Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why I like Don Surber

This is why I like Don Surber and why I link him often:

After reading the Editorialist’s coverage at the Washington Post of Al Gore’s overuse of electricity, I don’t want to hear about Republican hypocrisy ever again.
If Al Gore were a Republican, the story of his consuming 20 times the national average while lecturing the rest of us on cutting back on our energy use would be front page news from coast-to-coast. Late-nite comedians would have a field day. The editorial pages would puff up about Republican hypocrisy.


Instead we get excuses, excuses, excuses.

...

This story has been spun into an “attack” on Gore rather than the story of a Junk Food Junkie — an air-conditioned oil millionaire with a zinc mine who preaches one thing while doing another.
WaPo’s Editorialist is not alone in ignoring the hypocrisy.
The Tennessean fell for it. AP fell for it.

As a proud member of the mainstream media, let me suggest that this double-standard — this refusal to hold Al Gore accountable for his actions which are contradictory to his words — only feeds the belief that the media is biased in favor of liberals — particularly born-to-the-manor, overfed, limousine liberals who consume 220,000 kilowatts of electricity each year in just one of his three homes.

I found Don's link via Glenn and I loved his quip even more: Well, look at the kind of people who own newspapers . . . .

The comment was his, the link was mine.

I read it in an Email

People scoff at me when I talk about Iraq. It becomes painfully obvious that I'm not lapping up the latest reports of exploding cars in crowded markets and letting that paint pictures of grim defeat.

The trick is simple. I do in fact see and read those reports. But I offset them with other 'reporting'; reporting that isn't filtered and serves as informed commentary that is far more insightful than anything a NY Times reporter can cobble together with the help of even a dozen 'experts.'

The latest piece of that puzzle came yesterday with this note from Rich Lowry:

My “Pentagon intel guy” writes in an e-mail:

Since my job at the Pentagon is to follow and report these kinds of things- there are several trends we are seeing lately.

1) Definite and measurable decrease in number of sectarian killings within Baghdad: From nearly 1,400 to 680 in the last two months.

2) We are killing and capturing increasing numbers of Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda fighters. And when I say "we"- I mean Multi-National Forces Iraq as well as the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police Commando, and the newer "National Guard"/Territorial Forces in Anbar.

3) The recent bombings in ANBAR demonstrate red on red kinetic operations. Something which has been rare until the last few months. More and more Sunni tribes are pledging fealty to the Iraqi government and the Coalition and turning their back on the insurgents/AQI. This has caused them to be targeted.

We have seen the enemy bomb police recruitment drives, and now mosques of "apostate" Imams and Sheikhs who have sided with the Americans. This has happened twice in the last week. While the mainstream media considers this more proof of failure- it is actually a sign of the precarious position the terrorists are in. They need the Sunni population to protect them and shelter them. If they are now butchering them like everyone else- this could be a turning point in the relationship. This is crucial to watch. We need to protect the tribal leaders who have come over to us- and AQI knows that it is a death sentence for them if they can't stop it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

That's why it's called 'Hypocrisy'

Defenders of Al Gore apparently didn't take too kindly to all the commentary about his electric bill:

The right-wing is angry that Al Gore has won so much public attention and goodwill for his work on global warming...

1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore’s office explains:
What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family
calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore’s do, to bring their footprint down to zero.

It’s the latest in a series of desperate attacks by Drudge to paint Gore as a hypocrite.

That was just this morning. As the day went on things got more exciting:

WOW, lots of lefty email about the Al Gore story, charging lies, "swiftboating," and smears. Hmm. Is the story a lie? Well, there's this:

Kalee Kreider, a spokesperson for the Gores, did not dispute the Center's figures, taken as they were from public records.

"Swiftboating" seems to mean the disclosure of truths that are, er, inconvenient for Democrats. Likewise "smears." And, actually, in lefty blogland parlance these days, "lies" pretty much come out the same way. All definitions are permitted the definer, so long as they are clear, but don't expect me to be impressed with this batch.

UPDATE: But he's got Richard Cohen.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill Hobbs notes that the "smears" seem to be flowing the other way. That's not unusual.

Plus, perspective from Les Jones: "Our electric and water bill was $79.68 and our natural gas bill was $75.72. Gore is using roughly 2000% of the energy of our family of four in a house that's roughly 600% bigger, so basically three times as much energy even after adjusting for square footage. Does he have a 24 hour disco or something?"

Frankly though, I thought--and still do now at the end of the day--that the Good Captain pretty much nailed it: "Purchasing offsets only means that Gore doesn't want to make the same kind of sacrifices that he's asking other families to make. He's using a modern form of indulgences in order to avoid doing the penance that global-warming activism demands of others. It means that the very rich can continue to suck up energy and raise the price and the demand for electricity and natural gas, while families struggle with their energy costs and face increasing government regulation and taxation. It's a regressive plan that Gore's supporters would decry if the same kind of scheme were applied to a national sales tax, for instance."

And that's why it's called 'Hypocrisy' Al...

UPDATE: But wait--don't want to forget this:

Now compare this to President Bush's comparatively modest home in Crawford, Texas, which is a model of environmental friendliness:

The 4,000-square-foot house is a model of environmental rectitude

Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this "eco-friendly" dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize.
A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.


No, this is not the home of some eccentrically wealthy eco-freak trying to shame his fellow citizens into following the pristineness of his self-righteous example. And no, it is not the wilderness retreat of the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, a haven where tree-huggers plot political strategy.

This is President George W. Bush's "Texas White House" outside the small town of Crawford.

I'll guarantee you that in a blind enviro-test, 9 out of 10 people surveyed would conclude that the house in Crawford was Gore's while convinced that the palatial Belle Meade estate could not be anything but the property of the best friend Halliburton ever had.

THATS why it's called 'Hypocrisy'!

My Dogs are Smarter (Or, Prove your love with Cheese)

Small bite-size pieces of cheese are often suggested as training treats for puppies and even as rewards for adult dogs. While training Lacy we went with something less up-scale than the finest block of Tillamook cheddar that money could buy.

The theory was that actual "dog treats" were a healthier choice and would promote fewer bad habits (shameless begging highest on the list). Sadly, that hasn't been the case.

It was my wife who first introduced the puppies to the joys of cheese. Over time we've reached the point now that any trip to the kitchen produces the look: that mix of expectation and rapturous joy. The one that wonders if now is the moment; the one that says "Mommy's getting cheese!"

Earlier tonight as occasionally happens I was volunteered for KP duty as Assistant to the Cook. Tonight's assignment: grate the cheese. Which of course becomes near-impossible once the dogs figure out what's on the menu.

I like to spoil the puppies...to a point. But every so often I wonder how we got to this place where it seems impossible to show them love in any way other than with a 1-pound block of Cheddar.

Doubling Down

My wife and family are entering into the world of business in a joint venture; the learning curve is steep. Very steep.

And it's made steeper by vendors. Time lines, time-tables, unforeseen delays all conspire to leave you behind the eight ball. Your woes are compounded when your vendor makes a mistake and the whole situation explodes when he doubles down and pulls out in a fit of pique.

Lesson number one--surely of many--in how not to do business...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Second murder this week

The second murder of the new year in Santa Maria was also the second in just a week:

One man was killed Sunday night in an alleged confrontation in the 400 block of North Oakley Avenue near Fesler Street in northwest Santa Maria, according to reports from the Santa Maria Police Department.The incident occurred shortly after 9 p.m., according to information from the Santa Maria police department dispatch team.

The victim was reported to have been shot in the back, police said.Police officers and investigators were still at the scene after 11 p.m. Sunday night, and their investigation was expected to keep the area streets closed into early this morning.


Santa Maria police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding another shooting that occurred Wednesday.

Kind of disconcerting in a city still this small.

The Price of Al Gore's Hypocrisy

$1,359: Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006
.

I love the sweet oil-consuming, fume-spewing, polluting irony...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Slagging Murtha...again

That now infamous MoveCongress.org video and Hume-spanking revealed the good Congressman's ignorance of many things Iraq. One of his talking points was the get-out factor: 78% of Iraqi's want us out of the country, or something to that effect.

This pretty well flies in the face of that, and big-time. Because it's Iraqi leadership that understands the critical nature of the situation:

“If you talk to these sheiks, they’ll tell you that they’re in no hurry to see the Americans leave al-Anbar,” he said.

“One thing Sheikh Sattar keeps saying is he wants al-Anbar to be like Germany and Japan and South Korea were after their respective wars, with a long-term American presence helping ... put them back together,” MacFarland said. “The negative example he cites is Vietnam.

He says, yeah, so, Vietnam beat the Americans, and what did it get them? You know, 30 years later, they’re still living in poverty.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Obligatory Sports Post


Best known nowadays for his contribution to the success of the Boston Celtics in the mid- and late-80's, Dennis Johnson is dead at 52:


Dennis Johnson, the star NBA guard who was part of three championships and teamed with Larry Bird on one of the great postseason plays, died Thursday after collapsing at the end of his developmental team's practice. He was 52.


Johnson, coach of the Austin Toros, was unconscious and in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived at Austin Convention Center, said Warren Hassinger, spokesman for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate him for 23 minutes before he was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, Hassinger added. Mayra Freeman, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office, said there will be an autopsy.
The Toros postponed home games Friday and Saturday nights, the NBA Development League said.

"He was one of the most underrated players in the history of the game, in my opinion, and one of the greatest Celtic acquisitions of all time," said former Boston teammate Danny Ainge, now the Celtics' executive director of basketball operations.


I couldn't stand him as a Celtic but then again I was a Laker fan...so no surprise there. He was a helluva player though.

Smearing Jack Murtha

Only, he's a Marine:

As you know, John Murtha has "said he would attach language to a war funding bill that would prohibit the redeployment of units that have been at home for less than a year, stop the extension of tours beyond 12 months and prohibit units from shipping out if they do not train with all of their equipment. His aim, he made clear, is not to improve readiness but to 'stop the surge.' So why not straightforwardly strip the money out of the appropriations bill, an action Congress is clearly empowered to take, rather than try to micromanage the Army in a way that may be unconstitutional? Because, Mr. Murtha said, it will deflect accusations that he is trying to do what he is trying to do. 'What we are saying will be very hard to find fault with,' he said."

We Marines maintain that except for Lee Harvey Oswald, there is no such thing as an "ex-Marine." I believe that John Murtha has just joined that small club.

And in my estimation, right.

That cheering you heard...

It was something you don't see or hear, well, ever. What does it say when your office is warmly welcoming the copier repair man with all the warmth and sincerity of long-lost family?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Up the Stovepipe (Or, How Douglas Feith didn't cherrypick)

I've now listened to this interview of Former Under-secretary of Defense Douglas Feith twice. That second time around, I couldn't get past this one response:

DF: Yeah, what happened was, and this story is at least partly recounted in Woodward’s latest book, and I’m going to be discussing it at some length in the book that I’m writing. Secretary Rumsfeld put together a memo, and he worked on it over several months, that listed everything that he could think of that could go wrong in the event of war. And he gathered his top Pentagon leadership, military and civilian, and we sat down and worked through a list of all the things that we could think of that would be arguments against going to war, and things that could go wrong in the event that we go to war, and put that together, and then Secretary Rumsfeld took it, and took it to the President and the National Security Council, and walked everybody through it. And he did that because he wanted to make sure before the decision was actually taken to go to war, that the government at its highest levels had given truly serious consideration to the best thinking that we could bring to the subject. And it was actually quite an impressive memo. And interestingly enough, while there were other agencies of the government that also did some pieces speculating about the problems that could occur in the event of war, I think Secretary Rumsfeld’s list was probably more serious, more comprehensive, graver, grimmer than anything produced by anybody else around the government.

HH: Has that memo been made public yet?


DF: No.

HH: Has it been widely reported as being in existence?

DF: There have been…yes, there’ve been quite a few stories that have referred to it.

HH: And did the Secretary of Defense’s memo underestimate what has actually transpired in Iraq, Mr. Feith?

DF: Well, some of the problems it hit on…I mean, he didn’t have a perfect crystal ball, but he definitely hit some of the problems, and then of course there were other problems that have arisen that he didn’t hit. But the point is not whether…to my mind, the point is not whether he had perfect seer capabilities. The point is that the notion that people in the Pentagon were pushing for war, and were trying to cherry pick information to persuade the President to go to war, and suppress any thought that might make the President reluctant to go to war, is complete nonsense, and is refuted by the written record, because in fact, we wanted the President and the whole National Security Council to take very seriously the full range of considerations, what would be the problems if we go to war, and what would be the problems if we don’t go to war.

Not that that quote or the existence of a 'written record' documenting the process will ever satisfy the cooked-books crowd, but I'm amazed that such revelations haven't earlier gotten the scrutiny they deserve. In the meantime, Hugh did a fine and masterful job of collecting at least some of said 'written record' here.

Iraq:Yugoslavia

That would be bad. Very bad. And no, not the part about sending more troops...

We still want Victory in Iraq

This occupies a permanent spot on the sidebar now and here are the findings in detail. Somebody, somewhere is misreading things badly. The question is, who? The highlights from James Joyner's rundown:


--57% believe “The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism.”

--57% “support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people.

--50% want our troops should stay and “do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country” while only 17% favor immediate withdrawal

--56% believe “Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war.”

--53% believe “The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq.”

and

--“The survey shows Americans want to win in Iraq, and that they understand Iraq is the central point in the war against terrorism and they can support a U.S. strategy aimed at achieving victory,” said Neil Newhouse, a partner in POS. “The idea of pulling back from Iraq is not where the majority of Americans are.”

--“How Americans view the war does not line up with the partisan messages or actions coming out of Washington,” said Davis Lundy, president of The Moriah Group [the Chattanooga PR firm which commissioned the survey]. “There are still a majority of Americans out there who want to support the President and a focused effort to define and achieve victory.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

BOMBastING PAKISTAN

Last night VDH offered this little smack-down of talking-head roundy-round, the latest edition coming on the heels of the reporting of Al Qaeda's comeback:

I was watching the Scarborough cable news show this evening, where the talking heads went on and on about the impending Taliban spring offensive as the inevitable wage of our "taking our eye off the ball" by getting bogged down in Iraq-a country that didn't attack us and was not involved in 9/11 related terrorism.

Putting aside Saddam's violations of UN and armistice accords, and his long record of subsidies and sanctuary for various terrorists, or the 23 writs authorizing the war passed by the Congress, and ignoring the fact that over six decades ago, a much poorer United States fought simultaneously Germany, Italy, and Japan, and then in midst of rebuilding western Europe and Japan contained at the same time both communist China and the Soviet Union, there was no mention of WHY the Taliban was supposedly setting up camps with relative impunity in Waziristan and the other badlands of Pakistan.

Neither the host nor the animated guests offered any solution to how the United States is to engage in hot pursuit into or bombs over a nuclear Islamic country run by a dictator whose illegitimate rule hinges on concessions to Islamists. So until they offer a concrete plan on how to go into Pakistan to get al Qaeda, and why the resulting risks would be worth it, all their bombast about war mongering in Iraq preventing a solution to al Qaeda remains just that.

By-the-bye, James Robbins--VDH's virtual colleague--took a closer look at said reporting today at NRO:

What would winning look like in their framework? Osama bin Laden the most popular leader in the Muslim world, revered by all, leading an increasingly united nation of true believers. Attacks on U.S. and Coalition military installations and warships throughout the region, sometimes resulting in major losses, leading to a comprehensive retreat from the Middle East. Regimes in the region suffering internal revolts, riots, a breakdown of the internal security apparatus, mutinies among their troops, assassinations of key leaders, and eventually armies of mujahedeen seizing control of the capitals and pledging allegiance to bin Laden’s growing empire. A united Palestinian movement, religious in orientation and loyal to the al Qaeda program, waging a war to the death on an increasingly beleaguered and strategically isolated Israel. Incessant, occasionally dramatic attacks in the West and especially in the United States, showing the puissance of the movement and its ability to inflict damage on the U.S. at times and places of their choosing.

Is this the war we are fighting? Not even close. The U.S. is more involved in the region than ever before. No regimes in the region have been overthrown by al Qaeda or its minions, or are even close to being taken over. Israel is not about to be destroyed. And al Qaeda is finding that exporting the revolution is not as easy as they expected. They have lost their primary state sponsor, lost the initiative, lost their ability to make attacks of strategic significance, and their leaders are hunkered down in safe houses afraid to be seen in public and wondering day by day who around them might betray them. So by their own standards, what have they achieved?

This is where headlines can do a great disservice. The constant repetition of one piece of information, not understood in any greater context or flat-out wrong conveys a message that may be far different than what the actual information imparts.

At the risk of yet another bad analogy, I'm reminded of the objections raised by the program director at my college radio station in explaining his decision to self-censor and refusing to add Madonna's Like a Virgin to the playlist. Dave always maintained that the song lyrics themselves weren't truly objectionable (rather innocuous actually) but rather that the senior faculty advisor wouldn't enjoy sitting at his desk hearing a chorus of "Like a Virgin," over and over on a virtually endless loop.

Silly as it sounds now, these are things we worried about at a small, private Christian university in the mid-80's. It also illustrates, however poorly, the idea that the perception can be different than the reality.

Robbins' piece demonstrates there is an argument to be made about Al Qaeda's strength that belies the headlines.

I know that Scooter outed Valerie Plame!(Or, Spank me Harder!)

This is what happens when you substitute belief for facts and add a dash of certitude:

I'm not asking you to believe anything in particular, but to back up what you say you believe...

You assert a coordinated effort to out Plame as pushback on Joe...

You conflate discussions within government with those between government officials and members of the press...If you believe every syllable by Grenier, Grossman, Schmall, Harlow and Martin, you're no closer to establishing a effort to leak outside of the admin...You simply deduce "5 government officials talking = 5 government officials coordinating an effort to leak"...Is there one sentence that you can point to where any of these clowns allege this? or anyone else alleges this?

You use phrases like "effort by multiple officials w/i the OVP and various Federal Agencies to disseminate talking points about Joe Wilson." Great coffee shop banter, but what do you have? All of the above testified they were responding to direct requests from OVP for information on Wilson...and there is no testimony that they disseminated anything to anybody else...

If you want to claim that Cheney, Rove, Libby, and Fleischer coordinated, fine...but you're still way short on proof by even the most liberal of standards...

One government official (Ari) testified that Libby told him during lunch, and told him to keep his trap shut. of course you know that was a wink, wink, nod moment, 'cause Scooter knew Ari would blab...

So the plan works and Ari testifies that he told Dickerson and Gregory (they say he didn't) and that he didn't tell Pincus (he says Ari did)...

And the other proactive step? Libby meeting with Miller, whose notes and memory were so convincing that Libby isn't charged with any statements refuted by her...Probably multiple other sources, Valerie "Flame", WINPAC, and Joe's phone number had a little to do with that prosecutorial discretion...(I don't expect you to understand the significance of any of this, BTW)...

And here we are...the smoking guns...Rove (leaving on vacation) and Libby (taking wife and 2 kids on birthday trip aboard AF2 to see the dedication of the USS Ronald Reagan), passing on multiple ops to leak to Novak, Pincus, Russert, etc, waiting for the phone to ring from Matt Cooper and Robert Novak, in hopes that either might ask about Val...

Meanwhile, back in the real world: This is a joke! Summarizing the summaries: This morning the defense signalled a belief that the prosecution would attempt to exceed the boundaries of appropriate rebuttal, and from the often garbled summaries we are reading he appears to. Will the defense be able to use these missteps to get further jury instructions and perhaps even a sur-rebuttal? Maybe.

And this, a personal favorite: I'm pulling my info from second-hand transcripts, and it appears perhaps Walton is going to use the 1.5 hours for jury instructions. I did find this interesting, however...

In the last five minutes he (Fitzgerald) provided work for the appeals courts (should Libby be convicted) for a year or so...

Professional Ironies

This is one of those things that has us scratching our heads at the office. I've placed a prospective advertiser into a special publication next month. They've been on my prospect list for about 6 months and this special was a natural fit for them.

It's a well-known, national home-improvement chain...well, alright. You got me; it's a paint store.

So when all is said and done, they will run their 1/4-page in our Home Improvement section next month. In black & white...

What's on your iPod?

Music is intensely personal. What connects with one person goes often times unnoticed or uncared for by another.

Accordingly then, musical tastes differ. As iPods have become more prevalent, the question of who is listening to what becomes a window into the listener.

Slow to move as I am, I've only just this last year entered this magical world of portable music pleasures when my wife gave me an iPod for my birthday, right before Christmastime. Living up to my reputation as a technical blunder, I'm still learning my way around the thing though I use it near-daily.

Only in the last week have I started in earnest the chore of building play lists and importing tracks. To date I've relied on what iTunes found floating around on my hard drive when I first installed it and initially set up the iPod.

There was an eclectic (to say the least) and unusual mix of audio files that found it's way onto the iPod, things I would never have consciously thought to import over. Among those sundries is an instrumental piece from Michael W. Smith. Written in 1998 in memory of fellow Christian artist and friend Rich Mullins--killed the previous September in a car accident--Smith wrote simply in the liner notes to the album on which it appeared, "This piece of music is dedicated to my friend Rich Mullins. I continue to miss him greatly."

It speaks of pain and conveys a sense of sorrow that all who have experienced loss readily understand. To me it is the musical embodiment of melancholy.

At the same time it is hopeful and speaks to the Christian's hope of life beyond what we live now. I have loved it for all these reasons since the moment I first heard it. It reminds at times of just how much I miss my mom.

Though I know that it is right that children should bury parents and never the other way around and that such is a natural part of this life, it still rankles. She should still be here after all, still sharing life, still my father's wife and mother to her only son.

Over the last week or two as I've pressed 'Play' and this tune has started up, unexpectedly most of those times, I'm reminded of this and of her. And I continue to miss her greatly.

Closing Arguments

Closing statements are scheduled for today in the Libby trial. I wonder if anyone established an over/under on deliberations by the jury? My guess is about 10 minutes but I'm a hyper-partisan digital brown-shirt so I'm probably not seeing things too clearly...

Meanwhile, JustOneMinute will be it's usual useful place for clear-eyed, conservative and most importantly, correct commentary on the legal proceedings of the day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Eerily familiar

This all sounds eerily familiar to me (not on the same scale of course):

But when anger is the sole motivating factor behind a person's writing, when he offers little but dismissive rage of those who have the temerity to think differently, one almost feels embarrassed for the writer in question because, after a while, the anger seems less righteous and more self-righteous. And after decades, the anger begins to seem less like a passionate response and more like an automatic response.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Britney Spears Freak Out

I generally like to post about 'high politics' but I do take the occassional plunge into the gutter. it being Sunday and all, I thought it was a perfect time for a gutter ball. I give you: Britney Spears.

I don't much keep up with Britney's comings and goings but after her breakup with her husband it seems like every day there's some new story about bizarre behavior. This article pretty much takes the cake:

Britney checked into an Antigua rehab clinic last Thursday after hitting rock bottom during a four-day booze bender in New York. But she stayed less than 24 hours before returning to California, where she briefly visited her sons in Malibu before shaving off her hair, getting tattooed and dashing to a hospital in the early hours and asking for help...Emily Wynne-Hughes, who was in the tattoo shop, said: “After she left, we said to each other, ‘We just saw a huge celebrity on the verge of a nervous breakdown.’

It would seem so. Wow.

Spanking Murtha

Sundays in our house means a couple of things. First and foremost of course, we will be in church. Secondly, most weeks any way, it means that Brit Hume will at some point in that week's Fox News Sunday broadcast, be spanking Juan Williams for saying something silly. Well, this week Juan gets a respite.

No, the recipient of today's spanking is Democratic Congressman John Murtha. During the panel discussion, Chris Wallace played a short blurb of Murtha's comments to MoveCongress.org last week. In a clip that doesn't look much better than it reads, Murtha quotes some suspect numbers and continues his now-routine over-generalizations of Iraq. Of it, Brit had this to say:

That sound bite from John Murtha suggests that it’s time a few things be said about him. Even the “Washington Post” noted he didn’t seem particularly well informed about what’s going on over there, to say the least. Look, this man has tremendous cachet among House Democrats, but he is not — this guy is long past the day when he had anything but the foggiest awareness of what the heck is going on in the world.

And that sound bite is naivete at large, and the man is an absolute fountain of such talk, and the fact that he has ascended to the position he has in the eyes of the Democrats in the House and perhaps Democrats around the country tells you a lot about how much they know or care about what’s really going on over there.

What is it that Jack has wrong? From the Post: Mr. Murtha's cynicism is matched by an alarming ignorance about conditions in Iraq. He continues to insist that Iraq "would be more stable with us out of there," in spite of the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that early withdrawal would produce "massive civilian casualties." He says he wants to force the administration to "bulldoze" the Abu Ghraib prison, even though it was emptied of prisoners and turned over to the Iraqi government last year. He wants to "get our troops out of the Green Zone" because "they are living in Saddam Hussein's palace"; could he be unaware that the zone's primary occupants are the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy?

Murtha is the point-man on the House effort to derail the war. Too bad he doesn't have much of a clue as to what the surge truly is or why and how it might actually work.

From the "Do I look that Stupid" department...

Also from today's FNS broadcast, we give you Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan. Levin continues pressing the point that in whatever world it is that Congressional Dems now inhabit, up is down, down is up and criticism is support:

WALLACE: Senator, there are several ideas out there about how to change course — either cut off funding — Congressman Murtha, as you know, has come up with the idea of setting benchmarks for how troops that could be sent over that he knows the Pentagon can't meet.
Senator Biden is talking about repealing the 2002 authorization to go to war. What approach do you favor?


LEVIN: Well, hopefully, we can come up with a bipartisan approach. We got seven Republicans who voted with us yesterday. We hope to pick up at least that many and maybe a few more.
I think probably the best approach would be to modify the authorization to the president to go to war in Iraq. That was a wide-open authorization which allowed him to do just about anything and put us now deep into combat in Iraq, and now into the neighborhoods of Baghdad.
We, I think, will be looking at a modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission, and that is very different from cutting off funds.


I don't think there's support to cut off funds. I think that sends the wrong message to our troops. We're going to support our troops. And one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier rather than later.

Host Chris Wallace voiced my own confusion at precisely what it was the Senator was saying in his follow up:

WALLACE: So you're saying that the idea would be to restate what the authorization Congress gave the president is and to say that it doesn't include combat? I'm not quite sure what you're saying this modified authorization would do.

It's all clear now. What he said was, "We're going to support our troops. And one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier rather than later." What he might as well have said was, "We support the troops. So much so, we're going to keep them from doing their job."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Good Day: Bad Week



The United States Senate conducted a procedural vote today involving a nonbinding resolution identical to one approved yesterday by the House of Representatives. The procedural motion supported by Senate leadership failed.

And while it was disheartening to see even 17 House Republicans boarding the S.S. Pelosi, there was some fun to be had at the expense of the analogically-challenged Congressman Ric Keller (R-FL):

Let me give you an analogy. Imagine that you have a next door neighbor who refuses to mow his lawn, and the weeds are up to his waist. You mow his lawn for him every single week. The neighbor never says thank you, he hates you, and sometimes he takes out a gun and shoots at you.

Under these circumstances, would you keep mowing his lawn forever? Would you send even more of your family members over to mow his lawn? Or, would you say to him, you better start mowing your own lawn or there’s going to be serious consequences for you?
Maybe Ric should have kept his term-limit promise...


Congressman Keller is bearing a disproportionate amount of base-anger after this week, but again, he pretty much deserves it. His sound-byte analysis of the Surge was the worst kind of tripe that does nothing to help serious debate in the House or anywhere else:


Rep. Ric Keller (Fla.), a reliable conservative vote, prefaced his statement with an affirmation of support for Bush personally. But, he said, a "surge" of troops had already been attempted in Baghdad. "The benefits were temporary," he said. "The body bags were permanent."

A gentle reminder for the Congressman; bad quotes are semi-permanent and you've strapped an election-year target on your back.

Deja Vu all over the place!




From Glenn Reynolds yesterday:




It seems clear that this really is about a change in tactics more than additional U.S. troops, which I think is a good thing.


It's an Inspector Clouseau moment: "Yes...that is what I have been saying..."


Friday, February 16, 2007

Your Wish

Is my command.

Something to think about

The House GOP is a mess:

I had assumed that after the November elections the GOP on the Hill would hear what everyone was saying to them. But it turns out they got the slogans down, but internalized nothing of the need to engage in a completely different approach to the debates ahead. They are almost completely powerless in the House, and thus are only a rhetorical force. They have nothing but arguments to make to the public, but they are getting rolled in debate after debate because there is no party position that hasn’t been undercut by backbenchers, and there is not anything approaching a communications strategy.

And like I said yesterday, they're not going to get points in '08 from Democrats and Independents for having sided with the new majority on Iraq. So is it just a plain, ordinary, run-of-the-mill deathwish?

The Military is Political

Rich Lowry talks about that Ralph Peters column:

That’s a hoary anti-surge cliché. If Sadr is hiding, it shows just how false it is. The military and political fronts are in constant interaction. It is in response to a military tactic–the surge—that Sadr has apparently taken an action that, as Peters explains today, will have political consequences. It is true that there is no purely military solution in Iraq, but neither is there a purely political solution.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Run Mookie, Run!

Ralph Peters' encourages a propaganda victory in today's column. In a departure from form, Peters’ form borders on snarky, but that’s kind of the point:

The game ain't over until the fat mullah's scared. No matter how he tries to explain it away, Muqtada's public cowardice is going to hurt him - after he encouraged his followers to martyr themselves. There already had been rumors of mutinies in the Mahdi Army that threatened Mookie himself.

One more reason to run.

It's going to be hard for him to maintain his image as an Iraqi nationalist after running to mommy back in Qom or Tehran. To be fair, the Mookster hasn't always done Iran's bidding in the past - but now he's going to owe the Shiraz Sopranos.

Oh, and that trusted source tells me that Mookie's not the only bad actor who's fled the country - he's the marquee act, but the supporting cast took off, too. Leaving the chumps with the push-brooms to deal with the mess.

We and the Free Iraqis shouldn't miss a chance to portray that melon-bellied bigmouth as a wuss. He's always been glad to deliver fiery sermons, but whenever we delivered firepower he disappeared - letting others do the fighting for him.

In the past he at least went to ground on his home turf, hunkering down while his underlings fought and died. This time, his nerve failed him so badly that he jumped the border.

We ought to milk this for all it’s worth, along with whatever else comes after. As Peters later points out, we have a golden opportunity in a part of this fight in which success has eluded us: In addition to taunting Mookie in public, we need to hit his organization even harder - while he's hiding and his courage is in doubt. Nobody wants to die for a braggart who bails out when the flak starts.

Not only does the effectiveness of leaders-in-hiding plummet, but it makes an obvious case - which we've failed to exploit - that the demagogues who order in the suicide bombers and the AK-armed "martyrs" are personally in no rush to enter paradise.
Yes, leaders in any organization have different responsibilities than their line doggies. But real leaders lead from the front sufficiently often to inspire the troops and stay grounded in reality.
What Mookie's hasty hejira to Hamadan tells us is that our fanatical enemies, Sunni and Shia, face a leadership crisis. The dons of terror are afraid.
If we can't take advantage of that, shame on us.


With Mookie on a leave of absence, it behooves us to beat up his thugs (read: “Army”) while ratcheting up the rhetoric about their scaredy-cat leader. We need to make the Mahdi Army a non-player and the propaganda victory would be a welcome change.

Rework 2.0

I finally gave in. Not sure what I think, but we'll see if it grows on me.

Throwing in the Towel

The House GOP gives up:

With Republicans speaking out against President Bush's war policy on the House floor yesterday, GOP leaders and the White House conceded defeat on a resolution opposing sending additional U.S. troops to Iraq and began looking toward the coming battle over the war's funding.

On the second day of a four-day showdown over the nonbinding resolution, Democrats looked on as Republican dissidents denounced what they called Bush's ill-conceived plan to put 21,500 more combat troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war.

They will lose in '08 and they will deserve to. The base will punish them in the primaries and they will get no credit in a General Election for siding with Democrats.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Borderline

The Politico reported earlier today of the Democrat's new 'strategy' in the House:

Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.

The legislative strategy will be supplemented by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign designed to pressure vulnerable GOP incumbents into breaking with President Bush and forcing the administration to admit that the war is politically unsustainable.

As described by participants, the goal is crafted to circumvent the biggest political vulnerability of the anti-war movement -- the accusation that it is willing to abandon troops in the field. That fear is why many Democrats have remained timid in challenging Bush, even as public support for the president and his Iraq policies have plunged.

Murtha and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have decided that they must take the lead in pressuring not only Republicans but also cautious Senate Democrats to take steps more aggressive than nonbinding resolutions in challenging the Bush administration.

The House strategy is being crafted quietly, even as the chamber is immersed this week in an emotional, albeit mostly symbolic, debate over a resolution expressing opposition to Bush's plan to "surge" 21,500 more troops into Iraq.

Later in the day The Victory Caucus posted this, taken from a MoveCongress.org release on the subject: Join us tomorrow at 11:00 AM EST when Congressman Jack Murtha will outline new details of a strategy to use his Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to oppose the Bush war in Iraq. Congressman Jim Moran, another Committee member, predicts the Committee action will be the “bite” that follows this week’s Congressional “bark” – the three-day debate on a non-binding Congressional resolution.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has begun consideration of the president’s $93 billion supplemental appropriations request for Iraq. Action on the request will be the first opportunity for the new Congress to exercise its “power-of-the-purse” over the Iraq war.
Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president’s foreign and national security policy. Chairman Murtha discusses these steps in a videotaped conversation with former Congressman Tom Andrews (D-ME), the National Director of the Win Without War coalition, sponsor of MoveCongress.org.


Join us here tomorrow for this exclusive interview.

My old and faithful copy of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary offers the following as the first definition of treason:

The betrayal of a trust.

I don't know that Congress' stated goal here is treason or treasonous. As a legal matter, for certain this is a question beyond any expertise I own. I do know that it is as obvious a political ploy as I've seen maybe...ever. And it's as incredibly serious an attempt at undermining the President's authority as has been undertaken by another branch of government in my memory.

And it's disgusting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Victory is not an Option?

Or so they say. In the meantime, what exactly is the Surge designed to do? In part, it's intention is to pacify Baghdad and impose a workable security in the capital and far-flung Anbar province both.

Who has caused the largest problem in Baghdad in the last twelve-months? Hint: It's the militia's, stupid. The Godfather of the Shiite militia's is of course none-other than Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Personally, I thought a stray bullet in 2004 would have gone a long way to solving the problem he and his Mahdi Army present. Al-Sadr walked the line at that point and lived to wreak havoc another day.

As the Surge begins, we get word that Al-Sadr has apparently slunk out of sight...all the way out of the country for that matter:

According to senior military officials, al Sadr left Baghdad two to three weeks ago and fled to Tehran, Iran, where he has family.

Al Sadr commands the Mahdi army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad.

Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house."

So what does this mean? Well, I can almost see CQ laughing: "This couldn't have come at a better time. Congress has tied itself in knots trying to opine on what a disaster the surge will be, and before they can vote on a resolution scolding George Bush for wasting resources, he's already chased one of the worst actors out of Baghdad. Nancy Pelosi will be holding a debate to disapprove of a strategy that has already demonstrated success."

The Democrats are so convinced that their "Can't work" rhetoric is true and correct that they risk looking awfully foolish if the situation improves markedly. And should it, I will point and laugh, only after thanking God for the change in fortune.

Onion-esque

No, it's not something from The Onion or a little something Scott Ott threw togeher...

HOUSE HEARING ON 'WARMING OF THE PLANET' CANCELED AFTER SNOW/ICE STORM

Derrrrrr!

For all their "smarts" it's still apparent that most Congressmen and women haven't a clue when it comes to economics:


The minimum wage increase that took effect in Arizona last month has brought with it some unintended consequences--many teenagers are losing their jobs. The Arizona Republic reports some employers say payroll budgets have risen so much since the minimum wage went from $5.15 per hour to $6.75--they have had to cut jobs and hours.

The owner of one Phoenix pizza restaurant says his payroll has shot up 13 percent and he's had to lay off three teenagers and cut hours for others. Another shop owner said expenses rose by $2,000 a month.

A Federal Reserve study showed that for every ten percent increase in the minimum wage--there is a corresponding two to three percent decrease in employment.

No kiddin'...

Ridicule and Scorn

No wonder Dave Spritz walks through life in a haze...

All last week our own Dave told us repeatedly of the rain we should expect nearly every day. And boy, when we get to the weekend...LOOK OUT! Up to 2 inches in some places!

All of which was a crock! The only rain we saw in northern Santa Barbara County came on Saturday night and it was anything but heavy.

How is it possible to take data and forecast out 24-48 hours and be so ridiculously wrong? And I'm supposed to believe that these same folks who put the "ack" in inaccurate have developed models that accurately forecast out the next 100 years?

UPDATE: I'm not the only one...though I feel kinda silly about the whole thing. Not five minutes after hitting the publish button I let the dogs outside. Upon opening the back door it was obvious that my timing was way off. The patio, the grass, the flowerbeds all showed the tell-tale signs of--yes you guessed it...rain.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gloom, Despair, Agony on Me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery!:

The U.S. federal budget surplus widened by 82% in January to $38.2 billion from $21 billion a year earlier, the Treasury Department reported Monday.
The surplus is slightly below the Congressional Budget Office estimate of about $40 billion.
Read more.

January usually as a surplus month because many individuals must make estimated tax payments, analysts said.

Receipts rose 13% year-over-year to a record $260.6 billion, while outlays increased 6% to $222.4 billion, the Treasury said.

Individual income tax receipts totaled $154.5 billion in January. Corporate income tax receipts were $10.9 billion.

For the first four months of the 2007 fiscal year, the deficit was $42.2 billion, about 57.2% lower than the $98.4 billion deficit in the same period in the previous fiscal year.

For all of 2007, the CBO estimates a shortfall of about $200 billion, narrower than the $248 billion deficit in fiscal 2006.

But analysts at RBS Greenwich Capital believe this forecast is too pessimistic. They look for a drop in the deficit to around $155 billion in the fiscal year.

Those durn tax cuts...killing us all, they are!

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all...Gloom, despair and agony on me!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Only in Washington

That's the only place where blocking a vote to end debate--thereby keeping debate open--can be construed as...ending debate and it made for interesting discussion this morning:

WALLACE: Senator, I want to show you something that you said back in 2005 when you and the Republicans were in charge, and you were being sometimes stymied by Democratic efforts from the minority.

Let's put it up on the screen. This is you talking. "I don't think obstructionism sells very well to the American people. It's not a great political tactic, in my judgment."

Fair or not, Senator? Doesn't it hurt your party, and especially the candidates who are up for re-election in 2008, to be portrayed as blocking a vote on a resolution a lot of the American public cares about?

Silly question alert. How is "blocking"--assuming for a second that that's what actually happened (which it is not)--a meaningless resolution, obstructionism?

The Democrats and like-minded Republicans don't need a resolution to make their positions on Iraq or the Surge known. Anybody with a working television knows what they think.

A resolution with no authority to cause or accomplish anything is simply grandstanding. If these men are serious about what they say, they need to step up and act like it. I'm with Chris Wallace on this point:

If you really disapprove of the policy, if you really think it's wrong to send the troops in, you're in the majority in the Senate. You're in the majority in the House. Pass binding legislation to stop it.

My good Senators, it's time to put up or shut up.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Geek Alert


After pulling carpet all day we finally limped back home about eight this evening after a low-key dinner at the in-laws. We're both exhausted and ready to pass out but alas, duty still calls.

My wife, after a hot shower, spent some time wrapping some things up in the office while I sat and baby-sat the puppies, both manic after spending all day and half the evening without mom and dad. As is customary, the boob tube came on. It's perfectly suited for such duty, especially on a night where my mental exhaustion matches the physical.

A few minutes of channel surfing brought me to the local CBS affiliate who was airing not the network's prime-time offering but the still-venerable Star Trek. And not just any Star Trek...

The remastered digital episodes are amazing. Having seen every episode about 100 times since I was about eight years old, I know where each shows it's age and it's 60's sensibilities and technological limitations. These remastered episodes may still show their age but the digital imagery rivals anything that Paramount has done in the last twenty years since launching ST:TNG.

Now I understand just how fully bitter and upset I should have been when my wife refused to buy me the boxed set of the original series for Christmas.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yeah you...

How hard really is it to calculate property taxes correctly? For you, apparently very hard...

Exploding Heads

I got about halfway through the podcast and ran smack into it. The argument that, were it widely heard in some corners would cause heads to spontaneously explode.

In hour 5 of Hugh Hewitt's ongoing series of interviews with Thomas P.M. Barnett this week, we get a discussion of "System Pertubations." And in the course of that discussion came this:

HH: Now to the core and the controversial section of Chapter 5, your argument that the United States needs to be a perturber, that it needs to, and Bush did embrace, the big bang strategy, that the Middle East simply does not work for the vast bulk of people who live there, that that therefore, we went in and turned over all the tables as a response to 9/11. We changed the rules.

TB: Right. And you know, we have that history. I mean, the birth of our country was a rules set reset for the planet. I mean, it sort of said this is a new possibility, this kind of democracy, this kind of government, this kind of new expression of political and economic union. And so we have a history of doing that, and we really did it, I would argue, in enjoining the effort in the Second World War and coming out of it, and creating all those international organizations under Truman, and creating the whole sort of structure for the Cold War, and we were kind of called upon again by 9/11 to say you know, here’s the new package. And we’ve gotten some of the rules out there. I mean, the preemption concept with Bush, I think, is a necessary rule set change. The trick has been how do we get it acceptance among a wide enough array of countries in the world that it becomes not just a perceived unilateralist act by America, but instead becomes a sort of logical expression of the will of a majority of countries on the planet.

HH: Now I want to quote you, I’m sure it’s a line that strikes some of your audience as absurd, and others stand up and cheer. “Not only is the United States government the greatest force for good the world has ever known, but the U.S. military is the single greatest instrument of that good as well.” Now I know that as a matter of statistics, you’ve proven that, just in terms of mission days spent bringing relief to the world where suffering is occurring.

TB: Right.

HH: But nevertheless, that still posits positive good to the U.S. military’s operations in the world, and that must strike some as far-fetched.

TB: Well, I mean, I think you’ve got to look at it in terms of the grand sweep of history. When we saved Europe in terms of a very disastrous civil war in the first World War, we came back and stopped the threat of fascism in the Second World War, and basically have engaged in a long term babysitting operation in Europe that, you know, gave birth to the EU over the long haul. We stood down the threat of the communist socialist bloc, and on that basis, helped liberate 3 billion people in the direction of markets and economic freedom, and hopefully over time, political freedom. We’ve become a huge glue in Asia, and participated in that section of the world’s rise. Yes, there were things we did along the way that were great missteps, Vietnam being one of them. But you have to look at these mistakes in terms of the larger stories that don’t get told, which is when Americans come and stay with their forces, typically, stability ensues, economic integration ensues, and you get prosperity over time and lasting peace. We’re down to the tougher nuts now with sub-Saharan Africa and the announcement today by Bush that there will be an Africa command, which is something I predicted in the second book, Blueprint For Action, and we’re stuck in the Middle East for quite some time. But these are no longer challenges, and no greater challenges than what we faced in the past. We just have to remember our role in history, and I argue that that’s a very, very, very positive role that no other country has aspired to, to the degree that we have.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Titanic Turns


It's been announced that the Ford Motor Company will re-introduce the Taurus for 2008:

Ford Motor Co. today said it will bring back the Taurus and Sable nameplates, rechristening the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego sedans for the 2008 model year.Ford also is renaming the Ford Freestyle crossover the Taurus X. The renamed vehicles will go on sale at the end of summer, Ford said.

For still-inexplicable reasons, Ford eliminated it's number-one seller in the domestic market to much consternation. One of those asking the most questions now runs the company:

One of those asking about the Taurus' last year was Alan Mulally, who questioned ending production when he took over as chief executive last fall.

The Taurus' replacement, the Ford Five Hundred was actually introduced several years back and was to fill the gap after the Taurus' departure. Only it's sales plummeted to under 100,000 units last year.

Credit to Mulally for seeing the iceberg. In an environment where the company is losing it's shirt (and it's pants and almost everything but the kitchen sink) the decision to eliminate it's top brand made no business sense whatsoever.

Where others might have held to the decision, Mulally is hoping (and rightly so IMHO) that a return to the successful nameplate with vehicle improvements will cost his firm less than establishing the replacement brand. In this instance, I think it's the right decision.

The only better decision of course was keeping the brand in production in the first place. Now Mullaly-much like the lookout in the Crow's Nest did--waits to see if the Titanic can turn fast enough.

...nothing the United States might have done...

John Burns of the NY Times: “And my guess is that history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done, except to impose its own repressive state with half a million troops, which might have had to last ten years or more, nothing we could have done would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring.”

Refreshing. Even the self-absorbed pity-party commentary about the Times' role in the pre-invasion build up is worth hearing.

Watch and read the whole thing.

'Heh' of the Day

Air America goes for the bargain-basement price of $4.25 Million. Contrast that with say Salem Communications, the home of Right WingNuts Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and Christianists Janet Parshall and Al Mohler.

A travesty I say, a travesty!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sinking boats and post-dated Memos

Clarice Feldman doesn't think much of the Russert testimony today. To be more specific, it's the cross that sinks the boat in her opinion:

Even the most skillful of reporters in the court like Matt Apuzzo have filing deadlines which usually means that they get the direct testimony but not the cross examination in their first stories. But in this case the cross examination is the story.

Tim Russert, who is a key prosecution witness, took the stand for about 11 minutes today to say that he had not mentioned the name of Wilson's wife in his call to Libby. (Libby's grand jury testimony is that he called Russert to complain about the coverage Chris Matthews was giving the Wilson claims, that the conversation was rather heated and was at one point broken off and resumed later or the following day.)

Then cross examination began, and Russert's credibility as a witness was deeply shaken.

...

In sum, Wells established that (a) the FBI report of his conversations (they say he had two, he only recalls one) made far closer in time to the event indicate he conceded that Ms. Wilson's name may have come up in their conversation though he earlier discounted that as "impossible" (b) In a heated matter involving the Buffalo News, his own memory was faulty. He'd made two angry calls to a critical reporter, denied that he had, and then, after checking his phone records, apologized, asserting he had no memory whatsoever of the calls, and (c) while making an impassioned plea for the right of reporters to protect the confidentiality of sources, he'd already twice discussed the Libby exchanges with the FBI and failed to disclose that to the Court or the public.

From a filing by the prosecutor last evening trying to block inquiry into the accommodations made to Russert for his (total of 22 minutes) deposition testimony in his lawyer's offices, it appears that while this last point was not specifically noted in any pleadings I can see, the defense was provided with the FBI notes which provided some notice to them of the discrepancies in the NBC public pleading and that it contained a false suggestion that Russert had not already cooperated with the government. It is not clear that this Court, or the Court which determined the related case on the reporters' obligation to testify, was ever informed that the Russert filing was false.

I cannot believe that tonight is a good night for Russert or for his colleagues Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory, whom I also expect to be on the stand.

The prosecution filed a motion to block Libby from calling her to the stand. I'd be surprised if that succeeds. The prosecution has also signaled it intends to argue that all reporters were treated gingerly because of the constraints of the Department of Justice regulations. In fact, many reporters who clearly were aware of the Wilson/Plame connection were - like Andrea Mitchell (Russert's colleague who famously indicated they all knew) - never questioned by the prosecution or the investigators. I'll be very surprised if in a case risibly claiming the defendant obstructed the investigation, the defense is precluded from showing that, blinded by his nonsensical view of what happened, the special prosecutor obstructed the investigation himself. We know he granted immunity to the two people who admitted they deliberately leaked Plame's identity (Ari Fleischer and Richard Armitage) and steered clear of so many journalists who obviously knew more about the Mission to Niger and its participants than anyone in the White House did.

I predicted at the outset, the media would regret what they asked for. I was right.

Meanwhile earlier in the day at NRO, Byron York speculated that the round may yet still shift under the entire narrative of Valerie Plame. Absurd no longer describes the circus this has become.

More Profiles in Courage


The lack of resolute resolve for passing resolutions in the Senate is now a moot point. Hugh Hewitt is reporting that the Dems have run away from his fight:

The whole sorry circus has now pulled up stakes and left town, and NRSC Pledge signers are free to resume contributions to the NRSC though, I suspect, they will wait a while to see if the new signs of spine in the Republicans on the Hill carry over until March, April, and beyond.

I interviewed John Thune on the program today and he relayed that while some cordial relations within the GOP caucus have been strained, nevertheless the caucus movement in favor of resolute support of victory in Iraq has been noticeable and sustained.

Frankly, I wasn't sure they had it in 'em. But I'm glad they did.

Doing the Math

In the wake of Monday's failed cloture vote in the Senate, I ran the numbers. The final tally was 49-47, well short of the now-necessary 60-vote threshold. It doesn't add up.

Astute Instapundit reader Charlie Banks noticed as well and brought it to attention:

Regarding the filibuster of the Biden-Hagel and Levin-Warner resolutions:

One thing that I almost never read or hear is that all 49 of the Senate Republicans are maintaining the filibuster and keeping debate open. That includes Sens. Hagel and Warner, essentially aiding in the blocking of votes on their own resolutions.

It certainly says something about the vaunted "bipartisanship" of the resolutions when the Democrats manage to drive off even token Republican support when they move past the committee stage.

Such courage. Given the way this shook out, there is no other explanation; the numbers don't lie and they make sense no other way.

Hagel and Warner voted to keep debate open thereby keeping either of their anti-surge resolutions from coming to a vote. Talk about profiles in courage...

The Soul of the Senate is an empty, decrepit place.

Are they that bad?

Zogby attributes declining movie viewing to poor quality:


High ticket prices (30%) and a dislike for the movie selections (30%) are the top reasons given for falling movie attendance – 13% said they don’t like the crowds in the theater. Those age 18-24 are most likely to complain about costly tickets – nearly half (46%) said high ticket prices have kept them away from the theater. Among older adults, dissatisfaction with the film selections is the main deterrent – 46% of those age 65 or older said this.

More than a third (37%) of respondents said they go to the movies fewer than six times per year – 21% said they don’t even make it to the movies once a year. Overall, 10% said they never go at all.

Lets not forget also that for the better part of 10-plus years we've been fed a steady diet of remakes and rip-offs. The problem is, not only does the movie stink, but we've already seen it!

I thought that was your job?

Expect The Worst In Iraq--

In this bleak situation -- where, as everyone keeps repeating, "there are no good options'' -- what's the right course for U.S. policy? A useful approach may be to start planning, not for the best, but for the worst. Congress and the administration should begin thinking about potential catastrophes in Iraq -- and about how to protect the core national interests of the United States and its allies.

Firing up

The Surge has started, at least in one Baghdad neighborhood. As reported yesterday morning by Pajamas Media correspondet, Omar of Iraq the Model.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Like Swiss Cheese

TM has outdone himself today over at JustOneMinute. First up, another shot aimed at the would-be media coverage of the Libby trial:

Neil Lewis of the Times continues to cover the Libby trial and he continues to deliver his version of the old George Carlin joke, which I paraphrase: "In baseball action, we have some partial scores; it's Detroit 2. Now for the weather..."

My plea to Mr. Lewis - this trial has involved defense attorneys responding to the presentation offered by Special Counsel Fitzgerald; feel free to feature both.

Lewis' piece in yesterday's Times argued that the 'surety' in Libby's voice would be heard wafting through the courtroom and as the jury listened to tapes of his Grand Jury testimony. When they heard said testimony, they would plainly see the contrast between the certainty on-tape and the implausibility of the bad-memory defense.

Of that TM writes:

A parade? I love a parade! But what witnesses did Mr. Lewis have in mind?

Marc Grossman of the State Dept., who told the FBI that he spoke with Libby on the phone about Ms. Plame but told the jury they spoke face to face?

Bob Grenier of the CIA, who told the FBI and the grand jury that he was not sure whether he mentioned Ms. Plame to Libby, but had finally remembered in 2005 that he had?

Craig Schmall of the CIA, who told the jury that he must have mentioned Plame because it was in his notes, but he that he does not actually remember having done so?

Cathie Martin of Cheny's press relations office, who told the jury she briefly mentioned Plame to Libby sometime in June or July; eventually that was dated to June 11 and (my guess) is the Cheney-Plame reference Libby does remember from that period.

And Ari Fleischer and David Addington joined the parade as well.

So, three out of six had a credible memory of discussing Plame with Libby. Three out of six did not.

You can live with .500 if we were talking baseball. While trying for a conviction, I'm not sure that's a resounding case.

Later in the day, there was more (there always is!). Surprise of surprises, it's yet more on the shabby state of coverage and involvement in this mess on the part of journalists, this time Nick Kristof:

A few questions for Mr. Kristof and the Times:

1. Did you meet with both Joe and Valerie Wilson in May 2003 at breakfast when Wilson told you his story, as reported in Vanity Fair?

2. Did you guess, suspect, or know, prior to the Novak column in July, that Ms. Plame had a CIA affiliation? Your Oct 11, 2003 "denial" was overly specific:

I know Mrs. Wilson, but I knew nothing about her CIA career and hadn't realized she's "a hell of a shot with an AK-47,'' as a classmates at the CIA training "farm,'' Jim Marcinkowski, recalls.
Well, I know Nick Kristof is a columnist at the Times but I would not claim to be knowledgable about his entire career. Can we try for a simple yes or no to my much easier question - did you know, suspect, or have reason to believe that she was with the CIA?


3. These other points were covered to my dissatisfaction a while back, but...

Any chance that in a public column, rather than hidden away on your blog, you will acknowledge that your use of the word "behest" in your June 13, 2003 column was an error? In the secret places of the Times website you offered this:

One of the criticisms from the right is that I say that the vice president dispatched Wilson to Niger, but that's incorrect. The wording in the column is simply that Cheney asked for more information about the uranium deal, and then the former ambassador was dispatched. And that’s what happened.

In fairness, though, it is true that Cheney apparently didn’t know that Wilson had been dispatched. If I’d known that I would have said so. And in a later column I said Wilson had been dispatched "at the behest" of Cheney's office; it's true that he was sent in response to Cheney's prodding, but that wording wasn't choice because it can easily be read to mean that Cheney asked for the trip.

4. As to the notion that Wilson debunked the Niger forgeries, you wrote this on June 13 2003:
Officials now claim that the C.I.A. inexplicably did not report back to the White House with this envoy's findings and reasoning, or with an assessment of its own that the information was false. I hear something different. My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower C.I.A. officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members.
Do you want to stand by the claim that lower level officials were told about the forgeries in March 2002? From your secret confessions post we find this:


The better objection is that the references to the documents themselves make it sound as if the envoy may have had the documents in possession, while in fact he didn’t. The U.S. didn’t obtain the documents themselves until the fall of that year. But we did then have the information in them, including the full text and the names of the ministers who signed the contracts. And Wilson was briefed on the details of the contracts in his meeting with C.I.A. and State Department experts on Feb. 19, 2003.

...So could Wilson have debunked documents that he hadn't seen? Well, yes. If he knew details of the contract and reported back that it was implausible, sure. Did he? By the spring of 2003, the problems in the signatures of the documents had been pointed out, but I don't see much evidence that they had been noted in 2002 by Wilson or anybody else. Rather, the debunking of the contract was based mostly on the implausibility of obtaining uranium in Niger because of the way the industry was structured.

So Wilson has said that he misspoke when he made references to the documents to me and to two other journalists.

So Wilson "misspoke". Is it OK with you if Libby tried to get that error acknowledged?

5. You also write this:

But it does seem to be true that Wilson claims to have debunked the Niger deal more firmly than some people remember him debunking it.

Let's recap - Libby was pushing back against a Kristof column that claimed, in error, that Wilson had gone at the behest of the VP; that Wilson had debunked forgeries he had not seen; and that Wilson's report was definitive. And pushing back against that pile of rubbish amounted to an attempt to "discredit" Wilson.

6. Almost done - were you or anyone at the Times aware that Wilson was an adviser to the Kerry campaign as of May 2003? Shouldn't his partisan affiliation have been noted?

We wait anxiously for Mr. Kristof's explanation. Or should I say, we will be waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

Saving the best for last, TM calmly skewers "former prosecutor and current Bush-loather" Christy Hardin-Smith: In Ms. Hardin-Smith's world Special Counsel Fitzgerald walks on water except on those occasions when he elects to spread his angel wings and fly. So let's open the time vault and have Ms. Hardin-Smith tell us how Fitzgerald cracked the cover-up of the June 23 meeting:

The beauty of being a Federal Prosecutor with a mind like a steel trap and a loyal staff of lawyers and investigators is that you have all the means at your disposal to try and track down every single piece of evidence: every scrap of paper, every note, every receipt, every entry log every photo, everything you can get your hands on, before ever asking a question of anyone on the record in court.
...
In this particular matter, what Judy and Scooter forgot is that they are dealing with a professional. Not some slackass, just out of law school, wet behind the ears kid. Not some political social climber who would sell his mother for a Senate seat or a nomination to the Federal bench. Not some guy who was going to phone it in because he didn’t want to piss off the high and mighty and powerful. This guy is a professional prosecutor, who does his job.


Period.

You don’t prosecute the Gambinos, Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, Osama Bin Laden and former Governor Ryan of Illinois just for kicks. Those cases are all long, hard slogs, and potentially very deadly to your career as well as your person.


And when you do your job, you find things like this: all government buildings after 9/11 (and even before 9/11 in a lot of cases) require that you sign in and out. That goes double for buildings where you have the potential for someone being around national security documents or highly placed government officials, because you don’t want something disappearing without some written record of who has had access to the building. You follow the paper trail, the evidence in hand, the usual patterns of behavior, and sometimes even your gut — but it is the little details that nail someone to the wall.

During her first go at her testimony, Judy was evasive and could not recall whether or not she had ever met with Scooter on June 23rd, when asked specifically about this by the Special Prosecutor. (Note to witnesses: If the prosecutor is asking you about a date certain, he has something that he will nail your ass with unless you are completely truthful. Keep that in mind in the future.)

Yeah, yeah, my daughters swoon for Orlando Bloom, so I am familiar with the sentiment.

Anyway, the defense has introduced an exhibit highlighting Fitzgerald's monumentally insightful detective work, to wit,
Libby's calendar for June 23, 2003. Ms. Miller was scheduled for a half hour at 3:00.

Evidently Mr. Steel Trap was able to infer from that subtle clue that Libby had a meeting set up with Judy, and well done!

Too bad Mr. Steel Trap had not asked for Armitage's calendar for June - he would have noticed Bob Woodward's name, and maybe even asked a few useful questions.

Mr. Steel Trap made me laugh out loud. Mr. Steel Trap's case is getting hole-ier by the day. We've got reporters misremembering their muddled recollections, contradicting their own notes and otherwise shooting the prosecution in the foot nearly every day so far.

Posers

"The new majority has pledged fiscal restraint and laments the coming entitlement crisis. This budget puts their words to a test."

Laments the coming entitlement crisis? Maybe they could have stood up and helped the effort to change things two years ago...

A Decidedly Mixed-Bag

Jules Crittenden yesterday did what I can only dream other media would do; he posted the high- and low-lights in Iraq. I only the rest of the media could do their job that way...

Where Dreams go to Die

TM, as only he can do, warms up the Fat Lady at the Libby trial:

WHY I'M YAWNING: TRex, posting at firedoglake, unwittingly delivers a "how dreams die" pre-epitaph to the Plame investigation:

Why It Matters (Plame edition)
...
In the Antarctic, when scientists want to study the air, water, and weather of ancient times, they drill down into the ice and take a core sample, which provides them with a perfect cross-section of each epoch. The Libby case is like an ice core sample of the Bush Administration's incestuous, manipulative, and deeply disingenuous relationship to the media and how they played the press like a concert violin in the run up to the catastrophic set of errors that is the War in Iraq.


We may or may not ever see Karl Rove in leg-irons and an orange jumpsuit, although that would be a delightful cherry on the cake, but what we are learning through testimony about the catty, back-stabbing world inhabited by our major media pundits is not only highly entertaining, but it should serve as a valuable lesson to reporters, writers, and editors who may ever be tempted to let their desire for access cloud their judgement in the future.

We needed a Special Counsel to conduct a two year investigation in order to demonstrate that Administration officials leak to favored reporters and that reporter's notes can look like spaghetti?

I'm an educated man and I could have spoken intelligently to the habits of White House officials and the press which covers them long before this Administration even took office. Now, are these really the questions Special Counsel Fitzgerald was called here to answer? Judy Miller's shopping bags and Matt Cooper's notes? Please tell me that he has something more. Please tell me that the prosecutor has not pinned his hopes to a phone log.

Ahh, well. A quick trip down memory lane should revive memories of the real spirit of Fitzmas - little cherubs smiling as Fitzgerald indicted twenty-two members of BushCo, Rove in chains, Cheney in chains - those were happier, headier days.

Now, Fitzgerald has successfully demonstrated that government officials leak to and attempt to manipulate the press. Who knew?

I'm hard pressed to believe that Hollywood could have come up with a funnier caper...

Name from the Past

Here's one that kind of flew under the radar: Former teenage tennis phenom Andrea Jaeger has admitted she tanked matches during her heyday in the 1980s, including a 1983 Wimbledon final loss to Martina Navratilova.

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