't.

It was a cold evening, one I'd thought I dressed for but really hadn't. The sweater I was wearing didn't do nearly enough to warm me in the slight breeze coming off the ocean nor to offer enough protection against the damp air. I didn't want to be outside at all, but it was one of the few remaining evenings I'd have to shop, so off I went.

As for shopping itself, I've known since before we moved here that Lompoc suffers from the same things any small town of less than 50,000 does: there aren't a lot of places to shop, and if you really want the good stuff, you've gotta drive down to Santa Barbara or head north to Santa Maria or San Luis. But I was not deterred; after all, my list was small and consisting of relatively minor items, things that should be easy to find almost everywhere.

In addition, I was going to stop by the local Sears to take a look at dishwashers since we both want to replace our current offering. Shouldn't be long at this, I thought. On that point I was right, but also very wrong.

It took me barely more than an hour to hit all the major stores in town. Sears, Mervyn's, Petco, Walgreens...check (Those last two on actual errands)! The store I really wanted to spend time in was closed by the time I got there. Figures...

That's when it started hitting me...the futility of the evening specifically but also a nagging sense of "I'm trapped in hell!" Small towns have many upsides, but also frustrations and I have yet to adjust to those that are present here. Tuesday night I felt them strongly for the first time.

I arrived home empty-handed but for the couple of items I had to pick-up for my wife and dogs and completely frustrated. The frustration had me cranky before I even walked in the front door.

My wife had been busy working on Christmas stuff in the garage and reported that the dogs had been restless the entire time I was out. Something that was easily confirmed by the way they joyfully greeted my return and were seeking attention from dad.

At that point, my wife knowing me as well as she does, proposed I take the dogs and hit the drive-thru at Starbucks. The combination of two of my favorite things, she felt certain, would counter the obvious frustration I was showing.

She was right. Watching the way the dogs wait expectantly and with much delight to run out to the car is a simple but sweet pleasure that brings a smile. On this evening, a much needed smile.

Sure enough, a car ride with the girls and a near-perfect cup of Verona did much to wipe away the frustrations of the evening. Honestly, though I will never turn down a cup of coffee under most any circumstance, all I really needed was a few minutes with the girls.

Free fall

More bad economic news:

A record plunge in the cost of gasoline pushed consumer prices down by the largest amount in 56 years in November while industrial production posted a solid gain.

The new government reports Thursday provided further evidence that the economy is shaking off the blows delivered by a string of devastating hurricanes. But analysts cautioned that the huge drop in consumer prices was overstating the improvement in inflation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What if everything you thought you knew was wrong?

Margaret Friedenauer, a reporter for the Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks blogs about just that. Upon arriving in Mosul, her world it seems is somewhat off-kilter.

Read it. Think about it.

Succint and to the point

For the first time, almost ever, President Bush gets to the point. In his speech today at the Wilson Center, he had the following to say about people playing politics with Iraq:

One of the blessings of our free society is that we can debate these issues openly, even in a time of war. Most of the debate has been a credit to our democracy, but some have launched irresponsible charges. They say that we act because of oil, that we act in Iraq because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. Some of the most irresponsible comments about manipulating intelligence have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence we saw, and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These charges are pure politics.

Put about as plainly as can be. Again, as I've said before, ask not only who said what, but why they said it. You'll learn alot about why they say what they say now.

That was my favorite graph in the entire effort. Though I also liked this:

Victory will be achieved by meeting certain clear objectives: when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can protect their own people, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks against our country. These objectives, not timetables set by politicians in Washington, will drive our force levels in Iraq. As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And when victory is achieved, our troops will then come home, with the honor they have earned.

Another good speech from the President as part of his renewed effort at explaining why we are where we are in Iraq. This one makes a clear case for victory; why we must achieve it and how we will get there.

Hey Clint

I wonder if you'll take some advice and constructive criticism. Not from me, but from one of your own:

And now, some in the party, incredibly including the Senate Minority Leader are making it inhospitable for their former Vice Presidential standard bearer, Joe Lieberman. Here's some news for them - they are not only telling Joe that the Democratic Party does not have room for his views, they are also communicating to millions of Americans who might support this war or not, but find defeat unacceptable, that they are not welcome in this exclusive political club. There are some progressive hawks in this country, but it is unlikely that they will pull the Democratic lever with the message that it is being sent by the leaders of the party.

Here's another insight for Reid, Pelosi and Dean - you are the minority party. You control nothing in this town. And it is unlikely that you ever will or should control anything as long as you apply a litmus test on prominent elected officials. Get used to the smaller offices with the poor view.

But, there is irony and mirth in all of this. In a week that the Chairman of the Party played into the hands of the GOP by suggesting that we could not win in Iraq, his brother launched a crusade of criticism against Joe Lieberman. It appears that the entire Dean clan is committed to ensuring that the Democrats remain in the minority. What a scream!

So, listen up Democrats, you do not enjoy the luxury of contracting your ranks. If you want to expand the party, a purge is not what the doctor ordered.

Smart people in your party see the damage you do to yourselves when you are reduced to screaming "Rove!, Libby!, Bush!" over and over again as if it means something insightful and limit your take on Iraq to criticism minus a vision. You are offering the rest of us nothing.

Even were we to share your views about the current administration, what are you offering us as it's alternative? The prescient vision of Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and others who have magically discerned that our case for war was a fraud despite being unable to prove it?

You were always smarter than the shrill voices who screamed "Apologist!," at we who disagreed with you. It still pains me to see you still holding ranks with them.

Smart people in your party want to put it back in power for the right reasons; they think they have a better alternative. Be one of those smart people again and offer us something useful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tennis, anyone?!

No, thanks! What a pretentious load of crap!

At a certain point in the near future, if the current oligarchy cannot be removed via the ballot, direct political action may become an urgent and compelling mission. It may then be necessary for many people in many walks of life to put their bodies on the line. For the moment, however, although pressing and profound questions have arisen about whether the current government is even legitimate, i.e., properly elected, there still remains a chance to remove this government peacefully in the 2008 election. (Or am I living in a dream world?)

Glenn is right: "Feverish," indeed. Apparently, Tennis is ready to join a militia, since he's saying the kind of stuff they were saying in 1995.

Better yet, I'm reminded of this. In particular, one volume written by an otherwise respectable Christian pastor who at one point asked his readers whether they trusted the Clinton administration to go quietly in 2000 in the wake of any potential major disruptions. Given what we knew of a certain President's "character" and all.

It was irresponsible, non-sensical rhetoric then and it is most certainly irresponsible, non-sensical rhetoric now. The system is bigger than either the President or his critics.

And thank God!

Always remember

"Sister's head is not a chew toy!"

Monday, December 12, 2005

A baseless urgency

Frederick Kagan's line, not mine. His Weekly Standard piece discusses just that vis-a-vis the recent Democrat calls for withdrawal from Iraq in the face of improving situation reports (AP's interpretation not withstanding) and evident progress.

Are they that politically motivated that they must screech and scream despite what their own eyes and ears might tell them?

YOUR media at work.

Just stopping in for a strafing-run, folks, so don't panic...

But I came across this article about Iraqi public opinion this morning and just had to vent. Check out this article found on Yahoo news, courtesy of Will Lester of the Associated Press.

The headline reads "Poll: Most Iraqis Oppose Troops' Presence." First of all, that is not a shocker. We knew that, didn't we? After all, what people anywhere want to be occupied or have foreign troops on their soil? So why exactly is that the lede on a poll of Iraqi public opinion?

But scroll down. No, keep going. Further. Just a little more. Nope, one more paragraph. Make sure you're at paragraph eight.

A fourth of those surveyed, 26 percent, say U.S. forces should leave now, and another 19 percent say troops should leave after those chosen in this week's election take office. The other half say U.S. troops should stay until security is restored, 31 percent, until Iraqi forces can operate independently, 16 percent, or longer, 5 percent.

What? You mean a full 50% say they don't want American troops to leave until the country is stabilized? On a scale of 1-10, how much more interesting or insightful is THAT piece of data than the fact that Iraqis wish American troops weren't in their country? Or phrased a different way, that American troops weren't necessary? An 8, maybe? So why is it buried at the bottom of the story? Why is a non-earth shattering poll result the lede while a fairly important one is buried? Why is The Duhhh Award of the Week result the headline while several more important metrics are reported but basically glossed over?

Although the number of Iraqis supporting continued US presence until the security situation is resolved is down somewhat since late 2003 (also an interesting, but unreported fact that would have been worthy of analysis), the number of Iraqis that prefer a continued American presence to a Murtha-Dean-Kerry White-Flagged withdrawal has remained fairly steady. In fact, I've found it remarkable that it has been both so steady and typically unreported by our media over time. It's not just Mr. Lester. Our media habitually reports no-brainer poll results that say Iraqis want American troops out. They also habitually fail to mention that the Iraqi people don't mean today. Why do we never see a headline like this:

Poll: Iraqis support troop withdrawal after security restored

Or how about:

Poll: Iraqis want us out. Just not today, tomorrow, next week or anytime soon. John Murtha and Howard Dean are you listening?

Wouldn't that be a responsible way to report the poll results? Wouldn't that be accurate? MORE accurate?

But by the same token, wouldn't it be just as accurate to use headlines like these for the same article (Actual reported verbiage from article in parentheses)?

Poll: 75% of Iraqis confident about upcoming elections (Three-quarters say they are confident about the parliamentary elections scheduled for this week.)

Poll: 66% of Iraqis optimistic about immediate future (More than two-thirds expect things in their country to get better in the coming months.)

Poll: Iraqis say security is improving (Six in 10 say local security is good, up from half in February 2004.)

Poll: Iraqis confident in police and military (Two-thirds express confidence in the Iraqi army and in police.)

In fact, wouldn't any of these headlines have been more responsible, more informative and more germane to the national debate we are having about progress metrics and timelines for withdrawal than the mindless Poll: Most Iraqis Oppose Troops' Presence? Wouldn't any of my proposed headlines have encouraged a larger readership of the article? I tend to skip over the Sun Will Rise in the East, Set in the West hedlines I come across. Don't you? I'm more likely to read something which challenges assumptions or has particular relevance to policy debates. And yet, Lester, the AP and most of our news outlets choose not to work that way.


When you see an article like this broken down and analyzed as I have done, don't you find yourself wondering whether other articles about Iraq do precisely the same thing even though they are not so readily deconstructed? Don't you wonder whether reporters make the effort to suss out the other side of the story, much less report it? When I come across such unbalanced and shameful reporting, I find myself thinking we should be even more committed to our efforts on the ground in Iraq. A withdrawal now seems to me to be a capitulation to biased media reports and those who are leveraging the rough-going in Iraq out of political expediency.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Don't be a cry baby!

What? You didn't know they stunk when you took all their money?

Miguel Tejada, in his best impersonation of a selfish all-star:

"I've been with the Orioles for two years and things haven't gone in the direction that we were expecting, so I think the best thing will be a change of scenery," Tejada told The Associated Press during a telephone interview in his native Dominican Republic.

Really? You didn't know they were run poorly when you signed the deal?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Good times, bad times

Seems to make no never-mind as far as the US economy is concerned. Revised economic numbers released yesterday for 3Q 2005, put a nice pair of legs to this bit of analysis.

Highlights include:

-The BEA's second look at third-quarter gross domestic product showed that the economy grew by a robust 4.3% annual rate, even with the business shutdowns caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

-For all of 2005, real GDP is on track to expand by 3.7%.

-The GDP revisions show real consumer spending increased at an annual rate of 4.2% in the third quarter. That's better than the 3.9% pace previously estimated, and it occurred during a quarter when gasoline prices hit more than $3 per gallon.

The sky is falling indeed!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not surprised

Maybe some are, but I am most certainly not. Howard Dean has a big mouth, and he's not afraid to run it. Frankly, it was just a matter of time before he stepped in it as DNC chair, and his statements on Monday look like the real thing.

We here were expecting this kind of thing all along:

The more Dean the better: As long as Dean keeps talking, the Democrats are showing themselves to be farther to left than even most Republicans realized. His rhetoric has become so overheated that prominent congressional liberals have distanced themselves from Dean, and our own governor doesn't want anything to do with him when he visits the state.

If they thought so in June, what must they think now!?

Strong antiwar comments in recent days by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have opened anew a party rift over Iraq, with some lawmakers warning that the leaders' rhetorical blasts could harm efforts to win control of Congress next year.

Notice that Dems see it too: "Dean's take on Iraq makes even less sense than the scream in Iowa: Both are uninformed and unhelpful," said Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), recalling Dean's famous election-night roar after stumbling in Iowa during his 2004 presidential bid.

Dean's Monday remarks represent, in the purest form, the position of the Democratic base. That is the same base that didn't get them a win in '04 and frankly will never, by itself, put Democrats in power. People like Rep. Marshall are wise to slap this kind of rhetoric down fast and hard.

The problem is summarized nicely with these words from a Democratic strategist: "We have not blown our chance" of winning back the House but "we have jeopardized it," said a top strategist to House Democrats, who requested anonymity to speak freely about influential party leaders. "It raises questions about whether we are capable of seizing political opportunities or whether we cannot help ourselves and blow it" by playing to the liberal base of the party.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

What with the house only half-decorated, too many things on the schedule and the obligatory pre-holiday cold having struck yesterday afternoon!

I am a happy man...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fear and loathing in WalMart

On the heels of the Washington Post piece about the economic good foisted on communities around the nation (often in spite of themselves) by Walmart, comes this study (actually released a week before Thanksgiving but highlighted over at The Corner mid-week) that informs us that there truly is nothing new under the sun:

The current public debate surrounding Wal-Mart fits within a historical context of democratic responses to changes in the retail sector. From Sears Roebuck and the emergence of the mail order industry in the late 19th century to the various chain stores that emerged during the 1920s, the American public has proven wary of retail innovations. Wal-Mart, as the largest retailer in America and the pioneer of the large discount chain store, is currently experiencing this same public wariness regarding its business practices and its role in the American economy.

The executive summary offers examples of previous retail innovation that has similarly drawn the ire of the public and men and women who govern them over previous decades in Sears Roebuck and Woolworth's. Both innovators in their industry who endured much scrutiny very similar in nature to what WalMart faces today.

Well, what of it all? Is there really a point here? Most certainly!

Simply put, Wal-Mart and the current tempest surrounding it's policies and practice is yet another in a long line of such furies thrown up at innovative retailers as they re-define their industry while creating economic goods all along the way. The study makes clear the benefits to many that WalMart creates:

This report additionally asks the question of whether or not Wal-Mart is good for America, analyzing how Wal-Mart treats its employees, its effect on the American economy, and on small towns and small retailers. The conclusions reached are that Wal-Mart fits very well within a pattern of retail innovation and displacement, by which consumers benefit from new systems of retail...

Likewise, they make clear that the criticisms most often made are not necessarily confined to WalMart alone, finding that...Wal-Mart is very much in line with the rest of the American retail sector in terms of benefits and pay, and that the dissolution of Main Street retail is not caused by Wal-Mart per se, but is part of a larger overall change in consumer habits. Considering the discount retail sector as a whole, most of the criticisms directed toward Wal-Mart are largely shared throughout the industry.

What of my interest? Why have I recently and in the past as well, posted to the defense of WalMart? Am I a corporatist? Am I a shill for this particular corporation? No, and no again.

I am simply loathe to allow unfounded, inaccurate criticism go unanswered. It is the same reason I have often been called an apologist for the Bush administration. For the purposes of clarification, allow me to make something clear.

I will gladly criticize when there are valid criticisms to be made. Calling the Bush administration a bunch of liars when there is no actual, real evidence of manipulation and or outright lying is not a valid criticism. Likewise, many things said of WalMart and their practices follows the same lines; the facts about what WalMart offers to a community show demonstrably that there are many benefits. Benefits that far exceed the real and potential negatives.

That is why I commented on the Post piece. It's also why I wrote in reaction to the CEI release. There are always real criticisms to be made of almost anybody and any company. Why then do people feel the need to go out of their way making ridiculous and flat-out inaccurate ones?

And here's where I offer a criticism of my own: Bentonville ought to get off their duff and communicate with customers, with communities, with anyone who will listen. The CEI release is dead-on in it's close:

...Wal-Mart brings great advantages in price and selection, especially to consumers who are most in need of low prices, and maintains high productively across the U.S. economy. Where the company is failing is in its belated recognition of its obligation to engage in open communication with citizens about its business practices and as to why it ultimately provides a benefit to American consumers and to the broader American economy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Friends and Allies

After seeing this call to arms last week, I am proud to report that Lacy and Cassie will stand with Cosmo, to fight off this challenge all on their own if need be!

Football weather

Football, crisp air, a breeze. I love it. Normally, anyway.

We caught a glimpse of it a couple of weeks ago but then got some Santa Ana's followed by rain. It hit again this weekend! Just in time for rivalry weekend.

Sadly though, there was no time for the game. Appears I didn't miss much.

Is there joy without sadness?

We received rotten news last night. The kind of thing that takes wind out of sails.

Our friends Roland and Sandy have been married for a about two-and-a-half years. They are the proud parents of a baby daughter. Yet their life has been anything but easy together.

On their honeymoon, a day-hike turned into a life-threatening fall and injury for Roland. One that required numerous surgeries and pins and months of rehab to find him only now--nearly 2 1/2 years later--returning to a partial work schedule in the ER.

Some months ago, with daughter Brooke only a matter of months old, Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeming an impossibility given her age and overall good health, it none the less was true and last night we received word of the updated prognosis.

Sandy will undergo a double-mastectomy this month, for the cancer was present in both breasts and in fact has spread. How far remains uncertain.

After the surgery will come a 6-month regimen of chemo-therapy designed to go after the disease where it has spread. And there is of course the un-spoken fear that it has spread past the point of dealing with.

Here is where we are; left to wonder why such a couple has known so much difficulty and sorrow in such a short time together. Why is a still-young woman, now a mother, forced to fight for her life from a disease that normally afflicts women more advanced in age?

We are careful not to question God's sovereignty, for He is. He wills that it should rain on both the just and the un-just, yet we are wondering aloud exactly what it is that God would do in a situation like this and why.

Our hearts break for Sandy, for Brooke and for her daddy. At the same time we seek God's comfort for them, His understanding and most of all His peace and strength to persevere.

Friday, December 02, 2005

For all the Chicken-little's out there

Just what is going on with the US economy?

Over-paid or under-appreciated?

Everybody's favorite San Diego Padre gets a nice deal this week to stay put:

The two-time All-Star will earn $9 million per season from 2006-08, with a $9 million club option for 2009 that could raise the value of the deal to $36 million over four years. The team has a $3 million buyout for 2009. Giles made $7 million each of the last two seasons.

Can't wait to read the reaction to this from a certain someone!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The case for Articulate

I said this morning that the Bush Administration needs (has needed) to be more articulate on Iraq:

On the one hand, people oughtta pay better attention and on the other, the Administration needs to be more articulate on the whole entire subject of Iraq!

Seeing this from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs then was another in a string of "Say it here, it happens there!" moments I've enjoyed over recent months. I could only read and close my eyes, dreaming fondly about the impact of two years' articulate expression of progress in Iraq:

The military hasn't done a good enough job of explaining to the American people what is going on in Iraq and the political and military progress there, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

Even so, Gen. Peter Pace, warned that battling terrorism will be a long war.

What really killed me was Senator Kerry's comments: "The large presence of American troops in Iraq gives credence to the notion of occupation and in fact delays the willingness and ability of Iraqi troops to stand up," Kerry said on NBC's "Today" show.

"Until the president really acknowledges that that large presence is part of the problem, and begins to set a benchmark process for transferring responsibility to the Iraqis, we're going to continue with more of the same," he said.

In inimitable Kerry fashion, it seems the good Senator renounced the presence of US troops on the ground in Iraq only after ridiculing the Administration for not having enough of them on-hand for the last two-plus years!

My Dogs are smarter!

What's wrong with politics?

Everything that these comments embody.

You're on the right track there Mr. Johnson...a little more anger with a dash of teenage-angst and you'll find the political sweet-spot that'll bring the center running your way!

One mouth, two messages

(Hat tip to Protein Wisdom) It appears that everybody's favorite Democratic fundraiser, Terry McAwful had some interesting criticism of President Bush's speech on Iraq yesterday.

Jeff at PW summarized it this way:

1) We now see that the Taliban is reorganizing in Afghanistan—all because Bush (the inaccurate argument goes) “pulled the troops too soon” and “rushed them into Iraq” before the Afghan job was completed. In short, leaving to allow a sovereign Afghanistan to try to stand on its own two feet was a disastrous mistake.

2) The US needs to pull troops out of Iraq so that the Iraqis can handle the problems themselves and become a legitimate sovereign country rather than the protectorate of an imperialist US military. In short, leaving to allow a sovereign Iraq to stand on its own two feet is a moral, political, and strategic imperative.

So just to be sure I've got it...what we ought to do in one country is the exact same thing that is alleged to have not worked in another?

Seems fairly consistent with Dem arguments about how the problem is the "occupation" and the presence of too many US boots on the ground; they only get to that part of the argument though after they've finished telling you how Bush screwed everything up by not sending enough troops...

"Yeah, the one with the big nativity scene on the front!"

In a bit of delicious Christmas irony, Conservative talker Kevin McCullough aims to kill the ACLU with kindness:

We are excited to be launching the opportunity today...between now and Christmas we are asking you to send the ACLU direct "MerryChristmas" cards.

And we aren't talking about these generic "happy holiday" (meaning nothing) type of cards...Go get as "Christmas" a Christmas card as you can find... something that says.. "Joy To The World", "For Unto Us A Child Is Born", but at least "Merry Christmas", put some of your own thoughts into it, sign it respectfully and zip it off in the mail to

"Wishing You Merry Christmas"
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Things I would have talked about yesterday

Except that, know.

Proudly smearing since...earlier this year...

First off, Cindy Sheehan and her publisher got a little testy about the use of certain images the other day that implied her book signing was a failure of comic-proportions:

Sheehan accused “right-wing” sites of “spreading a false story that nobody bought my book at Camp Casey on Saturday. That is not true, I sold all 100 copies and got writer's cramp signing them. Photos were taken of me before the people got in line to have me sign the book. We made $2000 for the peace house.”

Her publisher, Arnie Kotler at Koa Books, meanwhile released a letter to her supporters, charging that “AP and Reuters posted photos - I can't imagine why - of Cindy sitting at the book table between signings, rather than while someone was at the table. And now the smear websites are circulating an article, with these photos, that Cindy gave a signing and nobody came. It's simply not true…. the benefit books signing in Crawford, Texas on November 26, 2005 was well attended and a huge success.”

Lol...meanwhile the photographer posits that maybe 5 people had come in prior to the time he was there.

On the plus side, does that make me a right-wing smear-site for having published the photo here?

Let the push-back begin!

Lots of great coverage of the President's speech on Iraq yesterday to be found here and here.

Lots of good stuff in the speech as well. My personal favorite is still the NATO militaries line.

Bottom line: I like Henke's summation: It may be the first time this particular document has been released, the first time the strategy has been discussed in so much detail—but this isn't the "first time" the White House has disclosed the strategy for victory in Iraq, and the strategy isn't "new". This is something reporters really should know.

Of course us Bush apologists knew this already. Just like we knew that, while WMD were a prominent part of the Administration's argument to go to war, it was not the only reason offered.

On the one hand, people oughtta pay better attention and on the other, the Administration needs to be more articulate on the whole entire subject of Iraq!

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