Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Real Threat

A couple of weeks back I noted that George from Santa Maria was concerned about the state of the US Constitution:

This president's secret memos justified the abuses based upon a conception of the powers of the executive office that gave him the authority to disregard statutes and international law with self-granted powers of the commander-in-chief mentioned nowhere in the Constitution.

I'm wondering this evening if George has anything to offer on his state's effort at subverting the Constitutionally appointed electoral processes of the United States:

Lawmakers sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill Wednesday that would make California the first state to jump aboard a national movement to elect the president by popular vote. Under the legislation, California would grant its electoral votes to the nominee who gets the most votes nationwide — not the most votes in California. Get enough other states to do the same, backers of the bill say, and soon presidential candidates will have to campaign across the nation, not just in a few key "battleground" states such as Ohio and Michigan that can sway the Electoral College vote.

How about anything for us George?

Strike 83

Another reason for people to put California in their rear-view mirror:

Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Schwarzenegger has done a deal with the legislature to cap greenhouse gas emissions, essentially imposing Kyoto on his state. The bill requires that emissions be cut by 25 per cent by 2020 and directs CARB to use "market-based compliance mechanisms". California already has the highest electricity and gasoline prices in the nation and has already squeezed energy consumption out of the economy. Although productive citizens and industry are fleeing the State, population (and therefore energy consumption) continues to rise rapidly due to illegal immigration. It is hard to escape the conclusion that what California has done today, just as it is becoming apparent to everyone that Europe, Canada, and Japan are not going to meet their Kyoto commitments to cut emissions, is to decide to join the Third World.


Apologize? For what?

Note to Jason Leopold

Either you've been played for an utter and absolute fool, or you're guilty of making crap up on a scale that Jayson Blair would be proud of.

It always happens that way

Second Quarter GDP and inflation numbers have been revised:

The American economy grew more quickly in the second quarter than the government had initially estimated, and inflation was slightly lower, the Commerce Department reported today.
The gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced in the United States, increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent, up from an earlier estimate of 2.5 percent, while a closely watched measure of prices that excludes food and energy rose 2.8 percent, rather than 2.9 percent.

The revisions were largely in line with expectations, but economists said the report was still a welcome sign at a time of significant uncertainty about the economy’s direction.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"They have a troll."

Any sizable blog has a troll. Or even better, an entire family of trolls. I hope one day to graduate from having readers to having trolls, but for now I'll settle for the occasional reader.

Prior to the Townhall launch last month, Hugh Hewitt's blog was not a comment-friendly place. The new platform has changed that oversight and allows for what we all want: a bustling exchange of ideas!

Here we go back to the thesis: any sizable blog has a troll. Hugh has officially arrived as he now has his very own troll. Anonymousmaestro made his official debut today in this thread.

His criticisms are stock and his ideas not really even his own though he exhibits many of the characteristics of a classic internet troll, foremost a relentlessness that must be admired.

Congrats, Hugh!


I must admit I've spent most of the week fixating on the Plame revelations of the weekend. I haven't been able to stop reading the speculations and the frustrations as well.

Today Tom Maguire tackles it again, this time ripping the NY Times for it's story. The money-quote: Look, I understand that this is a complicated story, but can we please expect the Paper of Record to master the important details?

Meanwhile, the most straight-forward summary of where we now stand can be found here:

So what have we learned from this escapade?

Fitzgerald's got nuttin'. Richard Armitage is a coward. Joe Wilson is a liar and a hack. Valerie Plame is a super-secret media whore. Rove is a non-factor. Novak was doing his job. Russert is silent. Mitchell is silent. Bush is vindicated. Cheney is off the non-hook. Keith Olbermann is a jackass. Chris Matthews is in catatonic depression. Mark Ash and Jason Leopold are on suicide watch. Larry Johnson is incredulous. Ray McGovern is speechless. Bill Keller is mute. The Democrats are in denial. David Corn is slinking away from his original zeal. Scooter Libby is paying for dishonesty over a crime that wasn’t committed. Judith Miller spent time in jail for nothing. The MSM are pretending they had nothing to do with it. The US taxpayer is furious. The left is hysterical. The right is chuckling. The average American doesn’t really care.

I think that's about right. Except for the not-caring part. We should. We should be beyond angry that this ridiculousness went on for 3 years.

While we're on there, I'd like to offer a comment or two. Rich Lowry at the Corner today offers this: The Armitage revelation and way he and Colin Powell handled it—in the most self-serving way possible, with maximum damage inflicted on the administration—demonstrates what the real cabal in the first Bush administration was. It was Powell and Armitage, and their minions like Lawrence Wilkerson and Carl Ford. These people spent countless hours sitting around and figuring out how they could leak and use anonymously sourced hits within the press to undermine Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove (and, later, when he was up for the UN job, John Bolton). Powell was always very shrewd about it and left no fingerprints. Since Powell and Armitage didn't have strong policy motivations, they turned everything into a personal turf war, which went a long way to embittering and making dysfunctional the first administration. Yes, Bush and Rice should have stopped it, but a lot of the blame goes to Powell and Armitage for engaging in this kind of bureaucratic tribal warfare in the first place. Of course, the story in the press was always that Powell and Co. were the embattled, innocent victims—but that was partly because they were feeding so many of the reporters. It's outrageous that because this small group was so adept at leaking and so adept at working the press that they managed to get the administration's "neo-cons" portrayed in the media as an out-of-control cabal. When these officials were just supporting the policy of the administration that Powell and Armitage and their small group of allies so disdained and did so much to undermine.

Lowry goes a bit melodramatic but I think the basic point is spot-on. Powell and Armitage played the WH. Why a man like Powell, ostensibly a friend to W and strong supporter of the President in public would choose to spit on his friend's administration and leave key members of it flapping in the breeze while critics circled the Administration like vulchers escapes me.

The bloom--as if there was anything left really, but whatever--is definitely off that rose.

Hitch on Rich

Christopher Hitchen's weighs in on the Corn-Isikoff revelation and David Corn's ensuing self-unawareness:

As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy. (His and Powell's—and George Tenet's—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward's "insider" accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward's revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) The Isikoff-Corn book, which is amusingly titled Hubris, solves this impossible problem of its authors' original "theory" by restating it in a passive voice:

The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.

In the stylistic world where disclosures are gleaned and ironies underscored, the nullity of the prose obscures the fact that any irony here is only at the authors' expense. It was Corn in particular who asserted—in a July 16, 2003, blog post credited with starting the entire distraction—that:

The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.

After you have noted that the Niger uranium connection was in fact based on intelligence that has turned out to be sound, you may also note that this heated moral tone ("thuggish," "gang") is now quite absent from the story. It turns out that the person who put Valerie Plame's identity into circulation was a staunch foe of regime change in Iraq. Oh, that's all right, then. But you have to laugh at the way Corn now so neutrally describes his own initial delusion as one that was "seized on by administration critics."

He goes on to hammer George Tenet's handling of, well...pretty much everything. And deservedly so. As Instapundit notes: But this only makes Bush look bad for his failure to fire Tenet -- and to roll some other heads at the CIA -- shortly after 9/11.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Who me?"

David Corn's "Who me?," act wears a little thin today. Over at the Corner, Byron York expounds on the Corn-Isikoff revelation with additional posts here, here, here and here. He also fills in some blanks about this most glaring of omissions.

Tom Maguire likewise lets Corn have it as well:

David Corn, co-author of "Hubris", is evidently a master at typing with a straight face - here he is, commenting on the Armitage/Plame story at his blog:

White House defenders are chortling. For some reason, they believe that the news from HUBRIS that Richard Armitage was the original leaker means there was nothing to the CIA leak case.
On the National Review site, Byron York

Whatever Armitage's motives, the fact that he was the Novak leaker undermines--destroys, actually--the conspiracy theory of the CIA-leak case.

He notes that the Newsweek story based on HUBRIS says that Armitage had "no apparent intention of harming anyone" and comments:

It's an extraordinary admission coming from Isikoff's co-author Corn, one of the leading conspiracy theorists of the CIA-leak case. "The Plame leak in Novak's column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about the prewar intelligence," Corn and Isikoff write. "The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework." [Note: Actually, I wrote those lines on my blog; they were not part of the Newsweek story.]

Conspiracy theorist--moi? Where have I proposed a conspiracy theory? I have noted from the first that the leak might be evidence of a White House crime.

"Where have I proposed a conspiracy theory?" Where indeed? Let's start with his July 16 2003 article that launched this scandal, with comic emphasis added:

Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?

It sure looks that way, if conservative journalist Bob Novak can be trusted.


Soon after Wilson disclosed his trip in the media and made the White House look bad. the payback came. Novak's July 14, 2003, column presented the back-story on Wilson's mission and contained the following sentences: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate" the allegation.

Wilson caused problems for the White House, and his wife was outed as an undercover CIA officer. Wilson says, "I will not answer questions about my wife. This is not about me and less so about my wife. It has always been about the facts underpinning the President's statement in the state of the union speech."

So he will neither confirm nor deny that his wife--who is the mother of three-year-old twins--works for the CIA. But let's assume she does. That would seem to mean that the Bush administration has screwed one of its own top-secret operatives in order to punish Wilson or to send a message to others who might challenge it.

... "Stories like this," Wilson says, "are not intended to intimidate me, since I've already told my story. But it's pretty clear it is intended to intimidate others who might come forward. You need only look at the stories of intelligence analysts who say they have been pressured. They may have kids in college, they may be vulnerable to these types of smears."

The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.

Or then again, maybe it was just chit-chat. Well, who ever could have guessed that in the heady days of 2003, when there were crimes and conspiracies to allege?

Mr. Corn's current insistence that he only alleged a possible crime is beside the point - a deliberate scheme to smear Wilson and intimidate critics could certainly be characterized as a "conspiracy" regardless of its technical criminality.

As Byron is right to point out, Corn writes for the magazine of the Far Left and is sole proprietor of the nutter-swamp Now, David is welcome to his opinions as are we all, but this "who me" stuff is utter BS.

Corn and his ideological brethren were invested heavily in the notion of a WH cabal, though all the wishing hasn't made it so. As TM notes, Corn's July 2003 column was like throwing gas on open flame; his backpedaling now can't be taken seriously.

I've never been a fan, though like I said earlier, David is welcome to his opinions. For him to play coy after three years as head-cheerleader for a media that went ape over the Plame leak is like watching a firestarter question his being called an arsonist.

Me thinks Mr. Corn doth protest too much.

The one final Revelation

For those of you, like me, living in a box and away from Media this's un-officially official. We know who the Plame leaker was: the hyper non-partisan Richard Armitage as has been widely speculated.

The Corner at NRO has been full of thoughts on the subject since Saturday. I found this one from Andy McCarthy on Sunday pretty much a direct hit:

September 26, 2003, is the day when DOJ opened a preliminary investigation into the Plame matter. Pat was not appointed independent counsel until December 30. That is, DOJ had two months before Fitzgerald was part of the equation to investigate this case and realize that it did not rise to the level of an espionage act or covert agent identity protection act violation.
Patently, though, DOJ was concerned that it would be accused by Democrats of whitewashing a felonious leak of classified information. Regardless, what happened here was not a felonious leak of classified information — and that was something that could easily have been known before December 30. If it was clear that a felony leak had not occurred, the Ashcroft Justice Department could have closed the case at the preliminary stage and ignored calls for an independent counsel. Such a decision, however, would have sparked a week or two of intense criticism from Democrats and their media allies that a classified leak was being whitewashed. It would also have been (minor) grist in the 2004 election.

Not wishing to take that heat, DOJ obviously decided at the end of 2003 to appoint an independent counsel and vest him with authority to investigate no only the underlying "crime" but whether anyone had lied to investigators in the two previous months during which the investigation had ensued. (Note that all criticisms of Fitzgerald conveniently avoid any discussion of the possibility that the investigation might already have been obstructed BEFORE he was appointed, requiring — by normal prosecutorial standards — that charges be filed whether or not what was being obstructed was itself a crime.)

So for all the disgruntled Libby sympathizers out there, your problem is not with the guy who was dispatched to look for crimes (including lies and obstruction) and thinks he found them; your problem is with the Justice Department that didn't have the guts to say the Plame leak did not rise to the level of a federal crime.

You can nitpik all you want at Fitzgerald's investigation. It's very easy to do — especially when he hasn't gotten to put his case on yet. But where is the scrutiny of the Bush Justice Department's decision to appoint an independent counsel rather than dismiss the case without charges after two months of investigation?

As even The Nation's chief conspiracist David Corn now concedes (well, not entirely), there was no cabal, there was no conspiracy and there never should have been a three year, multi-million dollar investigation of this non-crime. And that is the Justice Department's fault.

Question of the Day

Why is it that sales organizations nearly always find unique and creative means to keep from paying sales staff their full commission?

Monday, August 28, 2006


Seven years ago today my wife in her dress and I in my tux took on the challenge of a life together. For a time in my late twenties, I wondered if married life was something I'd be fortunate enough to experience. With patience and trust I let God get me where I needed to be for working that out in my life.

Though there are days when one or both of us are less than what we ought to be for the other, it has been a challenging but wonderful adventure and my wife pushes me to be the husband I ought to be. Some days I am up to that challenge and some days I am not but she has never stopped offering me grace when I fail, encouragement when I'm right and always her love.

Happy Anniversary Sweet Pea!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pre-Show Festivities

I got a reminder today why experienced blogger-types tell the newbies if at all possible keep a digital camera within reach.

Aviation fanatics will descend onto the Santa Maria Airport tomorrow for the annual Santa Maria Air Show:

The air show and classic warbird fly-in opens its gates Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. This year, the event will be on the south side of the airfield at the Blosser Road gate, accessed off Foster Road.

Admission costs $5 for adults, $3 for children 7 to 12 years old and $4 for senior citizens. A family of four can enter for $12, plus $1 for each additional child.

Valley residents will have a chance this afternoon between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. for a sneak peek with a tactical demonstration by VFA-125, organizers said.

Our offices are directly across the street from the main entrance to the Airport. Our windows rattle on the odd occasion that a sizable jet takes off for distant points east and south. Phil and his F/A-18 made considerably more noise!

At a bit past three o' clock I had a Fed ex package I needed to get sent and I decided I'd walk it across the street to the Fed ex box. The box sits in the business park adjacent to the Airport. The park butts up against the Airport facilities and provided a birds-eye view to Phil's aeronautic acrobatics.

Peter was doing a series of rolls, steep climbs and glides ending in a mock final-approach. His turns were sharp, wing-tip to the ground and as he pulled out he'd climb hard, even going near-vertical on a few.

While standing mouth-agape at the box, I watched Phil and his jet made two passes by me. On the last of the two he flew right over me finishing his turn and banking back to center then pushing into another hard climb. As he ascended I was left staring at the orange and blue flame in his six and left deaf to anything but the engine's roar.

This is why experienced blogger-types tell newbies to keep a digital camera handy. You never know when you'll get a great candid. I'm really glad mine was sitting at home today.

Thanks for the show VF-125!

Perception is Key

The perception of Iraq is that we're losing and that the country is a mess that we're incapable of solving.

Iraqi's seem to think differently:

In a recent poll, more Iraqis, who live in Iraq, say Iraq is headed the right direction than Americans who merely watch TV reports about Iraq or read newspaper reports about Iraq.
Amid the drumbeat of so-called sectarian violence from the Legacy Media, one would think that Iraqis would be to throw in the towel or at least throwdown with each other at a moments notice.

But that is not the case.

Eighty-nine percent of Iraqis think a unity government is important.

Fifty-four percent approve of the unity government with only 25% disapproving. (That is higher than Americans who approve of the current make up of Congress and the Administration.)

Seventy-eight percent of Iraqis oppose partitioning the country along ethnic or religious lines.
The only group supporting partitioning are the Kurds.

And 70% of Iraqis do not know someone who moved because of religious conflict.

So, American watching the Legacy Media report on Iraq think the situation is much worse than the average Iraqi who actually lives in Iraq.


It usually takes years for revisionist history to get written. It's taken less than a few weeks for some to offer un-conventional wisdom on the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict.

Dean Barnett discusses the situation and concludes: So, at best, the Israel-Hezbollah war was a missed opportunity. More likely, the war gave our malefactors the impression that we lack sufficient backbone, and can be outlasted and outfought.

Whatever tactical setbacks Hezbollah and Iran suffered, they weren’t worth the emboldening effect that the war had on them and their fellow travelers.

A Daddy's love

"I can only Imagine,"...only I can't.

The video is over a year old. Being as un-hip as I am, I only recently saw this when my wife received it as an email forward.

I was amazed by the love of a Daddy for his son.

Watch the video, and read Rick Reilly's feature on Dick and Rick Hoyt. And marvel at the love of a Daddy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Of McCain's Comments

The Senator opened his big mouth Tuesday with a comment that spurs me back to working with my fellows in the blogroll...this angers me in a way that much hasn't in quite some time.

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute takes it head on and in inimitable fashion, nails it:

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

Those phrases are closely associated with top members of the Bush administration, including the president.Well, yes, but... John McCain is a great American, but does he have a great memory? Perhaps he remembers who said this on March 18, 2003, on the eve of war:

O'REILLY: All right. Now you are confident it's going to be a quick military knockout, correct?

MCCAIN: I am reasonably confident of that. There is such a thing as the fog of war, there is such a thing of Saddam Hussein complicating the problem. But I am confident our technological capabilities are overwhelming and the men and women in the military are superb. We can count on them. To be fair, McCain was presumably referring to the initial liberation, and he was correct that it was a quick knockout. However, he certainly did not emphasize the possibility of a long and problematic occupation in this appearance.

Whatever - at least the man is educable.

Whatever is right. The President never painted the picture attributed to him. Not once. While the VP is ridiculed for the now famous "Greeted as liberators," line, one who was there sheds a little light on things. It happened:

Pres. Bush: "strikes out . . . on the fact that we were going to be treated as liberators."

Hitchens: "I saw it myself."

Matthews: "Pictures?"

Hitchens: "No. I was there. I saw it myself. American soldiers and British soldiers were greeted by hundreds of thousands of people with real joy. I saw it myself. I can't believe people say it didn't happen."

Maguire gives us another quote from Cheney about force size. I suppose McCain and others have the right to ridicule it but they are not right. The force was in fact large enough for overthrowing the regime. The mistakes came later.

Senator McCain and his fan club are welcome to criticize the anticipation and handling of the insurgency but this nonsense about Bush and the Cake-walk is absurd and I've had it. For a man who claims he's supportive of the President's policy in the biggest sense to turn around and lie about what was or wasn't said goes beyond the pale. Why he thinks it will win him conservatives in '08 escapes me.

But he's not running. Yeah, right.

Then this morning, Instapundit noted this little flap in this post:

The substance of McCain's claim is pretty weak: I don't recall Bush ever saying that Iraq would be a "day at the beach," and in fact casualties to date are considerably lower than what was generally expected for the ground war to Baghdad, where you generally heard figures in the 10,000 range. It's more the duration, and the extent of the bad press, that has exceeded expectations, really, though McCain's pretty sensitive to bad press.

He even indicates that some are accusing McCain of 'backstabbing.' I don't think so, I just think he's makin' stuff up. Politically expedient people do that.

The Senate Majority Project shows us how.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Read, browse, pick something up at our guest shop...

Buckethead's Noodle

The Padres swept this week's three-game series against the Dodgers by proving they could beat their NL West rival in a variety of ways. But last night's win made use of the Padres' secret weapon: the noodle inside manager Bruce Bochy's gi-normous melon.

Monday's 4-2 win was marked by AAA farmhand Tim Stauffer's arrival at Petco Park just two hours before gametime after a last-minute scramble to the Portland airport and an all-day flight to San Diego. A last-minute replacement for the injured Chris Young, Stauffer swooped in and twirled a six-inning 3 hit gem to best the Dodgers.

Tuesday's 1-0 victory saw Jake Peavy return to dominant form after an injur-plagued season. Peavy tossed seven innnings of shutout ball at LA, allowing only 3 hits and fanning 7.

But last night, with the game on the line, the Padres pulled out their big gun: their manager's colossal head. Bruce Bochy, whose head is so large that he had a specially made batting helmet that he carried from team-to-team and repainted and was known by teammates as Buckethead during his playing days, used a little known rule to foil the Dodgers last night by getting manager Grady Little and picher Brad Penny tossed from the game. The San Diego Union Tribune's Tim Sullivan elaborates:

In the bottom of the fifth, Penny's fourth walk – this one to Adrian Gonzalez – brought Little out of the dugout for a conference. At this point, the Padres' lead was still tenuous – just 4-2 – but the Dodgers' disposition was clearly combative. Little's primary purpose in going to the mound was to calm his fuming pitcher (and, to a lesser extent, second baseman Jeff Kent). But one of the game's time-honored tactics is for managers to draw plate umpires out to the mound as an excuse to excoriate them. “Brad was pitching his heart out and none of the pitches were going our way,” Little said later. When Reed approached to bring closure to the conference, Little seized the opportunity to vent. But once Little left the dirt, his visit to Penny was officially over. When he subsequently returned to Penny, Little had effectively called the bullpen. “I thought Grady was looking for some TV time,” Bochy said: “Once he went back, that was his second trip. That's what I was arguing. I was at the point where I was going to protest the game (had Penny continued)"... Following Bochy's protestations, Reed conferred at length with his umpiring colleagues. He then returned to the mound and handed Penny a ball. Rule 8.06 stipulates that in a case where a manager visits the mound twice with the same batter at the plate, the manager is removed from the game and the pitcher is required to pitch to one (and only one) batter.

While I've had my doubts about Bochy over the years, last night he showed that if he's got rocks in that large cranium of his , there may also be enough room for some brains too.

Conservative Call to Arms

Stanley Kurtz wrote a fairly compelling--least in my opinion--post at the Corner about luxury. Though it's not what you'd think. Time is often a luxury and Kurtz notes it is one we don't have at this point on the issue of Iran. Likewise, we can't afford the luxury of petulance:

We don’t have the luxury of sitting on our hands in the next election. We don’t have the luxury of punishing slack Republican legislators on the theory that this will somehow produce a tougher conservative line in 2008. We don’t have the luxury of all this because a nuclear Iran is bearing down on the United States, while our country stands paralyzed by its own divisions. You can blame Iraq if you like. I blame the Democrats’ Vietnam syndrome. But no matter who you blame, the sad fact of the matter is, the president’s hands are tied. The president cannot confront Iran with a credible threat of force, much less actually strike it, without greater domestic support.

A slight Republican win in the next election, or even a draw, would greatly strengthen the president’s hands in dealing with Iran. Not only would a successful election change the dynamics of our international confrontation, a Republican-controlled congress would allow for an even stronger line down the road, after America finally faces up to the reality of the threat. On the other hand, a Democratic victory now would effectively take the option of force against Iran off the table. Yet a credible threat of force is actually our only hope for settling this matter short of war.

Politics is the answer. Politics constrains us, and politics alone will free us. The Republicans must not lose this election. Don’t mope and tell me you’re sitting on your hands at home instead of voting. There is no excuse. The only good news right now is that we have in our hands the power to protect ourselves. The voting booth is the answer. No, I am not saying Democrats are all unpatriotic pacifists (although, unfortunately, a number of them are). There are genuine policy differences here. The Democrats are far more likely to favor unverifiable grand bargains, and the need for U.N. approval. They are far less likely to approve of pre-emptive military action by a U.S. led "coalition of the willing." So a Democratic victory will tell Iran that nothing of consequence stands between it and the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Were it 2000, this sort of teenage angst would be--for the most part--tolerable. If you believe that Republicans, flawed as they may be, represent a better chance to win the conflict we currently find ourselves in then you can not afford to sit. You just can't.

The Critically Unobserved life

According to some--or is that Sim?--such a life isn't worth living. I'd argue about it but I can't even remember how the saying goes.

In the spirit of such, however, I offer the following personal observation:

I never used to talk to myself before I worked in Advertising.

Think what you will...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mac Daddy. Daddy Mac.

The Padres' mackin of El Trolley Dodgers del Norte continued again tonight with a 7-2 beatdown. Woodrow Williams pitches a gem and the bats came alive for a rare eruption. Bell-um (Bellhorn and Blum) combine to do the big damage.

Ownage = Love.

But he's not running

John McCain is stockpiling talent on the bench. He says he's not running but a look at the big bats sitting on the bench suggests otherwise.

If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a's probably a duck.

Meanwhile, look here as to why that's not a great idea.

Examining the details

Mac Owens at the Corner peals back the layers of mystery surrounding the Pentagon's announcement that they will begin activating Marines in the IRR to fill a shortfall of approximately 2,500 resulting from decreased re-enlistment numbers. Had I the time, I would have mentioned this yesterday as yet another reason "we're losing."

Anyway, Mac explains:

This call up isn't as bad as Reuters makes it sound. Out of a total of 59,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), the Marines MAY call up to 2,500 back to active duty for up to a year. They will not be activated all at once, but in groups of 60-100, and activation will be determined primarily by rank and military occupational specialty (MOS). What this means is that there is a short-term shortage of folks in certain critical MOSs. I doubt we are talking about involuntarily activating "thousands" of "grunts," i.e. infantrymen, and shipping them back to Iraq for a fourth tour, as the Reuters piece suggests.

Approval Ratings

Al Qaeda doesn't think Iraq is worth it either:

(2006-08-23) — The latest poll of al Qaeda members worldwide shows that 91 percent see no link between the global fight against Islamic terrorists and the ongoing U.S. effort to establish a free and democratic Iraq.

The results follow release of a New York Times/CBS News poll showing 51 percent of Americans also fail to see the connection.

“The al Qaeda public is simply not buying President Bush’s argument that a free Iraq will make the world more secure by denying safe-haven to terrorists,” said an unnamed spokesman for al-Razmuhsan, the polling division of al-Jazeera. “Our survey shows that the average al Qaeda man on the street is much like the average American. He has no fear that Islamic fascists plan to use Iraq as a base from which to fight their jihad to establish a global Muslim caliphate.”

In other results that parallel U.S. public opinion, the poll shows that the overwhelming majority of al Qaeda members think that “planting the seeds of democracy in the Arab world” is not worth the cost in American lives and money, and most believe that a hasty retreat of American forces will not embolden the terrorists.

The al-Razmuhsan poll was conducted over the past three weeks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Indonesia, Great Britain, Russia, France and the U.S., by contacting al Qaeda cell leaders via satellite phone or donkey courier.

Additionally, they remain skeptical of any link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Apparently--despite the need to move often--they're still receiving their copy of the NY Times.

A Day at the Beach

There's days that John McCain reminds me why I did this. Yet another one that's going to win over at least a dozen conservatives...

Let's Make a Deal!

Earlier in the month, George in Santa Maria warned us how near we all are to the Death of American Democracy. His letter to the editor prompted a few comments and a reply also published on the Opinion page.

That response, as best I remember it, strongly conveyed the idea that the Democrats as a Party want out of Iraq at pretty much any price. I don't recall if there was any "questioning of Patriotism," but there most assuredly was a question or two raised about people's judgment.

Betty took exception to that reply. From her letter to the editor, published yesterday:

The recent letter writer of "Democrats as appeasers" owes the "Constitution is in Crisis" letter writer a huge apology.

The Constitution letter writer is a Korean war veteran who sustained considerable permanent injuries in combat. He has certainly earned the right to express his views about this administration's policies or anything else without being ridiculed and disrespected.

How dare anyone name-call and castigate this Democrat and others as cut-and-runners and appeasers! Painting a picture of Democrats with a broad brush of yellow is cowardly and patently unfair to the large number of Democratic servicemen and women who have served in the past and continue to serve in the military, many of whom have been left with horrendous disabilities or have been killed.

Thank you George for your military service in defense of the United States and her interests in Korea. Thank you for the willing sacrifice of your youth.

Betty is right that George has earned the right to express his opinion (though frankly, we are all entitled to our opinion on this issue and others as citizens of this country). That however is not a free pass. For George or for the leadership of the Democrat party.

When the writer says Democrats are the ones to avoid defending our country in a national crisis, one is reminded that some current, high-profile Republicans ran and hid behind privilege during the Vietnam War. Cheney took five or more deferments. Bush was a no-show for an annual military physical, and Karl Rove and other neo-cons did not serve. Have any of their children stepped up to serve?

Betty, the Chickenhawk argument is one of the least persuasive arguments going. What does it have to do with a war in Iraq? Are you willing to live in a society run only by people in the military or with military experience? Are you sthat'shats something you want?

What George Bush's daughters have or haven't done has no bearing on whether the war in Iraq should or shouldn't have bfoughtught, whether or not the transformation of that country and region ought to continue or end.

When someone says Democrats only criticize the war in Iraq and President Bush without any ideas on how to handle America's problems and the war, one wonders what that person is listening to and reading. Perhaps a broadening of news sources is in order!

Well, yes we could re-deploy to Okinawa and that would get us out of harm's way for sure. It would do nothing about changing the dynamics in the region however but would force the question of whether or not Iraqi Democracy survives or is destroyed before it gains a sufficient hold among the population.

I will presume that Betty is old enough and recalls the effects of America's pulling out of Vietnam. I imagine she recalls the days of a disheartened military, of Jimmy Carter's "malaise" and the emboldening of a fanatical Iranian regime that bothers us still today.

Would a premature withdraw from Iraq have similar effects? I don't know...I'm not sure anyone knows with ultimate certainty. I fear though that it would create a vacuum in the region, one that Iran would gladly fill, one that would further embolden a regime that is already feeling it's oats in a drive for regional hegemony. And that is not at all a good thing, for Iraq or for us.

Is that what you really want Betty?

There is too much information being missed, distorted or ignored! Deliberately demonizing Democrats is destructive.

Here I offer a counter-point. Bill Clinton called it the Politics of Personal Destruction. I would point out to Betty that George W. Bush--whether you care for him or no--is still the sitting President of the United States and everything the Right was told about respecting the Office of President while it was occupied by Clinton still applies.

Perhaps Betty and I can make a deal. When the Democrats quit referring to the President as chosen and not elected, when they stop calling him a liar, a crook and an imbecile I'll gladly stop questioning the judgment of Democrats on issues of National Security.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Who's Your Padre?

Haven't seen much on the NL West around these parts in '06. Since I've been on undercover assignment for much of the year, I missed my big opportunity to crow about my mediocre and miserly Padres leading the division for most of the season to this point.

Similarly, Paul's been strangely silent as his re-tooled Dodgers has been riding a winning wave due to the play of new acquisitions Wilson Betemit, Greg Maddux and Julio Lugo as well as strong performances from impressive kids named Billingsley and Ethier.

When the Dodgers were officially pronounced done for '06 it was after a humiliating sweep at the hands of the then division-leading Padres. But the Dogs re-tooled and started reeling off some wins and wrested the lead from the Pads. As the Dodgers were finding new life, the Padres predictably failed to make a big splash at the trading deadline (other than acquiring a mediocre 2B to play 3B) and have been in a tailspin with the loss of Khalil Greene and pedestrian performances from Brian Giles (broken record), Adrian Gonzalez and puzzling inconsistency from pitchers Jake Peavy, Scott Linebrink and Chris Young. The injury-riddled club has also recently witnessed 40% of the starting rotation go on the DL . The last three days, the Padres have had to promote someone just to be able to field a starting pitcher.

But nothing cures the Padres' ills in recent years quite like a game guessed it, the LA Dodgers. San Diego won tonight's game 1-0, pushing their lead in the season series to a commanding 10-3. Just par for the course in recent years.

It's a very medicore division but as long as the Pads can break-even against everyone else, just knowing they have several games left against their sissyboy neighbors to the north should give the Friars enough confidence to snare the divisional crown.

On the Comeback Trail

Jason Leopold and Mark Ash at Truthout are attempting to salvage credibility. Yesterday the duo published yet another installment in the Rove Indictment soap opera:

An indictment first reported by Truthout said to be connected to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's Plame investigation remains sealed, and Fitzgerald continues to work on the leak case.

The indictment, 06 cr 128, was returned by the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case between May 10 and May 17 - right around the time that Truthout reported, based on sources close to the investigation, that Karl Rove had been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

However, that indictment remains under seal more than three months after it was filed - an unusually lengthy period of time, according to experts in the field of federal law. The indictment could be dismissed down the road, meaning the public may never get the opportunity to learn the identity of the defendant or the substance of the criminal case.
These experts said the length of time the indictment has been under seal suggests that the defendant named in the complaint is cooperating with an ongoing investigation and may have accepted a plea agreement.

Former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson said it's very likely that the indictment was sealed in the first place because the "defendant is cooperating with an investigation and the government wants to keep that person's identity secret" to protect the integrity of the investigation.

"It would be extraordinary to keep it sealed as the process goes on," said Levenson, now a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

A two-month investigation undertaken by Truthout into the circumstances that led to Karl Rove's alleged exoneration in the leak probe has once again put the spotlight back on Sealed vs. Sealed, the heading under which 06 cr 128 was filed in US District Court between May 10 and May 17.

Meanwhile, Rove knows that Fitzgerald is done. Apparently some others haven't quite figured it out.

Frankly, I think Patterico's headline sums it up best.

Peter Pan Revisited

I wrote recently about Peter Pan's obsession with youth. Yesterday, the finest humorist writing for a major Newspaper group showed how it's done.

Lileks' finger-in-the-eye is the finest bit of smack delivered to the Perpetual Youth folks I've ever read:

There’s a clinical psychological term for all this, and it’s “Pissed at Daddy.”

It made me think (I was weeding today, doing lawnwork, and that lends itself to crank-think) of the perpetual adolescent strain in post-WW2 culture. Before the 50s, when there were actual problems like an interminable Depression and Nazis, adolescents were mostly unseen in the culture. You had kids, and you had grown-ups. Adolescents were young grownups, expected to adhere to the same general rules of behavior. It was an adult culture, and adolescents were the interns. The culture would tolerate some things like Bobby Soxers, but with wry eye-rolling amusement. After the war, though, the adolescent was not only the focus of the culture’s attention, he was taken seriously. He was an inarticulate oracle, a mumbling sage, a jeering jester with a switchblade. One of the dumbest lines in cinema is one of the most famous: asked what he’s rebelling against, Marlin Brando’s character in the “The Wild Ones” says “Whaddya got?”

Oh, I don’t know. The Pure Food Act, antibiotics, an industrial infrastructure that makes it possible for you to ride your bikes around, paved roads, a foreseeable successful conclusion to rural electrification, sewers, the ability to walk into any small café and order a Coke and know you won’t be squitting your guts out 12 hours later into a hole in the ground alive with squishy invertebrates. Little things. No wonder they fretted over the Juvenile Delinquents – they’d known not hard times nor war, and they acted as if they’d been born into the sixth circle of Hell. If pressed, JDs would respond - with their trademark mommie-took-my-rattle petulance that they were against the whole phony world, man, because there’s nothing the adolescent finds more contemptible than hypocrisy. Somehow they find the fact that their Old Man lied about Santa Claus – lied, man, stood there and lied with a big old smile on his big old face, dig it – is a piercing insight to the machinations of adulthood. Please don't tell me they were alienated by the threat of nuclear war. So was my generation. We reacted with Disco and "Supertrain."

That was it?!

The much ballyhooed Iranian response...?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sort of anti-climactic

K-Lo points to this media scoop:

Then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003, the same timeframe that the reporter has testified an administration official talked to him about CIA employee Valerie Plame. Armitage's official State Department calendars, provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show a one-hour meeting — marked "private appointment" — with Woodward on June 13, 2003.

"Extra, Extra! Read all about it!..."

I Agree

I've been known to express a similar opinion of Juan Williams, NPR and Fox News commentator. Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants says of Juan:

I think of Juan Williams as breathtakingly stupid

But he's apparently written a good book:

The question of whether racism or cultural failings are more to blame for the crisis in black America has been much debated in recent years.

In 2004, Bill Cosby weighed in on the side of personal responsibility. Then the "hip-hop intellectual" Michael Eric Dyson, a humanities professor at the University of Pennsylvania, replied with a book, "Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?)," arguing that Cosby was in a long, sorry tradition of better-off blacks blaming poorer blacks for their own plight -- and letting white society off the hook.

Now comes Juan Williams and his new book "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It."

"Bill Cosby was right, but he only told a portion of the story," Williams writes. "This book picks up the baton to continue the race."

I may read the book. But I still have to turn off Fox News when Juan is a commentator.

That was on August 15th. Today, Juan published this op-ed in the Washington Post today. Dean Barnett called it one of the most important such pieces of the year.

I don't know if it is that, but I do know that it is a refreshingly honest and different accounting from someone in a position to know:

Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown " and all the victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?

Incredibly, Cosby's critics don't see the desperate need to pull a generational fire alarm to warn people about a culture of failure that is sabotaging any chance for black people in poverty to move up and help their children reach the security of economic and educational achievement. Not one mainstream civil rights group picked up on his call for marches and protests against bad parenting, drug dealers, hate-filled rap music and failing schools.

Where is the civil rights groundswell on behalf of stronger marriages that will allow more children to grow up in two-parent families and have a better chance of staying out of poverty? Where are the marches demanding good schools for those children -- and the strong cultural reinforcement for high academic achievement (instead of the charge that minority students who get good grades are "acting white")? Where are the exhortations for children to reject the self-defeating stereotypes that reduce black people to violent, oversexed "gangstas," minstrel show comedians and mindless athletes?

Indeed. Where is black leadership? Well, Al Sharpton--who you'd think wouldn't have an ounce of credibility anywhere, much less the black community--is throwing bricks at the media, while appearing with his erstwhile mentor Jesse Jackson aside the empty suit, Ned Lamont. Very helpful, both.

Meanwhile, Williams and Cosby push the envelope and struggle to nudge the black community awake to it's current failings and it's future declineunless it wakens. Will they heed Williams message?

I don't know. They should though. As for myself, if it's as good as some are saying, it'll have to end up on the reading list.

Dangerously Incompetent

Debbie's opponent is kicking some serious rear it seems. Bouchard it seems has the talent on his side of the ball.

Actually, it shouldn't be that hard. Loop this picture over and over in :30 and :60 second spots and that should about cover it...


They might not have been successful, but that isn't really the point:

'Martyr videos' of the type left by suicide bombers, were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of the 23 suspects being questioned in the foiled airline terror plot.

The BBC, citing an unofficial police source, said that several of the videos had been found as part of the investigation into the alleged plot to bomb as many as 10 jetliners bound for the US.
Scotland Yard would not comment on the report, which came after police chiefs said that hundreds of officers from across Britain joined in the massive investigation, one of the largest in British history.

Last week, a US law enforcement official said that one "martyrdom" tape had been found by investigators.

What's Next?

41-year old Grandmothers in the Army?

Still I doubt they'll be taking 40-year old diabetics anytime soon.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Proof by Accident

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision inadvertently disproves one of the chief assertions of NY Times' apologists about the NSA program. Patterico in his inimitable fashion explains:

According to the plaintiffs — lawyers, scholars, journalists, and others who communicate internationally with terrorists — the disclosure of the surveillance program has caused terrorists to discontinue international telephone and e-mail communications:

Plaintiffs here contend that the TSP [”Terrorist Surveillance Program”] has interfered with their ability to carry out their professional responsibilities in a variety of ways, including that the TSP has had a significant impact on their ability to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship, engage in advocacy and communicate with persons who are outside of the United States, including in the Middle East and Asia. Plaintiffs have submitted several declarations to that effect. For example, scholars and journalists such as plaintiffs Tara McKelvey, Larry Diamond, and Barnett Rubin indicate that they must conduct extensive research in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and must communicate with individuals abroad whom the United States government believes to be terrorist suspects or to be associated with terrorist organizations. In addition, attorneys Nancy Hollander, William Swor, Joshua Dratel, Mohammed Abdrabboh, and Nabih Ayad indicate that they must also communicate with individuals abroad whom the United States government believes to be terrorist suspects or to be associated with terrorist organizations, and must discuss confidential information over the phone and email with their international clients. All of the Plaintiffs contend that the TSP has caused clients, witnesses and sources to discontinue their communications with plaintiffs out of fear that their communications will be intercepted.

Let me put that into plain English: terrorists and their associates will no longer communicate with these plaintiffs via e-mail and telephone — in other words, ways that the government could monitor under the surveillance program — because the terrorists are aware of the surveillance program. It’s not the Terrorist Surveillance Program itself that has caused terrorists to cease these international communications. It’s the fact that the terrorists now know about it.

Greenwald and other lefties say that terrorists had always assumed their communications were being monitored, but these plaintiffs say otherwise. They say that, for a period of time, they communicated freely with these terrorists — but then along came revelations of the TSP, and their telephone and Internet communications with these suspected terrorists ceased.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Movie that launched a Thousand Careers

Perhaps I exaggerate but it was a rocket to fame for more than a few:

It made it's star into a super-star.

It gave us Cousin Balki stealing scenes from the lead.

One of it's other co-stars went on to a decent career, performing in every dumb movie made between 1984 and 1992.

And Damon Wayans as the Banana Man...come on now!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Round Two

Ford has announced additional cuts, bowing to the market's pressuring in the form of huge losses and horrible sales:

In a sign it will no longer cling to market share at the expense of profit, Ford Motor Co. on Friday announced deep production cuts designed to bring its supply of vehicles in line with withering demand for its biggest sellers _ pickups and SUVs.

Management finally got the memo earlier in the year when they announced a first round of plant closings and job cuts. Yes,'s not 1998 and oil is not $11 a barrel.

Ford is not mean, they are not evil. They're just stupid. Gas prices have doubled since 2003 and when Ford could have made decisions when it mattered about continuing to pump out SUV's like it was 1999, they continued to produce the large beasties and now they've fallen behind the curve. Sales are down, demand for large SUV's and trucks is down and their production lines are married to the production of such gas guzzlers.

No,'s not 1998 and oil is not $11 a barrel.

My initial reaction

When I first heard of this earlier in the week, I wondered something similar:

Kind of makes you wonder what the mullahs are anxious to keep their people from finding out.


Do we have the commitment level necessary to win the fight? This post at Belmont Club examines the question. In summary, the answer is a depressing "No,":

The matchless power of inherited Cold War weapons was more than overcome by withering of the very mental attitudes which made them effective. Mark Steyn argued that as a result the West's power shrank in direct proportion to the effectiveness of weaponry because the laws of political correctness always diminished the will to use them faster than their increase in destructiveness. "We live in an age of inversely proportional deterrence: The more militarily powerful a civilized nation is, the less its enemies have to fear the full force of that power ever being unleashed. They know America and other Western powers fight under the most stringent self-imposed etiquette. Overwhelming force is one thing; overwhelming force behaving underwhelmingly as a matter of policy is quite another. ... The U.S. military is the best-equipped and best-trained in the world. But it's not enough, it never has been, and it never will be."

The near panic which gripped Teheran and Damascus in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom was not the result of the fear that America had found new weapons -- the lethality of those weapons were already known -- but that it had found unexpected the will to use them. Today even better weapons are there yet the American force in Iraq is regarded as having become totally impotent, not because it has become militarily weaker; through fixed airbases, experience, new weapons it has become immeasurably stronger than it was in 2003. But it's impotence is due entirely to the perception that it's will has drained away -- that it cannot use its power. That leaves American power weaker than had it never been used. As Tom Schelling taught commitments that are repudiated -- such as by those politicians who now say they were against OIF even before they voted for it -- destroy not only the current commitments but the possibility of future commitments.

When those who sit in authority over us decide, equivocate and re-decide; when judges rule against efforts designed to keep us safe and defeat an enemy while important institutions cheer such a thing, I fear the answer is, correctly, "No."

Can we get it back? When and how and at what price?

Another brick in the Wall

As tapestries are sewn or mosaic's built one piece at a time, so Andrew Sullivan continues his work. He is in these last weeks and month's building a legacy as quite the Bush Theorist. Yesterday's latest has some wondering what's going on in that once proudly-conservative mind:

I have long wondered whether Cheney and Rumsfeld ever believed that their job was to build a new democracy in Iraq. Rumsfeld had dealt with and supported Saddam in the past; Cheney was extremely suspicious of occupying Iraq in 1990. One subversive theory - which I'm not endorsing, just airing - is that both merely wanted to turn the Saddam regime to rubble, and then play along with neocon democracy supporters, while making sure that the military was never given enough resources to do nation-building. Then Cheney and Rumsfeld could prove their point about the impossibility of reforming the Muslim world, and promote the view that we need merely to pummel enemies, project military fear across the region, and deter Islamo-fascism by "shock and awe." The Likud strategy, in other words.

For someone who's just airing and not endorsing, he goes on to spend alot of brain power fleshing things out in the next paragraph: Under this interpretation, Bush was too trusting or dumb to understand the deviousness of their plan to fail in Iraq; Wolfowitz saw it too late and got out; Rice is stuck managing the debris that a democracy-promoting president and a democracy-hostile Pentagon created. The troops were just pawns in Cheney's and Rumsfeld's strategy. This interpretation would mean that incompetence is not the issue. Cheney and Rumsfeld have succeeded: they have turned Iraq into a failed state, removed its capacity to make WMDs, and detonated a regional Sunni-Shi'a war. Now they want to use the same brutalist strategy against Iran. This theory is probably too complex and subtle to be true. The screw-up theory of history is more often the most plausible. But it does make some internal sense - if you assume that Cheney and Rumsfeld are not complete incompetents.

I frankly don't know what to think. Time magazine actually pays him!

Andrew offers some additional thoughts later in the day: I don't think you can understand the actions of this administration - i.e. make them make internal sense - without understanding the depth of the president's fundamentalist mindset. He's a fundamentalist convert and an alcoholic. Faith is the one thing that rescued him from a life of chaos. So fundamentalist faith itself - regardless of its content - is integral to his entire worldview. And fundamentalism cannot question; it is not empirical; it is the antithesis of skepticism. Hence this allegedly "conservative" president attacking conservatism at its philosophical core: its commitment to freedom, to doubt, to constitutional process, to prudence, to limited government, balanced budgets and the rule of law. Faith is to the new conservatism is what ideology was to the old leftism: an unquestioned orthodoxy from which all policy flows.

Cheney and Rumsfeld, however, do not strike me as the same. They're just bureaucratic brutalists, thrilled to have complete sanction to do as they please because they have the mandate from the leader-of-faith. Bush and Rove provide the fundamentalist voters; Cheney and Rummy get on with the war they want to wage. If they have to condescend to Bush's recently discovered faith in democratization, they'll humor him, while they bomb, wiretap and torture along what they think is the only path to security. They are enabled by the Christianist; but they're just plain old "bomb 'em to the stone-age" reactionaries.

Let me sum it up for you: It's the Christians fault. At least by the end of the day in yet another reply to his email, Andrew finally comes clean:

I plead guilty too. I bought the democratization line and the WMD threat and was passionately pro-war. My only defense is that within days of the invasion, I started to worry about the troop levels, and the dissonance between what I had been told and what was actually being done opened up. Then Abu Ghraib; then the refusal to add more troops; well, you get the picture. The bad news is: in a long, dangerous war of ideas, the Bush administration has somehow managed to muddy the moral high-ground against the evil of Islamism. It will take decades and countless innocent lives for us to recover.

That's a good-faith statement and I can take it at face value. Andrew parts ways with the war and the Administration's handling of it over specific issues and circumstances. I don't share the view but as I said, it's a good-faith argument and I can't criticise him for making it if it's what he truly believes.

The continued ripping of a faith that-despite his protests to the contrary-I firmly believe he does not fully get, I find on the other hand more than a bit unpleasant. From people on the secular left I understand it. But not from the devout Catholic who asks me to believe that his faith informs his current anti-Iraq positions.

Yet that faith finds Sullivan insisting on creating terms like 'Christianist' to describe a threat that doesn't exist. As Hugh Hewitt said back in May:

There are zero evangelical Christians with any public profile who practice or endorse violence. There are also no major figures within American evangelical circles who endorse any sort of theocracy. Sullivan objects to the political positions of many evangelicals, but given the widespread support for these positions --opposition to the judicial imposition of same sex marriage for example-- Sullivan refuses to engage their positions on a case by case basis, and instead invents a new description in an attempt to deligitimize them.

The man has gone 'round the bend. Will he ever get back?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Andrew's piffle

Sim is disappointed. A late arrival, but welcome none the less:

I used to really see a lot of smart stuff coming out of Andrew Sullivan. Now it's just weak piffle. I'm embarrassed that I linked him so frequently in the past. I still give him credit for sussing out good sites and articles, but anymore his opinions don't seem to mesh much with reality. (Exception: the torture issue and I give him mad props for sticking it out on that front)

Well my friend, if the New Yorker...thingie...that Andrew put together disappoints you, I'm left unsure where this will find you; last week's terror bust is at best trumped up, at worst pure concoction:

So far, no one has been charged in the alleged terror plot to blow up several airplanes across the Atlantic. No evidence has been produced supporting the contention that such a plot was indeed imminent. Forgive me if my skepticism just ratcheted up a little notch.

If the only evidence they have was from torturing someone in Pakistan, then they have nothing that can stand up in anything like a court. I wonder if this story is going to get more interesting. I wonder if Lieberman's defeat, the resilience of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the emergence of a Hezbollah-style government in Iraq had any bearing on the decision by Bush and Blair to pre-empt the British police and order this alleged plot disabled.

I wish I didn't find these questions popping into my head. But the alternative is to trust the Bush administration.

Been there. Done that. Learned my lesson.

John Podhoretz gets down right snippy about it, taking a swipe at Andrew's emotional investment in the whole question of torture:

Andrew Sullivan appears extremely eager--desperately eager, hysterically eager--to believe there was far less to the British terror plot than meets the eye. Why? I suspect because of the news stories yesterday suggesting that it was broken up in part due to the use of torture in Pakistan. If that is true, Sullivan's passionate project over the past two-and-a-half years to declare torture everywhere, at every moment, and in every circumstance unacceptable goes up in smoke.

While a perfectly satisfying comment, it hardly illuminates the questions that Andrew raises. For myself, the government still gets the benefit of the doubt because terrorism is still more of a threat than the alleged schemings of George W. Bush. Call me a sychophant if you must, but unless you can fill in the blanks with something more than conspiracy theory you're at a disadvantage.

Essentially that's what conspiracy theories are; a view of known events married to a no-doubt earnest desire to know everything, giving way to conjecture. Andrew's questions are valid, but his presentation is wrapped in the blanket of his well-known dislike (that's the nice term for it) for W and his Administration's policies. Minus the dripping sarcasm and adversarial tones, it's an interesting thought.

Is that how winners act?

Iran has said it will now discuss a halt to it's nuclear program. Captain's Quarters takes an interesting look at it.

The take-away question--after all the debate about who won and who lost in the Israeli-Hizbollah fight--is this: Do winners act this way?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Peter Pan Personified

Perpetual Frat Boy Bill Clinton hates getting old:

Bill Clinton hates it, but it is true: He will be 60 on Saturday, and he is often the oldest man in the room.

The former baby-boomer-in-chief and 42nd US president admitted at a world
AIDS conference here -- at which delegates serenaded him with "Happy Birthday" -- that his approaching milestone filled him with trepidation.

"In just a few days, I will be 60 years old. I hate it, but it's true," the snowy-haired veteran of two tumultuous White House terms said.

"For most of my working life, I was the youngest person doing what I was doing. Then one day I woke up and I was the oldest person in every room," said Clinton, who was a youthful 46 when he was first elected president, in 1992.

"Now that I have more days behind me than ahead of me, I try to wake up with a discipline of gratitude every day," said Clinton, who left office in 2001 and has since devoted himself to his charitable foundation.

I'm not sure which I find more sad; Clinton's desire for living as a perpetual teen-ager or his pathological need for making everything about him. You're 60 years old, grow up!

Good economic news?

Is it possible? Well, the markets went nuts yesterday on a good inflation report and continued today:

Wall Street rallied for the second straight day Wednesday as economic data pointed to a reduction in inflationary pressures that could forestall interest rate increases. Reports showed a weakening housing market and lower than expected inflation on the retail level once food and energy were stripped out.

The comforting inflation news suggested that the Federal Reserve will not resume raising interest rates in the near future. The Fed uses interest rate increases to combat inflation, but higher rates undercut economic growth, take a bite out of corporate profits and reduce the attractiveness of stocks to investors.

Though it's beginning to appear that there is no mistaking the slow-down that's hit the housing market:

The slowdown in the once-sizzling housing market is spreading, with 29 states reporting spring sales declines, led by big drops in the former boom areas of Arizona, Florida and California. Nationally, sales were down 7 percent in the April-June quarter this year compared with the same period in 2005, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday in its latest state-by-state look at housing conditions around the country. Twenty states, however, posted gains. Those included Missouri, with a modest 0.8 percent increase.

The Realtors survey showed that the biggest declines occurred in states that had been enjoying red-hot sales during the five-year housing boom.

The five biggest declines this spring compared to the April-June period of 2005 were Arizona, down 26.9 percent; Florida, down 26.7 percent; California, down 25.3 percent; Virginia, down 23.9 percent; and Nevada, down 23.5 percent.

The report depicted a tale of two housing markets, with former boom areas experiencing declines and other areas of moderate sales gains during the boom years experiencing strong growth.

I feel bad for folks who went for the jumbo-loan and bought twice the house they could afford. It's bad enough being stuck with a piece-of-junk second.

It's the new Dodgeball

Orange is the new Black, Turquoise is the new Pink. In our house, this is the new Dodgeball.

It's on all the time and somehow never gets any less funny.

The Heavy Lifting

As usual, we can count on the UN to do the heavy lifting.

Blow it up and start over.

To which I owe all my good health


Coffee is not usually thought of as health food, but a number of recent studies suggest that it can be a highly beneficial drink. Researchers have found strong evidence that coffee reduces the risk of several serious ailments, including diabetes, heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver.

I like to think of it as an artificial heart. When my blood is not pumping first thing in the AM, we fire up the first pot and all's good.

Doing the Dwarves justice

I offer this observation in relation to yesterday's shocking news that more people can name 2 of Snow White's Seven Dwarves than can name 2 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices. This email could very well have been written by my a-political wife.

Who is by the way perhaps the worlds biggest Snow White fan, as the book shelves behind me can attest. She even knows which dwarf played which instrument in the mid-movie jam session.

As for me, this one would have been more my speed.

Question for the ages

What if 9/11 Never Happened?

A basically pointless, albeit irresistible question especially considering that it is posed to an eclectic mix of thinkers. New York Magazine takes on this rhetorical challenge by coaxing a variety of viewpoints running the gamut from Tom Wolfe to Fareed Zakaria to Al Sharpton.

There are some real stinkers:

Andrew Sullivan

And your point, caller? Gore would've prosecuted the GWOT better, the same as, worse than W.? And Andrew, puhleeze. You were banging the drum on Bin Laden, al Qaeda and "Islamofascists" prior to September 11, 2001? You were begging Bush and Gore to mix it up on this subject in their presidential debates? Are you freaking kidding me? I don't have the links, but I feel rather certain that you were mining a different vein.

"The neocons" would you have ever even advanced that terminology without 9/11? Britain, Russia, Germany and China all on the same side in the UNSC, with France blocking? Um, newsflash: Germany isn't on the UNSC in 2006. And when has THAT constellation ever existed? Johnny-Come-Latelys on this sort of thing embarrass themselves at every turn.

Would "Digital Brownshirts Up is Dowynnn and Dowynnnn is Uuuup" Gore EVER quote Ronald Reagan? And what's with the continual Tom DeLay references? You mean if 9/11 hadn't happened DeLay would still be central to the political discourse in this country? 300,000 troops in Afghanistan? I mean, if you don't like Iraq you sure aren't going to like an occupation of Afghanistan set upon by ISI-sponsored and nuclear-armed pincers coming in from Baluchistan and Waziristan, much less on the border of a nuclearizing Iran. Gee, containment in Iraq is slowly getting it done? An organic democracy about to blossom? If only.

I used to really see a lot of smart stuff coming out of Andrew Sullivan. Now it's just weak piffle. I'm embarrassed that I linked him so frequently in the past. I still give him credit for sussing out good sites and articles, but anymore his opinions don't seem to mesh much with reality. (Exception: the torture issue and I give him mad props for sticking it out on that front)

Tom Friedman

China. The World is available in paperback. Here's another guy who's basically eroded in my opinion with more exposure. Unlike Sullivan he still has the occassional flicker (Syria is the game-changer in the Middle East), but I'm pretty tired of his branding campaigns disguised as thoughtful analysis. Anymore it seems to me like Friedman's learned that the path to the $bling$ is paved with clever catch-phrases and appearances on Charlie Rose and Russert.

Bernard-Henri Lévy

I'm sure it's just language issues. I know you're on the right side of this debate. But what in the hell are you talking about?

Dahlia Lithwick

Slate's Supreme Court correspondent does the Wacko Rag. Without 9/11 the cloud-talkers would reign supreme and Ashcroft would still be shredding the Constitution. It was the plan all along.

Frank Rich

Since his column is a perpetual SeethingStrawmanFest, is it surprising that Frank runs with nuggets like these?

Without 9/11 to fill the vacuum of his slacker’s presidency, we’d likely have seen a fast-tracking of the scandal foretold by the Tom DeLay K Street project and an earlier and bloodier culture war: Karl Rove could focus his undivided attention on satisfying his base’s hunger for decisive action against abortion, stem-cell research, contraception, and gay people.

Without 9/11, there would have been no rationale for ginning up hysteria about imminent mushroom clouds emanating from Baghdad and hence no way to pivot to a gratuitous war in Iraq. Besides, Bush had come to office pledged to a “humble” (i.e., minimalist Bush 41) foreign policy and opposed to nation building. Grand neocon delusions would have remained dormant as Rumsfeld instead busied himself on his grandiose schemes for remaking the Pentagon, not the Middle East.

Since the Republicans would have had no fear card to play in the 2004 election, the Democrats, having won the popular vote in 2000, would have won it again, this time benefiting from a backlash against the religious right’s overreach, even if they had neither better ideas nor candidates than the opposition. Once in office, might they too have ignored an intelligence briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”? Maybe, but once the inevitable attack came, they too would have won the war in Afghanistan—and, not being tied down in Iraq, maybe they would have made sure it stayed won rather than let the Taliban regroup in the ensuing years.

Shopworn strawmen so colorful, they almost call out to Mr. Rich to return to his previous life as a movie reviewer. I feel certain that is his real calling.

Tom Wolfe

Stunningly argues nothing would be that different without 9/11.


Maybe it's time for another Acid Test.

Al Sharpton

Sharpton's predictably hypocritical dropping caused me to double over in laughter-pain when I read this:

The attack and the fear it generated led to people returning in mass to faith, depending more on religion for guidance and protection, which gave a tremendous revival to those who in my judgment misuse their religious fervor. People were searching for answers and absolutes, which gives zealots an opportunity to promise something that wasn’t there. Sometimes people can only find comfort by grabbing at something that promises stability.

A long time ago someone very wise told me that "If you spot it, you got it." Al clearly has spotted it. Now, you do the math.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

I sure like Doris and I've certainly enjoyed much of her work. But the notion that Weathervein Gore was prepared to set us free with a "Manhattan Project for alternative energy" is completely fanciful in a non-9/11 world. Earth in the Balance spoke of the end of the internal combustion engine. But Gore never mentioned that on the campaign trail and its unlikely he would fritter away political capital on it unless he needed to.

But I'll cut her some slack. She's a historian, not a futurist.

Douglas Brinkley

Makes the list just on the general principle of throwing out "Marshall Plan" language. What problem can't be solved with a Marshall Plan?

But amidst the many stinkers, one can certainly enjoy the bloom of a few roses. And this issue of New York Magazine does come through with a couple of American Beauties:

Fareed Zakaria

While he musingly suggests we'd be more focused on Chandra Levy and Bush's faith-based domesic agenda, he closes with a truism that the conspiracy theorists and many of the Democrats ought to face up to:

History would have been delayed, not denied.

Ron Suskind

Suskind brings the pervasive and empowering nature of globalization (which itself is a metaphor for hypetext terrorism) home with some insightful metaphors:

In the eyes of the violent jihadist community, maybe 9/11 is akin to the U.S. hockey team winning the ’80 Olympics: “Oh, my goodness! I can’t believe how many breaks we got to have a moment like this!” Or, maybe, it’s like the early days of Microsoft—a few people with a powerful, disruptive idea. Bin Laden is as much an ideology as an individual at this point.

Dalton Conley

NYU's Sociology Chair inadvertently raises the point that America is a photo-negative in the wake of 9/11. New York was hit that crisp fall day, but the rest of the country has borne a larger proportion of the psychic cost in the aftermath of the attacks.

Five years later, I think New York is perhaps the least-affected place in the country. And that’s simply because the wheel that 9/11 set in motion has led to two wars and the largest deployment of military reserve forces in recent history. This means that places like Scranton, Pennsylvania, or Mobile, Alabama, have had their daily rhythms and lives continuously uprooted, and New York, and Manhattan in particular, with perhaps the lowest percentage of reservists of any area in the country, has not really felt the impact of Afghanistan and Iraq as much as Peoria, Illinois.

Thus, one must question the "conventional wisdom" regularly spun out of blue state, anti-war, "we support the troops," anti-Bush New York in comparison with those who seem to be shouldering much more of the burden. In what New York representative of this nation's thinking and values? As a former New Yorker, I can attest to a deep schism between coastal and flyover mentalities. Which is more right? I don't know. But among those bearing the most burden, there is considerably more commitment. But then again, is that really surprising? If they're shouldering the burden, wouldn't they be the ones with the most skin in the game, so to speak?

Hank Sheinkopf

The political consultant makes a grandiose statement that cannot be documented on the scale that he suggests. But on a personal level, I feel it to be true:

We didn’t really grasp the significance of this place, that it was more than just a financial combine. New York became a human place for people. We didn’t realize who we were before: We are the center of the world. And I don’t think we ever really understood what that meant before that day.

After having lived in New York for three years, 9/11 made me feel like a New Yorker for the first time. Since that day, I have always felt like a New Yorker and I will retain that ownership for the rest of my life. In part, due to 9/11 and in part due to it having just been New York, I will always feel a kinship and connectedness with the rest of the world. That may be hard for someone who has never lived there to understand, but it is a vibrant and visceral notion to me.

Dan Doctoroff

New York's deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding correctly points out that 9/11 has fundamentally changed the rules of the game in the city. Long-term, New York will be better and more beautiful:

Many of the big projects that are under way today would not be where they are had it not been for 9/11. The transformation of lower Manhattan, the expansion the West Side, the extension of the 7 line, the Atlantic Yards, the list goes on and on.

But I save the best for last.

When I read this piece from Leon Wieseltier yesterday afternoon I was struck by its completeness and resonance. It seemed to fully capture the dynamics and realities of 9/11 in a way that the other submissions failed to.

It addressed America's delusional preoccupations and the inevitability of our fate.

America would have enjoyed the luxury of some more time in the post–Cold War, inward-looking, money-mad bliss. History had ended, remember? But the bliss would have, in any event, been short-lived. Because if 9/11 had not happened, then 9/12 would have happened, or 9/13 or 9/14.

It addressed America's own shock and awe. (Is 9/11 from whence Rumsfeld derived the term? After all, that bastard was pulling bodies out of the flames that day. He had firsthand knowledge that few of us will thankfully ever have.)

The turbulence in the Islamic world; the fear of modernity and its great representative, the United States; the hatred of Israel—these were all waiting to explode. (So was the North Korean nuclear gambit and the Iranian nuclear gambit: The world was, even then, a much more perilous place than many Americans, and many American policymakers, had wanted to know.)

Wiestelier nudges at a hint of an acorn of a thought I have long possessed: No matter WHO was President on 9/11 or since, we'd likely still be enduring many of the same foreign policy and security / civil rights debates.

I imagine that it must have been excruciating to be the president of the United States on 9/11, and I understand his subsequent virulence toward the enemies of the United States, but Bush became another victim, the most distinguished and powerful victim, of the instability of thought that 9/11 unleashed in this country.

Does he say that in so many words? No, not really. But think it through. If Al Gore had been President, can one say that his sense of patriotism and obligation to American ideals and the American people wouldn't have risen to the occasion in some sense? If there is a failure or neurosis in the post-9/11 world it is of the mass variety. This society has gone through its grieving. It's gone through its anger. And now what? What is the right course of action? Reasonable arguments on both sides. But what do we find? Wiestelier describes in the most cogent language I've read to date on the subject what is the essential reality of today's American political discourse:

Since 9/11, the discussion of urgent national questions has been dangerously volatile: In Washington, there is almost no point in beginning a political conversation anymore, since you immediately discover that you are speaking either to a Shark or a Jet.

Indeed. It would be Sharks and Jets or Jets and Sharks. NSA "wiretapping" would have been a Gore-ian brainchild had it not been the providence of the Bush Administration's reign. At the margins, surely there would have been differences. But I am hard-pressed to imagine a radically different situation. Even with regard to Iraq. So in my opinion, under Gore, Bush or Kerry, it wouldn't matter.

We can't debate the really meaningful issues of the day because it might lead to conflict or bad feelings. And as a consequence we're still ignoring the essential and pertinent questions such as "What ought to be America's Role in the World?" to debate Swiftboats and Vietnam, enjoy American Idol and Jessica Simpson, lambast Mel Gibson and Israel in the same breath, and commiserate over gas prices and rising interest rates. We're so addicted to the personalities (and the Jets / Sharks shiny satin jackets) that we can't focus on the debates that matter. I noticed in 2003 that it became impossible to really discuss political issues unless with someone of your own orientation. What the hell is that about? Is it just too painful for us?

I'd argue that in a polarized democracy, nothing is more important than grating on your neighbor. But where is it? We're so plugged into our Blackberries and Ricky Lake that we can't possible aspire to be the Second Greatest Generation at a time when that's the least we should be aspiring to.

For as Wiestelier concludes:

And the sadder truth is that most Americans live as if 9/11 did not happen—basically, we’re all still shopping as before. And even the president wants us to stay the same. Once again, this blessed country is weirdly detached from its own historical situation.

Damn he's right.

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