Monday, July 31, 2006

The Anti-Kristol

Bill Kristol was not his usual self yesterday morning. He was very bearish on the War on Terror and specifically about Iran, Syria and Hizbollah and the current conflict with Israel as he discussed the issue with the FNS panel:

KRISTOL: You know, I mean, look. It's a terrible incident. And ironically, it's the same town that, 10 years ago, bombs killed civilians and that ended basically that Israeli attempt to deal with Hezbollah.

I don't know if this will end it or not. I think there will be a lot of second-guessing in Israel. There already is of Olmert's political and military strategy, the failure to go in on the ground, the dependence on air power.

You can't at one and the time say Hezbollah is a mortal threat to the state of Israel, an enemy of western civilization, and then say but we're not going to go in on the ground, we're going to establish a two-kilometer buffer, I don't think, in southern Lebanon.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell them what their military strategy should be. And obviously, they don't want to lose either Israeli lives or the civilian lives that would be lost in a ground campaign. But air power alone is a problem. And it's a bad situation, I think.

I think Hezbollah will end up winning this battle, if you want to put it this way, psychologically and politically. In the global war on terror, Iran will end up as a winner over this last month or six weeks, and that's extremely unfortunate.


KRISTOL: Hezbollah kills civilians all the time. The reason I am worried that this battle will be a victory for Hezbollah -- there's not going to be a permanent cease-fire. There's not, in my view, going to be a multinational force that ever goes in there.

This war will resume. Hezbollah is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. Iran, its sponsor, is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. And the Syrian government is a willing accomplice with Iran and Hezbollah.


KRISTOL: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think so. Obviously, I think they know that at the end of the day, there won't be serious sanctions. I told Nick Burns out there -- he's an old friend, and maybe he won't be after I say this, but I told him that I would buy him a nice dinner if there were ever serious sanctions imposed on Iran by the Security Council, or by Russia and China, or even really by the Europeans. I just don't believe it.

I think this policy -- we've had a very bad two months, in my view, in the global war on terror. The diplomatic ploy for Iran is not working. Iran is riding high.

In Iraq we killed Zarqawi and then we didn't take advantage of that opportunity, in my view, to really rethink the military strategy. And here with Hezbollah, they're now emboldened. So I hate to be such a bad news bear, but it's a depressing -- it's been a bad two months for us in the global war on terror.

Now, it's a long war, you have some setbacks, and we need to recoup. But I don't think that -- what worries me, and I'm an old friend of Nick Burns, but they're in denial, I think, in the Bush State Department. Everything's fine, Iran's in a corner. I mean, I don't really think that's the case.

Michael Totten, in his role as guest-blogger at Instapundit today linked to a piece in the NY Times, dated yesterday that offered a slightly different perspective on whether or not Iran truly sits in the cat-bird's seat:

These should be heady days for Iran’s leaders. Hezbollah, widely regarded as its proxy force in Lebanon, continues to rain down rockets on Israel despite 17 days of punishing airstrikes. Hezbollah’s leader is a hero of the Arab world, and Iran is basking in the reflected glory.

Yet this capital is unusually tense. Officials, former officials and analysts say that it is too dangerous even to discuss the crisis. In newspapers, the slightest questioning of support for Hezbollah has been attacked as unpatriotic, pro-Zionist and anti-Islamic.

As the war in Lebanon grinds on, Iranian officials cannot seem to decide whether Iran will emerge stronger — or unexpectedly weakened.

Michael Slackman offers something akin to hope though I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable in calling it such, that Iran, while it appears bolstered by the events of the day as described by Kristol, may in fact find itself worse off when the dust settles. I know not whether that is wishful thinking or a valid assessment of the situation.

Part of the difficulty is determining just how representative and, frankly, correct Slackman's sources are on the mood of Tehran. That I have not even an educated guess as to it's truthfulness or not, but I find it an interesting counter-argument to the pessimism of Bill Kristol.

At least Somebody knows what's going on

Three cheers for Mara Liasson. Her co-liberal commentator is always out to lunch on stuff like this, but at least Mara can recognize the situation for what it is.

From the exchange yesterday on Fox News Sunday about Israel's attack in Lebanon that killed a large number of children and other innocents:

KRISTOL: You know, I mean, look. It's a terrible incident. And ironically, it's the same town that, 10 years ago, bombs killed civilians and that ended basically that Israeli attempt to deal with Hezbollah.

I don't know if this will end it or not. I think there will be a lot of second-guessing in Israel. There already is of Olmert's political and military strategy, the failure to go in on the ground, the dependence on air power.

You can't at one and the time say Hezbollah is a mortal threat to the state of Israel, an enemy of western civilization, and then say but we're not going to go in on the ground, we're going to establish a two-kilometer buffer, I don't think, in southern Lebanon.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell them what their military strategy should be. And obviously, they don't want to lose either Israeli lives or the civilian lives that would be lost in a ground campaign. But air power alone is a problem. And it's a bad situation, I think.

I think Hezbollah will end up winning this battle, if you want to put it this way, psychologically and politically. In the global war on terror, Iran will end up as a winner over this last month or six weeks, and that's extremely unfortunate.

WILLIAMS: You're not kidding. That's terrible. And I mean, this has been a very rough week all around. I mean, the U.N. observers, this. I think Secretary Rice had a flame-out in Rome in terms of trying to build an international consensus.

And so it comes back to this idea was the administration wrong to allow Israel carte blanche in saying go ahead, you know, attack Hezbollah without any restraint. And it turns out it seems as if...

HUME: Without any restraint?

WILLIAMS: Without any restraint. At this point, there was the -- the only restraint was that the U.S. said we don't want you, Israel...

HUME: Well, Bill was just talking about...

WILLIAMS: ... to put in ground forces.

LIASSON: Israel put restraints on itself not...

WILLIAMS: I don't know what restraints -- if you look at the devastation, I don't see restraint.
Fred was talking about international opinion being one-sided, but if you look at the statistics in terms of, you know, now close to 500 Lebanese dead, almost a million people have to flee their homes, versus 51 Israelis dead, most of them military people, you'd say well, there's a great imbalance here, Fred.

BARNES: Juan, that's not for lack of Hezbollah trying to kill a lot more of them. Hezbollah is aiming -- that's what they're trying to do. Hezbollah wants to kill civilians. Why do you fire on cities with highly inaccurate rockets...

WILLIAMS: They have inferior military capability to Israel. I mean, there's just no question.

LIASSON: This is a classic example of what they call asymmetric warfare. I mean, there is no difference between Hezbollah and the civilian population. There are people who are civilian one minute, and 10 minutes later they've launched a rocket, and they're back in their home with their wife and kids and then they're civilians again...

WILLIAMS: Correct, and what we're seeing...

LIASSON: ... and they were a Hezbollah fighter for 10 minutes.

Yes, it's really too bad that Hizbollah doesn't have the same level of sophisticated armaments with which to target civilians in Israel.

What's in a name?

Don't like the idea of a new Manhattan Project? How about a new Marshall Plan instead!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

How stupid do you have to be?

Everybody hates junk mail. That everybody hates the electronic equivalent, I don't doubt. Often as I check my personal email I laugh at the number of ridiculous spammails I have and I wonder how people can possibly think any of us so stupid as to reply.

I've thought it often but have refrained from writing anything--serious or not--about it until now. The phenomenon occurs frequently, at least with me, and makes me wonder if the author must think I'm the stupidest person alive.

Take for instance, this. A variation on the "I need your account numbers to transfer significant amounts of foreign currency into the US on behalf of my dead associate/grandmother/client and will pay you a handsome fee for your trouble," scam, this one arrived in my inbox on Friday:

My Good Friend,

I am so very sorry if I pried into your privacy but due to your honesty,I am convinced that you would be capable to provide me with a solution. I am Mr.. Malick Diatta of MA Legal Consultancy Services, Dakar Senegal. I am writing on behalf of my late client Mrs. Andrea Eich,a successful business woman from your country that base in Dakar Senegal who died unfortunately with her family(Her Husband and two kids) in an air mishap in July 2000.

I am contacting you simply to assist in claiming her deposited assets valued at US$13M before it gets confiscated by the Netherlands Bank. The Bank has written me as her consultant and issued a final notice to provide any of herrelatives orr have the assets channel to the Netherlands National Treasury as unclaimed fund within the next 5 working days.

Since there was no relatives or next of kin left in our record, I seek your consent to present you as her only surviving relative, so that this funds canbe paidd to you. Therefore, on receipt of your expression of interest (EOI), I have agreed that you will inherit 45% of this fund for your help and sincerity, 45%for me while 10% for the refunds of processing expenses and to pay tax in your country(if any) upon successful confirmation of this funds in your bank account.Thereafter, all the related legal documents will be destroyed and we part ways.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating her relatives, my aim now is to usher you in legally as her relative since you are of the same nationality so that the fruit of her labour will not be in vain. All I require from you is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you fromany breachh of law.

Please urgently reply if you can handle it.

It is in fact slightly different, however not different enough to slip past anyone with two functioning brain-cells. But the contents alone is not what creates the overwhelming sense of incredulity I get from reading it.

No, that comes from the fact that I received the above email from the same email address, with the same name and same subject lines 11 times in one day.


A federal grand jury in Alexandria is investigating unauthorized leaks of classified information and has issued a subpoena to a fired National Security Agency officer who has acknowledged talking with journalists about the agency's warrantless surveillance program, according to documents released yesterday.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine...

Well, not really. Dumbfounded is more like it.

The Republican Agenda

Greg in Santa Maria is afraid of it. Even though he can't or won't explain exactly what it is:

The American people, Democrats as well as Republicans, need to recognize and focus on real issues and not fall prey to issues the Republican Party has used to successfully hide their real agenda.

The Democratic Party must address relevant major issues affecting all Americans and hammer home the ideal that they are the party of the people. They need to be as tenacious as pit bulls when defending their ideals. In doing so, Democrats can regain the trust of the American people and set a course of action that will bring this great country back from the quagmire it's now in.

Americans need to focus on vital issues like the following: Cut the tax breaks for the rich; Balance the budget and stop borrowing money to finance corporate America and the Republican agenda; Universal Health care for all; restore or return taxes to individual states and let them repair their infrastructure problems; restore the funding to public education and colleges; global warming and other serious ecological problems need to be addressed; politicians must be held accountable to follow the provisions of the constitution and the Bill of Rights; return ethics and honesty to our government; repair our country's credibility and tarnished image throughout the world; and end the war and return our troops.

I looked for it...I read the letter twice but found no sign of it. Only some standard boiler-plate rhetoric that assures me the world is about to end. Hardly persuasive.

If anybody else knows what the Republican Agenda is, kindly share it with me!

Straw Poll

GOP Straw Poll looking ahead to '08.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wilsonmania II

I pointed you all to the interview with Wilson co-counsel Erwin Chemerinsky from last week. Yesterday in the weekly-segment that Hugh calls "The Smart Guys," we got a second look at the Wilson case according to Erwin (who looked less & less smart as the thing went on as he continued to display an amazing un-grasp of contemporaneous facts surrounding the case).

Throughout the course of the interview, Erwin repeatedly insists that the WH outed Valerie Plame and at least damaged, if not destroyed her career:

EC: Well, I think he was being honest in the New York Times, and there are other letters that he's written, for example, a 2005 letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, again restating exactly what he said in his op-ed piece. So I don't believe that he has in any been disingenuous or changed his story. I also think it's missing the point. The point of our lawsuit is that Vice President Cheney, Lewis Libby and Karl Rove grossly abused their power by revealing the identity of a secret CIA operative, solely for their own partisan political gain.


EC: But I think you're missing the point. The point isn't whether the meeting occurred or not. We can certainly argue about that, and the point isn't it a consistency, though I believe he's consistent. The point is you're trying to shift the blame for abuse of power to the victim. And that's what I really disagree with. The...


EC: But you're missing the point. Joe Wilson maintains he's been consistent in denying that that meeting occurred. But what I'm saying is I think here, you're missing the point, because the issue isn't Joe Wilson's credibility. If the administration wanted to attack Joe Wilson's credibility after his New York Times op-ed, they could say whatever they wanted about Joe Wilson. But what they couldn't say is...


EC: I could not disagree more. I don't believe he's disingenuous, nor do I believe he's a liar. I believe that he has been quite consistent in denying that the meeting occurred. But I also can't say enough, I think by shifting the focus to him, what you're missing is what this is about. This isn't about his credibility. You want to attack his credibility, attack it. That doesn't justify revealing that his wife was a secret CIA operative.

Throughout the exchange, Erwin always comes home to the safety of the "WH outed her" declarative. Only problem is, that no longer holds up.

Christopher Hitchens made that clear in an interview with Hugh earlier in the day:

HH: No, but there is this lawsuit, and Valerie Plame says that she would still have her career, but for the actions of senior Bush administration officials. What's the single best argument against that assertion, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: It's very simple, and it's made by Robert Novak, who's just come from testifying under oath on the point several times to the grand jury, to the special prosecutor, and to the FBI, that nobody approached him, that he approached members of the administration. The best guess of which member, important member of the administration vendimus that spoke to him is...I can't materialize this...I can't prove it, but it is the best guess of every journalist who's covered this, and every lawyer involved in it is that it was Richard Armitage...

HH: Yes.

CH: ...who as you well know, is on the other side in the regime change. He was a bitter critic of the administration's line in Iraq.

HH: Yes.

CH: So there's nothing to this at all. And if they think that by bringing a frivolous civil lawsuit, if the courts allow it, which I doubt, they're going to get more access to the inner circles of the administration that Patrick Fitzgerald got with waivers and subpoenas. They're dreaming again. It's just the last bit of they're running on empty.

As he did last week, Erwin continues to display a horrible grasp of facts surrounding what Wilson did/didn't say and do after his Niger trip:

HH: Erwin, do you believe that meeting occurred in June of 1999 between Iraq and Niger?

EC: I certainly believe Joe Wilson that he said that he did, that it did not.

HH: And are you aware of his private CIA debrief in March of 2002?

EC: I've read reports of it, yes.

HH: And did those reports include his saying that the meeting occurred?

EC: I don't recall that. I mean, I've heard you say that. I've not gone back to look at what that said.

HH: Have you read the book, The Politics of Truth yet?

EC: Yes, I have.

HH: Did he say in his book the meeting occurred?

EC: I don't remember. I mean, again, my focus has not been on Joe Wilson's credibility. My focus has been...

HH: Would you guys stick around, because I know we've got to go to break, and I want to give John a chance to comment on this, and Erwin a chance to comment on this. By the way, Erwin, the DCI, Tenet, said the meeting occurred in a July 11th, 2003, CIA statement. So at least at that point forward, it's public knowledge that it occurred, unless you want to say Tenet was lying.


HH: John Eastman, you heard that exchange with Erwin about the Iraq-Niger meeting. Your reaction?

JE: Well, I think it is...the questions you're asking, Hugh, are highly relevant. Look, you have a partisan buried in the CIA who goes over there, misrepresents what we knew about Iraqi contacts with Niger, and their attempts to obtain yellowcake. He does it in a very public way in the New York Times, and now all of a sudden, criticism of him and exposure of the contacts he has within CIA that led to his trips is off limits somehow. This is rank partisanship on one side, and not on the other. And Bush's administration was perfectly legitimate in responding to this. And to try and make it out to some Constitutional violation of privacy by people who have put themself out in the front of this in a very public way, I think it disingenuous.

HH: Erwin?

JE: I think the Bush administration was well within its rights to do what it did.

EC: I couldn't disagree more. I have not gone back and read all of Joe Wilson's statements, so I'll admit, I can't go back, as you were doing, and say he said this on this date or that on another day, because that hasn't been my focus. I've been working very hard on this for several months. My focus has been on what the administration did, and I believe that the administration acted in an absolutely despicable way in choosing to release the identity of a secret CIA operative, solely for their partisan political gain. You want to attack Joe Wilson, criticize Joe Wilson. Say he's disingenuous. And if you want, you can even call him a liar, though I believe he's not. But to reveal the identity of a CIA operative is completely inappropriate, and it was an unconstitutional action relative to these individuals.

HH: Now Erwin, Bob Novak has blown your theory out of the air by saying he...the administration didn't appoach him, he approached the administration, and it's probably Richard Armitage. I just don't know how you're going to make this thing stick.

Pretty much everybody with a brain that has examined this over time has reached essentially the same conclusion; the leaker was an official at the State Department (no fan institutionally nor individually in Armitage's case) who let things slip that he shouldn't have. Novak's revelations and the Fitzgerald investigation make it clear that there was no conspiracy to out Plame, that her outing was almost "accidental" in terms of intentions and that, most assuredly, the administration did not shop the story 'til they found a willing journalist to carry their water as was initially charged in the initial months after Plame's naming.

Erwin is either engaged in a serious rope-a-dope and knows something that the rest of us have yet to intuit or dig up for I can't imagine that he'd be this uninformed in a case that actually...had a case. Either that or he, like the Wilsons I imagine, is killing time waiting for this to be thrown out of court so that Joe and Valerie can bravely stand before the legions of Bush Haters who've rested their hopes on Joe and Valerie's broad shoulders and say, with quivering lips and wavering voice, "We tried."

Do we know what we don't know?

I made a comment the other day in a discussion of Jonathan Chait's and David Corn's writings about the "anti-violence" "anti-war" left:

David and his commenters are rightly labeled as "anti-violence". It's the killing and the dying they hate (and rightfully so; only a psychopath wants to see people dead). The problem is simply that it isn't this simple.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi blogger Ali at Free Iraq commented about the role of not just the war in his own country but the fight going on in Lebanon. His comments shed great light on a fundamental difference between people who view the conflict as necessary and those who want nothing to do with it: As horrible as it may seem I do wish the war between Israel and Hezbollah goes on and on, that it spreads to involve Iran and Syria. I feel terrible for the losses among the innocents, Lebanese and Israeli, but I think that this is the only way for them, and us to finally have some peace.

The “anti-war” in the west cannot see any good coming out of war, and how can they when some of them probably haven’t heard a gun shot probably in 10 years if not more! It seems to me that although most of them are intelligent and honest people, they still don’t understand the way we live, here in Iraq, there in Lebanon or Syria. They can’t understand that peace for us, the one we used to live in and the one the Lebanese used to live in, the Syrians and Iranians is not even close to what it is to them and therefore war for us is not even close to what it is for them.

Peace isn't peace unless it's meaningful and real. Stopping the killing is a good thing, but it isn't the only thing.

Whatever happened to...

I caught the tail-end of this while radio-surfing yesterday. It dates back a ways and for whatever reason took me back to the year it was released. At the time, still somewhat of a young pup, I used to dabble in multiple radio formats for pleasure and I recall hearing it on the erstwhile "alternative" station in LA.

I wasn't alone. I recalled while sitting in the car listening to the melodic strings, that I thought it odd at the time that such a tune would be aired there. So did KROQ's afternoon DJ, Jed the Fish.

Again, for no good reason, I was taken back to a Jed mini-rant about the how-and-why he was having to play Enya songs in a rotation that also included acts like Echo and the Bunnymen. That recollection led to others.

Personally, I thought Jed was the least talented major-market disc jockey I've ever heard--then or now. His schtick wasn't funny and his insights weren't very...well, insightful.

As I moved deeper into my twenties, I outgrew the format and the station and for the most part memories of it have faded but for days like yesterday. Through the course of the day I wondered what ever happened to old Jed...

So I checked. Don't ask me how or why but he's still sitting in the same chair doing the same job and even has a syndicated show. Is there no justice in the world!?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When more is...not

Was that loud thud the housing bubble finally bursting? Depends on who you read, but some feel it's happening:

After another monthly dip in June, sales of previously owned homes have fallen in all four major regions of the United States from a year ago, with nationwide sales volume down 9 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors.

Home prices have flattened, up just 1 percent from a year ago, when housing activity peaked.

Yes, they went up (granted near imperceptibly at just one percent) but the reporting is as though we're on our way up the creek without the paddle or even a boat.

I don't get it.

One way to look at it

Israel today, while in the course of firing on Hizbollah guerrillas, hit a UN observation post and killed 4 members of UNIFIL. Depending on who you ask, it was intentional:

Furious UN secretary-general Kofi Annan yesterday demanded an Israeli investigation into the "apparently deliberate targeting" of a UN post in southern Lebanon.

Which is of course denied by Israel and not to be believed by anyone who understands such things:

We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that's veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that's a favorite trick by people who don't have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can't be punished for it.

Former CIA analyst and lefty Spook du jour Larry Johnson had this take on Annan's response:

And members of the media are phrasing and shaping their reporting of yesterday's deaths in order to shift the story's FOCUS to a criticism of Kofi Annan's statement -- not to the eight hours of Israeli attacks on the U.N. bunker, despite constant pleas from U.N. officials, and the deaths of the Austrian, Finnish, Chinese, and Canadian observers from the 2,000-person UNIFIL force.

Kofi Annan's criticism and suspicions, however, have strong bases since he knows, only too well, the recent history of other deaths and injuries from Israeli air strikes, as well as numerous, repetitive efforts by U.N. officials, and the general in charge, to let Israel's military know where the U.N. observers are located so that they wouldn't be bombed by mistake.

Poor old Kofi...the guy just can't catch a break!

And according to John Podhoretz, he doesn't deserve one.


Something Stinky: I'm not sure that it means anything in the bigger political picture, but the thought of Joe Wilson tied to corrupt African nations is interestingly rich.

"Evisceration": Christopher Hitchens strikes again.

Then there's last week: The always amiable but slightly muddled Erwin Chemerinsky signed on in the Wilson-Plame civil suit. And seemingly knows nothing about his client.

You just can't make this up...

Christmas in July!

Frosty comes courtesy of The Avenue Flower Shop, via my in-laws.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

He's no Jonathan Chait...

Jonathan Chait, for some, is the embodiment of Bush Hatred (alternatively known as Bush Derangement Syndrome). He certainly set the benchmark with his September '03 column entitled Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred.

Lacking in notoriety--if not in fervor--I give you David Corn, Bush-Book author, writer for the Nation and blogger. I personally don't "get" Corn but many a progressive love his work on the President.

On Friday last, David gave us a beautiful example of an apples-to-oranges comparison to effect an attack on someone you don't like. He appears to believe that there's a valid comparison in contrasting the President's position on a domestic political issue driven most essentially by personal conviction and his handling of what is most assuredly the single most complex foreign policy issue of the last half-century.

I frankly think it's the most simple bit of Bush-hating you can do:

Yes, this is a moment of clarity. The president will veto a law to protect frozen blastocysts stored in fertility clinic freezers--to preserve the sacredness of life. He won't do anything to stop missiles raining down on men, women and children caught in a war zone. In other words, he's pro-life--except when he's not.

David and his commenters are rightly labeled as "anti-violence". It's the killing and the dying they hate (and rightfully so; only a psychopath wants to see people dead). The problem is simply that it isn't this simple.

In arguing the "anti-violence" case, you must however presume that the opponent (in this case Hizbollah) has a similar or even greater desire to keep from killing to reach it's goal. Such cannot be said of Hizbollah or it's patron states.

So while it's wonderful to envision a world where people in Lebanon need not die at the hand of Israel's military, it's near impossible to conceive of a world where Israelis will not die at the hands of terrorists. Hizbollah needs to be disappeared and that comes with a price, sadly paid in lives.

The cost however of kicking it down the road is even greater. No one wants this fight in 5, 10...20 years' time when it involves a nuclear Iran pulling the puppet strings. How many innocent deaths would there be for David and his readers to bemoan in that scenario?

LOL of the day

I'm not sure how to describe it...

I'll start with 'loons,' and we'll see where it goes from there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The 'Who Knew?' File

Yesterday I learned that a friend of mine now lives in a small town near Saginaw, Michigan called Zilwaukee. No, you read that right. Zilwaukee, MI. Similar to Milwaukee, but just slightly different. To make matters stranger, my friend's house is on Tittabawasee Rd.

And what is the relevance of all of this? Well, I'm thinking about moving to a new location and my consideration set includes:

- Chiladelphia, MD
- Cindianapolis, CO
- Joise, AL
- New Cork, NM


What would really help...

As one radio reporter put it, "The State of California is asking residents to curb their use of electricity to help the state's energy situation during this heat wave." Sounds good I suppose, only it doesn't really address the problem.

The AP report today about impending blackouts notes that: Scorching heat pushed California's electricity supply to the brink Monday and threatened another round of blackouts as utility crews across the state struggled to restore power to tens of thousands of people left in the dark over the weekend.

Authorities warned that the eighth day of the heat wave could drive demand for electricity in California to an all-time high.

'Course, with a few more power plants maybe we'd have the electricity required to run a state of nearly 30 million people. We're doing our part...sort of:

Eighty giant windmills planned on mountain ridges south of the city would supply enough electricity to power much of northern Santa Barbara County.
The proposal for the first wind farm on the Central Coast is being reviewed by county planners.

Six ranching families with 3,000 acres in the hills are leasing pastureland to Pacific Renewable Energy Generation LLC, a development company that wants to erect 60 to 80 windmills along the rugged ridge lines east of Tranquillon Mountain.

"There are very few places in the U.S. where there is enough wind to build a wind farm. We've analyzed the wind here for four years, and we feel it's adequate," Pacific Renewable agent John Stahl said.

A local report last week noted that residents living on the ridge line at the Northern end of the Valley were opposed to the wind farm for what it would do to their panoramic views. It's another put-up-or-shut-up moment.

Gone for a few days...

And I haven't a clue whats going on in the world.

For instance, I arrived back at work today to discover that the New Girl had found another job and was leaving. What?...

While we were gone I didn't watch a minute of news, didn't read a single blog or check out a single news site. Talk about being in the dark!

I was surprised to learn that not much has changed in the Middle East over those 5-plus days. Equally surprising, to me at least, was this look at the morphing of Syria's role in the conflict.

Apologies All Around

Two weeks ago, I took a vacation and before I left I mentioned to Paul that upon my return I would be making more time to blog. Since my move last November I just haven't been able to find a way to integrate it into my daily life due to my new job and with everything going on in my new home. But I was committed. And I made a commitment to Paul.

And as luck would have it, just as I was returning from vacation, Paul was leaving on his trip. Time for me to put my money where my mouth was.

And then...a curious thing happened on my way to the My Dogs offices (which are located in a humble, yet terribly chic loft complex just outside of Torrance, CA): I got sick.

No, not just a little sick. Not just *sniff, sniff* sick. But like, SICK. Acquired some sort of nasty stomach flu or something. My aunt Helen is suffering with the stuff, too. It's apparently going around the area as my cousin knows several stricken families amongst her network. I'll spare you all the details, but I was basically out of commission from Tuesday through Sunday. it's pretty scary when it's 107 degress out and you've got the chills so bad that you turn off the AC and put on a sweater. I remember looking outside at all the wilting plants and thinking how insane this was. In fact, I didn't really eat anything from Wednesday through Saturday. Lost 8 pounds.

Now while those are the kind of results that would make even Jenny Craig jealous, they were hard earned pounds. In fact, despite the success, I don't think that kind of program is commercially viable. Bummer.

Anyway, I owe you, our whithering audience, an apology. And even more importantly, I owe Big Dog an apology. He had entrusted the Blog to me and I simply wasn't able to keep the lights on. So my apologies to everyone.

I can be trusted. Really.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Road Weary

I haven't been here because I've been everywhere else. Starting last Saturday and continuing on through the week it seems I've been all across the state of California.

I entrusted Sim with your care in my absence and it seems he was AWOL with me. I don't know what his excuse was but as for me, I was with family for the last 5 1/2 days. Most of them good, some of it very tough.

We said goodbye to Pappy--my 95 year old grandfather--on Wednesday in San Diego. Assuming I have the time and the emotional energy I'll share some of the days spent with the Sennewald clan but for now--having arrived home late on Sunday afternoon--there is nothing for it but to fall into the couch, on to one or both of the puppies and pass out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Where to go

Events in the Middle East will likely continue dominating the news cycle this week. Who is worth listening to on the subject? I'd go visit any and all of the following:

--Fox and even CNN for straight news.

--Pajamas Media has news and new-media analysis and keeps it updated throughout the day.

--Hugh Hewitt will continue blogging and on-air discussions of the situation, no doubt. For a more reserved take on Israel's politics and strategy, Hugh's semi-regular guest Yoni is a source with tons of straight-from-the-horses mouth reports.

--The Corner gives solid "mainstream" conservative takes on the matter.

--RealClearPolitics, as usual, is a great aggregator of media, new-media and reader takes on just about everything, including Israel, Iran and Syria.

--Finally, check in with Colonel Austin Bay. A military mind with keen understanding of politics to boot.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Continuing Idiocy of Juan Williams

Juan Williams, NPR staffer and panel member on Fox News Sunday was at it again yesterday. I was unsure after watching it what exactly offended me more: the veiled "warmonger" accusations or the utterly inane dead-end position he argued.

Getting up to speed, the first panel segment was a discussion about--what else--the Middle East crisis currently stewing in Lebanon. Host Chris Wallace began with the following:

Well, for the second straight week, Bill Kristol, you have lobbed a Katyusha rocket onto the Bush White House from the pages of The Weekly Standard, as I mentioned in my discussion with Secretary of State Rice.

You say that American weakness has emboldened Iran and Syria, and then you went on to say this, and let's put it up, "Perhaps President Bush can fly from the silly G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, a summit that will most likely convey a message of moral confusion and political indecision, to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us."

So, Mr. Kristol, what should our policy be?

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: He has my permission to finish the G-8 summit. He doesn't have to fly to Jerusalem or come back here early, though I don't think the G-8 summit will accomplish much. Our policy should be to stand with Israel. They are fighting our enemies.

What did the president say a few years ago? States like these, like Iran and Syria, and their terrorist allies like Hezbollah and Hamas constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

He was right four years ago. He's right today. Israel withdrew from these territories. There was no territorial dispute with Lebanon or, any more, with the Gaza strip. These terrorist groups, backed by Iran especially, and also by Syria, attacked across a border. And we need to support Israel in dealing with Hamas and especially with Hezbollah.

From the get go, Williams is unwilling to suffer a meaningful discussion about the role of military force in Israel's dealings with it's neighbors and their terrorist 'allies': I think that's exactly right. And I think it's regrettable. I think that the emphasis on military action is one that feeds into Islamic extremism.

It feeds into terrorist elements not only in Lebanon in terms of Hezbollah, but you know, you have to see this in terms of U.S. policy as impacting our relationships with Iran and the negotiations over their nuclear weapons...

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute. So what would you have Israel do when the Hezbollah comes across their sovereign border, attacks and kills Israeli soldiers and kidnaps a couple of them?

WILLIAMS: You know, to me, this is a conversation in a bubble, Chris. I mean, it's totally alien from the reality of Israel as a terrifically superior military power in that region. There's no question that Israel could win the conflict.

The question is long-term prospects. Are you going to always have Israel at war? Are you going to therefore put the U.S. in a position, given that we're already in Iraq and we are on sort of shaky ground with Iran -- are you going to put us in a position where we have to come in to support Israel with additional military power? Is that the only solution that some people see in the world?

Read it for yourself, but Fred Barnes and William's NPR colleague Mara Liasson follow with a fairly concise summary of the last several years vis-a-vis Israel and it's moves out of Gaza and Lebanon. And then it comes:

WILLIAMS: Well, it just seems to me that you want, you know -- to go back to the General Kristol analogy, you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you wanted us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East where -- I mean, I think there's a real interesting dynamic at play.

I think it's psychological on the part of Israel and many of its supporters, and I'll throw you in here. Somehow you see Israel as weak and you see Ehud Olmert as weak. And they see the person...

So somehow it's personal? General Kristol and his minions just love war for war's sake? We just want war for the hell of it?

On to the next ridiculous point:

WALLACE: He's the new prime minister.

WILLIAMS: The new prime minister of Israel -- and the defense minister as weak. Everybody is weak in the aftermath of Sharon, and so everybody has to prove what a man they are in the Middle East, including -- you're saying why doesn't the United States take this hard, unforgiving line.

Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been we don't talk to anybody, we don't talk to Hamas, we don't talk to Hezbollah, we're not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?

LIASSON: But Hezbollah and Hamas are not asking for talks.

WILLIAMS: Well, somebody should have -- in other words, my sense is - - and this is in response to what you said earlier, Mara. I think that we should have been encouraging -- and we were trying to encourage Hezbollah to become part of a mainstream political movement in the government of Lebanon.

There you have it. Over six years since the PLO declined Barak's 'land for peace' offers (at the behest of, well...pretty much everybody) and launched the intifada, a year after the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and six years since abandoning the security zone in southern Lebanon with nothing to show for it but continued rocket launches into it's cities, Israel should fore-go military responses to outright acts of war and 'talk' to Hizbollah and Hamas.

"Well, somebody should have,..." we just don't know who or what exactly the deal ought to have been, as two of Juan's colleagues point out, Hizbollah isn't and wasn't interested in talking and there are no demands for land or other consideration. So what deal will save Isreal now, Juan?

He knows there's one out there, but he apparently has no clue what it actually is.

Personal oddities

I'm about a half-mile from work this morning and I notice something odd in my rear-view mirror: my car trunk is open.

This happens often, oddly enough though most of the time related to my unwitting pushing of the trunk-release button on the remote entry. I know that wasn't the case this morning.

Anyway, I notice this just as I'm pulling up to a stop light in the fast lane. Cars in front, cars behind; I can't pull over. And you can only imagine the stares.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Up early this morning for a day trip, celebrating the diverse environment here in California. We awake to a cool, cloudy morning.

We'll pile in the car in about an hour for a day trip over to Bakersfield, where it is expected to finish around 106 degrees today. When we're done there, back in the car and home to the Central Coast.

Where we'll enjoy an evening at the SB County Fair...under cool and cloudy skies.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"You wanted an open war..."

"You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war," the Hezbollah leader said. "You have chosen an all-out war with a nation which... has the capability, the experience and the courage."

Thus sayeth Hezbollah's supreme leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah after surviving a direct attack aimed at him at Hezbollah's headquarters in Beirut. All-out war indeed.

You're going to get more war than you know what to do with I think, and you may yet fight on. If you live through the next 48 hours that is.

Snarky Kazoos

The always fun Just One Minute examined--what else--Novak and Plame again today. Starting with a quick discussion of the idea-devoid Firedoglake's commentary on Novak's statements from yesterday, we quickly get to the greater point:

So, let’s see, the spokesperson for the CIA checks out your journalistic call and gets back to you saying Valerie’s name is NOT to be used…and you blow it off because he doesn’t give you every detail of her covert status, her driver’s license number and do a tap dance to Mr. Bojangles while playing the tune on a kazoo? What, are you a journalistic moron (yeah, don’t bother to answer that…)? Harlow could not, under his SF-312 requirements, disclose any details because it was…wait for it…about covert status.

I like the kazoo concept. Regardless, this question was asked and answered last summer, and Novak repeated it Wednesday night - Ms. Hardin-Smith might not like the answer, but she ought to address it.

And Novak's answer is, Bill Harlow made no attempt to arrange a high level intervention by Tenet with either Novak or Novak's editors. In Novak's opinion, based no doubt on his decades of experience with this sort of thing, that was a sure sign of a lack of seriousness on the part of Harlow.

Here is Novak from
Aug 1, 2005:

I have previously said that I never would have written those sentences if Bill Harlow, then CIA Director George Tenet or anybody else from the Agency had told me that Valerie Plame Wilson's disclosure would endanger herself or anybody.

Here is Novak with Brit Hume Wednesday:

NOVAK: At that time I had no idea that she was in any way a covered employee. [Harlow had] never said -- if he had ever said to me somebody's life was in danger if you do this, if you got George Tenet come on the phone with me, I would not have written that. But as a matter of fact, her life wasn't in danger and he said it is very -- he said it is very unlikely she will ever go to Europe. That meant to me she was not doing any kind of work as an agent in Europe. So, all he was saying, and it might be embarrassing to her if she went on a vacation trip with her husband if she was identified as a CIA person and that wasn't a good enough reason for leaving the name out.

Now, if someone doesn't like that answer, fine. However, I think they have the burden of explaining why Novak is being utterly unreasonable in expecting that, if the CIA really wants to kill a story or protect an asset, they can't get the Director on the line for five minutes. And while explaining that, someone ought to provide some assurance that Novak had no prior experience of just that sort of thing - a high level call asking him to pipe down on something after the press flack was unconvincing. Finally, it might be instructive to compare and contrast the Harlow-Novak exchange with the secret prisons story, or the NSA wiretapping debacle, where multiple high-level officials, including the President, implored the press to keep quiet. As an alternative, ask some other reporters for their approach - do they just quash anything a press secretary asks them to quash, or do they like to hear the request from on high?


And worth remembering - Novak was not sympathetic to the neocons. He was much more likely to be chewing the fat with (non-neocon) Armitage in the context of "What about these crazy neocons, waddya gonna do" then to be involved in some grand conspiracy with Lewis Libby.

Indeed...lost in all this is the fact that Novak was on-record as against the war in Iraq and wouldn't seem a logical choice by the Administration to carry water on their behalf in an anti-Wilson campaign. Or is that just me?

Additionally, Maguire updates yesterday's post on the Wilson civil suit with yet more razor shop questions:

MORE: THE CRITICAL, MISSING LINK - did the defendants even know Ms. Plame's status was classified?

From the civil suit (at Smoking Gun), p. 16:

34. On information and velief, the principal means of punishing Mr. Wilson for his public statements, both oral and written, was to disclose to selected reporters the classified CIA identity of his wife, Plaintiff Valerie Wilson... An integral part of their scheme was the identification of Mrs. Wilson as a classified CIA employee.

That would be a bit more convincing if there was evidence showing that Libby or the others knew that Ms. Plame's status had been classified. None of the reporters who were leaked upon were told that her status was classified (we deal with Novak's use of "operative" here).

And per court filings the defense tells us (see "MORE") that Libby "testified to the grand jury unequivocally that he did not understand Ms. Wilson’s employment by the CIA to be classified information." If Special Counsel Fitzgerald had evidence to contradict that, that would have made a substantial perjury charge; no such charge appears in the indictment.

However, Fitzgerald did say this in explaining (in Aug 2004) the potential significance of Judy Miller's testimony:

To date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work.

Nor did he get that evidence from Ms. Miller.

Did Dick Cheney know whether Ms. Plame was covert? Murray Waas took us to this dead end:

Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.

Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.

I'm sure Mr. Tenet remembers getting a Medal of Freedom. Regardless, it does not appear that Fitzgerald was able to conclude, after a two year investigation, that Libby knew Ms. Plame had classified status. It's hard to believe that in a civil suit, the Wilson's will have more luck.

CAUSE OF ACTION: I see a problem in the fifth and sixth causes of action - here is point 61 (essentially repeated at 67):

Pursuant to, and in furtherance of, this common scheme, defendants Rove and Libby unlawfully disclosed to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Wilson's classified CIA employment.

Riddle me this - if they acted "unlawfully", what law did they break? And don't tell me, tell Fitzgerald, because he forgot to charge them.

IRRESISTIBLE CHEAP SHOT: Loking at the bio of Joe Wilson's attorney, I see that he is in the "ORDER OF THE COIF". That should serve him well with an important-hair client like Joe.

But seriously...

A VERY WEAK CASE: Stephen Spruiell catches lefty Lawrence O'Donnell with a pin for each Olbermann balloon.

A QUESTION: Can the Wilsons "file and forget" this suit, or do they actually have to start deposing witnesses and doing legal stuff? I ask because thay may have filed it just to beat the statute of limitations clock, rather than with any real hope of moving forward.

CAN'T BOTH BE RIGHT? Is there a lefty blogger worried about a Wilson lawsuit misfiring? A righty blogger not gleeful? One side is very wrong here. (It's the other side...)

I know where I've got my money. This goes nowhere and that's just what Joe and Val are banking on!

One more perspective

Victor Davis Hanson offers some perspective on the Israeli actions to date in this interview yesterday. You can listen here if that's more your speed.

From VDH:

HH: Do you think that's what they were attempting to do when they deny the government of Lebanon's mea culpa...actually, the denial of responsibility by the government of Lebanon, and Israel is rejecting that. Is that appropriate, in your view?

VDH: Absolutely. What they're trying to tell the Lebanese is when you get out in the street, whether you're Christian or Druse, or Shiia, or Sunni, and you fire a machine gun up in the air and celebrate an Israeli being kidnapped, there's going to be consequences, collectively. You may not have power. You may not have water. You may not have tourism. And you're willing to put up with that? Fine. Now we may have two or three rockets hit every week, but we're going to have power, and we're going to have life as usual, and you're not. And we'll see who can hold out the longest. And that's what they're trying to do now.

HH: Now Professor Hanson, Israel in the past has negotiated with terrorists. Are they only getting what they've sown in the past, now?

VDH: Yeah, I think the problem is that after the withdrawal of Gaza, which I supported, and the Lebanese withdrawal, inadvertently, and the incapacitation of Sharon, the message has been sent to the militant terrorists, jihadists, that the Israelis are reasonable, they're sober, judicious, and we're not. And they're easily intimidated. So now what Isreal's trying to do, as they often do about every two or three years, is re-establish deterrence. And that usually means people have to die, unfortunately.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

War by Proxy

Some are reporting that Iran is attempting to move the kidnapped Israeli soldiers out of Lebanon and back to Iran.

Yoni has said it, Allahpundit is saying it as well. I just don't see the sense.

A lot of people believe that it is Iran that pulls the strings in Syria and by extension, Lebanon where Hizbollah sits in the government. Iran's sentiments about Israel are well known.

I can't see the wisdom in Iran involving itself directly in this fight when it already has Syria and Lebanon doing it's work for it.


What is this?

Russell Shaw writes one of most astoundingly incoherent blog posts I've ever seen. The only thing more ghastly than said ramblings is the underlying assumptions about Christians:

Call 'em End-Timers, Rapturists, Armeggedonists.

I am talking about the type of Fundamentalist that loves it when violence is perpetrated on Israeli citizens or soldiers, and who can't wait for Israel to strike back 100 times as hard.
I am talking about the type of Fundamentalist who is secretly happy about the loss of blood these escalations bring, because they hold the promise of further revenge and escalations on both sides.

Escalations that maybe one day will result in Iran's secret stash of nukes- if they have 'em - appearing in the air over Tel Aviv.

If not that, then Arab armies crossing the Negev and coming into Jerusalem.

And then Israel nuking some camels in the Arabian desert to send a message.

And then the U.S. occupying the region to ensure the flow of oil. And terrorists running loose in New York and Washington, striking back at the "Great Satan" with some real WMD this time.
And then more nukes flying about the planet. Maybe even one over Mecca!

And then, and then...maybe you-know-who will get into activist mode, causing the already-saved true believers to vanish from their SUVs in the exurbs and their desks at small-town insurance companies and gas stations, and behind the counter at the luncheonette, and woo-hoo, it is up to the sky!

And for those who are not already saved- the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Godless, the Confucians, the Communists, the Sikhs, the Democrats, the non-rapture believing Christians, the bead-making Taoist in Taos- it is to the fire with you for all eternity!

Oh, as to the tribe who some of you Rapturist end-timers have struggled with trying to decide whether you hate: because hey, most of them are liberals, or Communists, or money hungry, and run the international banking system and the media and Hollywood and they did you-know-what to you-know-who two Millennia ago, or:

Love because they've helped enable the global suicide some of you Rapturists have wished for?

Toss 'em on the fire, too, you say.

Was he drunk when he wrote this?

Never happen

The Wilson's are filing suit tomorrow against the Vice President, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove. It'll never happen, and for a couple of reasons.

First off--regardless of which camp you fall in ("The leak was retribution for Wilson's truth-telling" or "Wilson is a lying publicity hound") you'll understand why--this case would revolve around information only obtainable from the CIA, who is, regardless of what you believe about their role in this, not too likely forthcoming with information about Plame's status and role in the Wilson trip.

Secondly, the Wilson's hollow-story of the how and why Joe went to Niger stands to get blown away when faced under oath with direct questions such as:

Why didn't Joe file a written report on his findings?;

Why Joe said the Vice President's office sent him to Niger when upon investigation it was revealed that his wife influenced the CIA decision that appointed him to go?

No, Joe and Valerie don't want to get anywhere near such.

John Podhoretz says of it at the Corner that: Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Valerie. Because, you see, if the suit is summarily dismissed, she and Joe will be laughingstocks. And if it goes any further, Dick and Karl and Scooter will have the right to do discovery — and then, I believe, Val 'n' Joe will reap the whirlwind.

I don't know that they'll become "laughingstocks." Frankly, to the right they already are held in such contempt; to the left, they are heroes and the personification of speaking-truth-to-power the likes of which hasn't been seen in at least a generation. Nothing much, I believe, will move either of those perceptions.

And since I firmly believe they don't want the whirlwind, I think they're banking on this going nowhere. Much as I'd love to see it end in disgrace like it ought, I don't think it goes anywhere.

On Novak

Media Blog's take-one and take-two on Bob Novak's Plame revelations are spot on and rather funny in a stick-that-in-your-pipe-and-smoke-it-conspiracy-mongering-lefties sort of way.

Take One: ...let's just go through it one more time, just so we're clear:

1)Some administration guy (probably Richard Armitage), whom Novak describes as "not a political gunslinger," told Novak "inadvertant[ly]" that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and probably recommended him for his trip to Africa;

2)Novak confirmed the information with Karl Rove and CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, although the particulars of these convos remain a matter of dispute;

3)Novak looked up Joe Wilson in "Who's Who in America" and discovered the name of his super-secret agent wife: Valerie Plame;

Thus fatally undermining fevered accusations that the White House plotted to "out" Plame as a matter of retaliation for Wilson's op-ed about his tea party in Niger.

Did I miss anything?

Take Two: I'm with Kate O'Beirne: If anyone still thinks this investigation was anything more than a political ploy trumped up by the Democrats and their allies in the media, Novak's version of events should put all doubts to rest.

Stephen Spruiell is wonderful enough to include video of Novak's interview with Brit Hume yesterday on Fox. There are a couple of points where Novak sputters a bit and I could see where at the fringe of the leftie feverswamps, some might think they continue feeding the conspiracy mongering.

Novak's description jives near perfectlt with the recollections of Rove and Horwell on matters of substance and leaves little room for continued talk of Evil WH conspiracies. At least one would hope, though I'm sure--like others--that won't stop the likes of Jason Leopold or the nutroots.

The Long Haul

Israel appears to mean business, in the sense that this action against Hezbollah and Hamas in southern Lebanon isn't a short-term deal. Former IDF officer and frequent contributor to the Hugh Hewitt radio program, Yoni Tidi had interesting comments to make in his appearance on yesterday's program.

Yoni has apparently heard from personal sources inside Israel that the IDF has activated infantry and air force reserves. You don't do that unless you plan to be engaged for quite some time.

This was confirmed by the Jerusalem Post in the late afternoon.

Will they go the distance to Damascus and get to the root of the problem? Should they?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mom and Pop

Niche winemaking goes to the extreme in this local report about Santa Maria winemakers. They've got wine barrels in their garage. That's cool...

I've seen the label around locally but haven't tried it.

Stick a fork in it

I think we're done with Plamegate. Strike least us rational folks are done with Plamegate.

Robert Novak spilled at least a portion of the beans in today's column "My Role in the Valerie Plame Leak Story." He waits until the very end of the very-matter-of-fact telling of the tale to lay out the bottom line:

Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official and the CIA spokesman for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in "Who's Who in America."

I considered his wife's role in initiating Wilson's mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.

Along the way, Novak drops details that coincide nicely with what we already know and many have inferred about who did what and how it all happened. Unfortunately, not everybody sees so clearly.

Over at Tom Maguire's house, commenter Jerry renders some of the most simultaneously baffling and hilarious commentary on the subject I've seen. First off, from Maguire: Novak discussed three sources with Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury - Karl Rove, CIA Press flack Bill Harlow, and an as-yet-unnamed government official who has not been identified in this story (let's just say, Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State)...

And broadly - if Fitzgerald has freed Novak to speak, doesn't that strongly support the notion (as noted in Times and Wapo coverage) that this investigation is over, over, over? No Fitzmas, no mas.

Now, on to Jerry:

Novak's and Rove's public statements have indicated that the investigation isn't over, there was even some indication of particular targets in sight in Karl's Aspen comments.

As to WH motive's there's still that creepy quote that Wilson's wife "is fair game." Real phony-baloney tough guys in this Administration - sort of like their recent phony preening regarding the economy.

Minus any sort of reference. Onward and upward!:

Outing Plame was unnecessary and cheap, I think we'll find it was all quite deliberate and planned at high levels (Novak was peripheral) and that Plame was a NOC and the WH knew it.

I'm still interested in the declassification authority given to Cheney in 2003, it seems there might be a lot of material to retroactively cover with that.


I can't review the whole train of events, but as Rove and Libby admit talking to reporters about Plame there is the outline of a conspiracy, and Cheney and Bush have been reported to have authorized a response to Wilson "getting it all out."

Rove is apparently cooperating but Libby (the VPs Chief of Staff!) has not, has been accused of lying to the FBI and grand jury by Fitz. The prosecutor himself has said that the investigation cannot move forward when he's being obstructed (by Libby's behavior and perhaps by the self-defensive behavior of others as well).

The advantage you have is that only exonerating decisions and "secondary charges" have become public so far.

My position is that this whole investigation exists because some serious harm has already occurred - despite the protests of those involved, the accused, and their defenders.

Read on in the thread to see how Jerry's musing go over. Simply put, there is no evidence anywhere that holds the conspiracy theories up at this point. Try as they might, the Reality Based Community can't step back.

Waking up to War

I woke up this morning and Israel has invaded Lebanon. What else will the day bring?

From Hugh's post on the subject:

Watching the inevitable unfold on Israel's borders reminds me of this section of that address:"Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came."

The Islamists to Israel's south and now north "would make war" rather than let Israel survive.

Israel will accept war rather than let itself perish.And so the war has come again.

New names and faces

The News-Press announced the names of four new editors at the paper yesterday. One newcomer and three promotions round out the list of appointees:

Acting Publisher Travis Armstrong today announced four new editors at the Santa Barbara News Press.

Charles Bucher was named assistant managing editor, Scott Steeplton was named the new City Editor, Tony Peck was appointed Interim Sports Editor, and Brian Banmiller was appointed contributing business editor of the Santa Barbara News Press.

More appointments are expected in the coming weeks to fill the two remaining slots created by the recent resignations of six editors and a columnist at the newspaper.

"I am pleased to promote these excellent journalists," said Armstrong. "They bring to their positions an intense focus on the reader, a creative approach to the presentation of news and a dedication to local reporting."

Bucher had previously served as the paper's nation and world editor. Steeplton was formerly a senior writer and Peck was formerly an associate editorial page editor. Banmiller is new to the team.

There was some eye-rolling and a few chuckles around the newsroom yesterday as word filtered out. One of our newest news staffers is a former News-Presser with a distinct opinion about the paper and the people staffing it.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Finding answers

Hugh asks the rhetorical question "What did they do?," in a couple of not-so-rhetorical posts today. The first offering here points us to Dennis Lormel, a 30-year veteran of the FBI with much to say about the revealing of the SWIFT program:

When the death scene of Bombay --and London, Madrid, Beslan, Jerusalem, Egypt,Jordan, Bali etc-- is recreated here, then will people look back at the recklessness of Bill Keller, Dean Baquet and other Bush-hating hyper-partisans and demand an accounting.

It may take a decade, or a generation, or even longer, but if these papers survive (and there is great doubt on that score at least as regards the Los Angeles Times) a day will come when their editors issue an apology for the fecklessness. It will be too late for some future victims, but like Walter Duranty, Keller and Baquet will eventually be discredited and their papers shamed.

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to read the analysis by retired 30 year veteran of the FBI Dennis Lormell on the harm done by these papers. (Lormel's bio is here.) Then reread the accounts of the Bombay bombings.

Later in the day, this offering gets much more to the point in quoting Steve Levey the former Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, US Treasury. Mr. Levey makes the same point underscored with direct, personal knowledge of the program's effectiveness:

Some observers have argued that the disclosure of the program did little damage because terrorist facilitators are smart and already knew to avoid the banking system. They correctly point out that there has been an overall trend among terrorists towards cash couriers and other informal mechanisms of money transfer – a trend that I have testified about. They also hold up as public warnings the repeated assertions by government officials that we are actively following the terrorists’ money.

What we had not spoken about publicly, however, is this particular source. And, unfortunately, this revelation is very damaging. Since being asked to oversee this program by then-Secretary Snow and then-Deputy Secretary Bodman almost two years ago, I have received the written output from this program as part of my daily intelligence briefing. For two years, I have been reviewing that output every morning. I cannot remember a day when that briefing did not include at least one terrorism lead from this program. Despite attempts at secrecy, terrorist facilitators have continued to use the international banking system to send money to one another, even after September 11th. This disclosure compromised one of our most valuable programs and will only make our efforts to track terrorist financing --and to prevent terrorist attacks-- harder. Tracking terrorist money trails is difficult enough without having our sources and methods reported on the front page newspapers.

Hugh's speed-trap analogy is very appropros, as is the one that points out the difference between telling someone you live in Northern California and printing directions to your neighborhood--they are not at all the same thing, and the denier's talking points about how "everyone knew," are preposterous.

If this were a bad movie this is where the hapless protagonist would hold his head in his hands after the great moment of realization and ask plaintively, "What have I done!?"

Only it's the real world, with real consequences. What did we do to ourselves?

At the risk of sounding juvenile

Is criticism of the press part of the First Amendment? From yesterday's Times:

Pipe up with criticism of The New York Times' publication of a story on tracking down terrorist financing, as President Bush did, and you find many of the paper's defenders accusing you of attacking press freedom, even though you have done nothing of the kind.

It's true that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wants an investigation and prosecution of the Times on charges of treason, and that some bloggers and others say hip, hip, hurrah to the idea, but the administration itself isn't having any. As is the case with most critics and congressional Republicans, the administration has gone no further than to say the Times made an outrageously bad judgment call weakening a program that has saved lives by thwarting terrorist ambitions. The unavoidable conclusion, as voiced in a resolution of the House, is that the Times and other papers that joined in breaking the story put lives at risk.

Read a column by Frank Rich of the Times, though, and you will be told that nothing in the Times story was a surprise to terrorists and that the president's denunciation adds up to an “assault on a free press.” Other liberal commentators echo the sentiment. Even the American Society of Newspaper Editors issued a statement saying the administration and Congress “are threatening America's bedrock values of free speech and free press with their attempts to demonize newspapers for fulfilling their constitutional role in our democratic society.”

Before turning his hand to tripe, Rich should have read the original Times story, which begins with these words: “Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks ... “ As columnist Michelle Malkin has noted, the story referred to “the secret nature of the program no less than eight times.”

All of this might sit easier with me if the Times had not previously made it strikingly clear that its adulation of free speech is largely a partisan, ideological matter. Hard evidence of its political motives can be found in a 2004 editorial, when the Sinclair Broadcasting Group was planning to air a documentary on POWs making clear their pain at a youthful John Kerry's sweeping characterization of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam as war criminals.

The paper said the Federal Communications Commission “cannot ignore Sinclair's poor record when it comes to meeting its obligation to act responsibly and fairly in the public interest, a duty it assumed when it accepted custody of a license to broadcast on the public airwaves. Broadcasting ‘Stolen Honor' within two weeks of the election would clearly violate those commitments.”

In an age of dozens of cable TV outlets, that argument is no different in kind from saying the government should shut down the New York Times for its opinion pieces and an administration-discomforting news story published near the 2004 campaign's end that was at the least questionable in its speculation about the supposed theft of massive amounts of explosives in Iraq.What is different is that no one - not even the overreaching Peter King - is going that far, as much as Times defenders might want you to think so.

As Jay Ambrose, guest columnist makes so very clear, no one is suggesting that NY Times staff members go to prison. No one in a position of any responsibility calls for the paper's closure at the hand of the US government.

Yet far too many who make their living in criticism--often to good effect--have demonstrated an overly thin-skin when the criticism is aimed back at them.

At the risk of sounding juvenile, I do wonder if they can dish it out but can't take it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Alternative Fuel Fetish

Last week, the Times ran a letter to the editor from a local alternative fuel enthusiast. Francis bemoaned the cancellation of GM's EV-1 program last year.

Personally, I thought that Francis had gone over the edge; he was beyond enthusiastic really, more like fanatic. He directed us all to two equally fanatical info-sites: Don't Crush and Who Killed the Electric Car? All the while, reminding us of our status as slaves to Big Oil.

I considered writing of it last week but really didn't feel I had anywhere worth going on the subject. Then today I caught wind of this. In the finest tradition of lefty-logic, I give you the supreme, over-arching, irrefutable account from the Insider:

Some facts about the EV1, the research and development of which was produced by _my_ division of GM, Hughes Electronics:

General Motors lost two billion dollars on the project, and lost money on every single EV1 produced. The leases didn't even cover the costs of servicing them.

The range of 130 miles is bogus. None of them ever achieved that under normal driving conditions. Running the air conditioning or heater could halve that range. Even running the headlights reduced it by 10%.

Minimum recharge time was two hours using special charging stations that except for fleet use didn't exist. The effective recharge time, using the equipment that could be installed in a lessee's garage, was eight hours. Home electrical systems simply couldn't handle the necessary current draw for "fast" charging.

NiMH batteries that had lasted up to three years in testing were failing after six months in service. There was no way to keep them from overheating without doubling the size of the battery pack. Lead-acid batteries were superior to NiMH in actual daily use.

Battery replacement was a task performed by skilled technicians taking the sorts of precautions that electricians do when working on live circuits, because that's what they were doing -- working on live circuits. You cannot turn batteries "off." This is the reason the vehicles were leased, rather than sold. As long as the terms of the lease prohibited maintenance by other than a Hughes technician, GM's liability in the event of a screw-up was much reduced. Technicians can encounter high voltages in hybrid vehicles. In the EV1, there were _really_ high voltages present.

Lessees were complaining that their electric bills had increased to the point that they'd rather be using gasoline.

One of the guys I worked with transferred to the EV1 program after what was by then a division of Raytheon lost the C-130 ATS contract. He's now back working for us. He has some interesting stories, none of them good, though he did like the company-subsidized apartment in Malibu. He said the car was a dream to drive, if you didn't mind being stranded between Bakersfield and Barstow on a hot July afternoon when a battery blew up from the combined heat of the day and the current draw.

Yeah!...Big Greedy Oil...that's the ticket!

Counter current

The violence continues in Iraq. This report indicates a number of Iraqis were killed today in multiple car bombings and in an attack by armed gunmen on a Baghdad bus. Newspaper headlines across the country blared out the cause of this recent uptick in violence: Sectarian Violence!

Strategy Page offers hope with this insight:

The Shia terror against Sunni Arabs has a name, Abu Deraa. He's being called the "Shia Zarqawi" for organizing death squads to take revenge after Sunni Arab suicide bombs kill Shia. This desire for vengeance, and the unwillingness of Shia to fight Shia, has, until recently, allowed a low level civil war to go on unchecked. But now the Shia are ready to fight their own, and in the last week, Shia and Kurdish police and soldiers fought Shia radicals, led by men like Abu Deraa. The Sunni Arab community know Abu Deraa by name, and have even posted pictures of him. That hasn't changed anything, because Abu Deraa's death squads still roam central Iraq, killing Sunni Arabs. Several dozen died in Baghdad yesterday, pulled from their cars, identified as Sunni Arabs, and killed on the spot. But now, with Zarqawi dead, and most of the country at peace, more and more Sunni Arab tribal chiefs, politicians, business leaders and clerics are resigned to Shia domination. That means giving up the Sunni Arab warlords, gang leaders and terrorist chiefs, the people that make most of the violence happen. It's not like the Sunni Arab leadership can just push a button, and make their bad guys go away. In Arab culture, the process moves a lot more slowly, and involves lots of talking, coffee, promises, deceit and drama. Apparently the drama has been convincing, because the Shia politicians running the country have persuaded Shia military and police units to go after Shia death squads.

The key is time. There simply is and can not be any substitute for it: All of this is going to take months to play out. There will be cries of "Betrayal!" from the Shia community. Some Shia cops and soldiers will balk at busting fellow Shia, even if the perps are stone killers with dozens of bodies on them. However, the national leadership has agreed that peace with the Sunni Arabs, and an end to the vengeance killings, is necessary. Making this happen is the next crucial battle in the war.

A committment to ending this and the political will to follow through gets us a large part of the way to the goal. The question is, do we posses the patience to wait?

Compare and contrast

Congnitive dissonance is cool.

On the one hand, we've got Jonathan Chait yesterday in the LA Times telling us of President Bush's unchecked power and morally corrupt Gilded Age policies. Meanwhile, on the same day our editorial board pointed to this fine moment for the political left in the most recently concluded Supreme Court term:

The 2005-06 court session was recently completed with some major victories for both ends of the political spectrum.

Among the triumphs for liberals were rulings that the president overstepped his authority in ordering the special military courts for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, upholding Oregon's right-to-die law, and rejecting an effort to reduce protection for America's wetlands.

Checked...unchecked? Out of control, reigned in...somebody decide. In the meantime, you're making my head hurt.

Was he drunk when he said it?

Wither the jobless recovery? You remember it:

OF ALL the signs that America's economy is sputtering, none is more striking than the jobs market. Overall unemployment, at 6%, is still relatively low, but this headline figure masks a much tougher reality. More than 500,000 jobs have disappeared in the past three months, pushing the total lost under George Bush above 2m. Long-term unemployment, at 1.9m, is at its highest for ten years. And these numbers do not include the large number of “discouraged workers” (people who would like to work but have given up looking) and the even larger number of “underemployed” (those who are working, but not as much as they would like to).

The weak jobs market is itself harming the chances of recovery. Consumers worried about losing their jobs are more likely to save their cash than spend it.

Fast forward three years and what do you see? We know what President Bush sees; a recovery that is hardly jobless as he mentioned in Friday morning's press conference:

This morning we got some good news: The nation added 121,000 new jobs for the month of June. That's over 5.4 million jobs since August of 2003.

That's 34 months of job increases.

First quarter, our economy grew at 5.6 percent. Productivity is high.

Meanwhile, the critics it seems can never really quit being critics:

Coming out of the Bush presser in Chicago, on NBC and MSNBC, Tim Russert just pronounced that Bush couldn’t control the agenda of questions (duh), that he wanted to discuss the economy, which is, Russert declared, “robust, in his mind.”

No respect, I tell ya! At this point I'd settle just for some a-political honesty in the reporting of matters economic.

Finally, this from Investor's Business Daily touches on the how and why US citizens--be they a well-known journalist or an average-Joe contractor--gets away with the continuing pessimism:

As an experiment, we subtracted our Economic Optimism Index from our Personal Finances Index to measure this phenomenon. The bigger the number, the better people feel about their own financial situation vs. the economy in general.

Since the start of our poll, the average is 6.2. But the spread over the last five months has widened to double digits, averaging 10.8. That's cognitive dissonance, big time.

In their hearts, Americans know this is the best of times, economically speaking. But after being told over and over, "Gee, you sure look lousy," it looks like they believe the worst.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Unchecked Lunacy

Jonathan Chait, Bush-hater extraordinaire files some serious loony in today's LA Times column. Today's loony is disguised as erstwhile commentary on Democratic infighting--specifically the Lamont-Liebermann showdown in Connecticut--but shines through ever so clearly when Chait writes:

Writing in the Hartford Courant, Marshall Wittmann and Steven J. Nider of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council complain that "far too many Democrats view George W. Bush as a greater threat to the nation than Osama bin Laden."

Those loony Democrats! But wait, is this really such a crazy view? Even though all but the loopiest Democrat would concede that Bin Laden is more evil than Bush, that doesn't mean he's a greater threat. Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, has no weapons of mass destruction and apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S.

Bush, on the other hand, has wreaked enormous damage on the political and social fabric of the country. He has massively mismanaged a major war, with catastrophic consequences; he has strained the fabric of American democracy with his claims of nearly unchecked power and morally corrupt Gilded Age policies. It's quite reasonable to conclude that Bush will harm the nation more — if not more than Bin Laden would like to, than more than he actually can.

This is what Lieberman and his backers don't understand. They piously insist that "partisanship stops at the water's edge" and that they won't take political potshots at a Republican president when he's waging a war in America's name — as if Bush were obeying this principle, and as if Bush were just another Republican president rather than a threat of historic magnitude.

Plays well in Kosland but here in the real world we're left wondering exactly what is it that Jonathan is smoking and where we might find some.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Continuing Meltdown

The soap opera at the News-Press is becoming a crisis if this LA Times report is to be believed. Local residents are wondering aloud what will become of the city's only daily:

Mickey Flacks, a 39-year resident and a fixture in activist politics, said the developments would leave the region without a "responsible, independent newspaper." The fallout to the community — and the News-Press — could be serious, Flacks said.

"To not have local news because the staff has disappeared or because the newspaper will simply be Wendy and Travis' rants is a real loss to the community," she said. "I hope that something will arrive to take its place, whether it's a daily newspaper or a website. It's desperately needed."

As for the paper itself, no one is sure exactly what is going on and it appears that your understanding is based simply on who you believe: Sam Singer, spokesman for the 42,145-circulation paper, said that about 75 readers had canceled their subscriptions as of 3:30 p.m. Friday. Two reporters said they had been told by workers in the circulation department that the total was more than 90 before lunchtime.

Singer, who is based in San Francisco, said he was told that the newsroom on Friday was "quite professional" and that "things are moving forward nicely." He said Armstrong would no longer be writing editorials now that he was the publisher.

A day earlier, employees had shouted obscenities at Armstrong as he escorted the newspaper's editor, Jerry Roberts, out of the News-Press offices. The other journalists left soon after Roberts did.

The departing editors said McCaw was inserting herself into editorial decisions, violating standard journalistic ethics. They said the billionaire newspaper owner killed a story about Armstrong's recent sentencing for drunk driving. They also protested management's punishment of a reporter and several editors for publishing the Montecito address where actor Rob Lowe hopes to build a mansion.Reporters who remained on the job said Friday that Armstrong killed a staff-written story explaining why the five editors and columnist Barney Brantingham had quit the paper.

Instead, the News-Press ran a "note to our readers" at the bottom of the front page. In it, Armstrong said the journalists had left the newspaper because of "differences of opinion as to direction, goals and vision."

He promised that the newspaper would continue "to enhance our news coverage while maintaining both the standards of journalism as well as the standards of this community with respect to personal privacy, fairness and good taste."

Confusion appears to be setting in as readers express uncertainty about how the paper will proceed, even wondering if it will continue. Local influentials also are frustrated at the paper's own handling of the situation as well:

Those who stayed on the job scrambled to put out this weekend's editions Friday, with reporters filling in for the editors who quit. They planned to run more features and, perhaps, use photo essays to fill space that normally might be occupied by news stories.

About 30 of the paper's remaining journalists met late Thursday night at one of their homes to plan what to do next. They hoped to register their dismay with management but hadn't decided how best to do that, according to two who attended the session.

"We are really limping along right now. We are not doing all the reporting and stories we would like to be doing," said one reporter, who asked not to be identified out of fear of being disciplined.

The note didn't sit well with Steve Amerikaner, a prominent Santa Barbara land-use attorney and former city attorney. Santa Barbara is small, but it has a high degree of civic involvement and a sophisticated population that "deserves a first-rate newspaper," he said.

"You wouldn't have known there was something going on at the News-Press by reading the paper today," he said Friday. "You had to look at, oh, I don't know, the L.A. Times."

Amerikaner said the newsroom meltdown was the topic of conversation everywhere he went. At his local Starbucks, "I heard 12 different people talking about what was going on at the News-Press."

Advertisers also wonder, as the week's events have huge ramifications for them: Downtown merchants are concerned about the fallout for business, said Marshall Rose, executive director of the Downtown Organization. "We need a strong daily newspaper," Rose said. "Business relies on the News-Press to provide current events and as a print medium to advertise. To have the classifieds deteriorate in any significant way would be troublesome."

Rose, 62, said he grew up reading, and later advertising in, the News-Press, as did his businessman father. They knew all of the previous owners before McCaw, who arrived six years ago, he said."

There have been changes, but they have been evolutionary, not revolutionary," he said. "This is a pretty dramatic upheaval."

Leaving no segment of the city's population untouched, the city fathers are worried as well: The city's movers and shakers, meanwhile, said they were waiting to see what would happen next. Amerikaner said he has already heard vague talk of other media moving in to fill the void — and that if McCaw intends to respond to reader concerns, she needs to act quickly."

I don't know what it takes to repair it," he said. "But something dramatic needs to happen for the paper to reestablish its position and reputation within the community."

Mark Tapscott made an observation yesterday at Tapscott's Copy Desk that is in many ways obvious, but one that getting caught up in the middle of the going's on escaped me--It's her paper!

Tapscott observes: Can you imagine the gall of the owner to actually think she might have anything to say about the management of her newspaper? What does she think it is, her newspaper or something?

I have no idea whether McCaw's actions are those of a frustrated owner dealing with the passive-resistance-gone-overt of an entrenched newsroom establishment or those of a billionaire philanthropist and environmentalist determined to publish a propaganda sheet.

One thing is certain - Regardless what the newsroom scribes of Santa Barbara think, whether McCaw is a new Al Neuharth or a reincarnation of Horace Greeley, it's HER newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Times was eerily silent about the goings-on in it's own back yard. Strikes me as odd given the nature of the situation and the business opportunity present here with the county's largest daily newspaper in disarray.

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