Friday, March 30, 2007

Why Senators suck

Via Instapundit:

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL . . . er, until the long haul actually, you know, happens. Here's what Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden said in 2002:

Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein's, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after -- or, more accurately, the decade after -- Saddam Hussein.

Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill.

So, it was a project for a decade then. But now it's cut-and-run. (Via The Corner).

When the going gets tough, the tough get running...er...um...

Local History: Gone fishin'

I had occasion yesterday at work--for reasons already forgotten--to speak with my sales manager about Surf Beach. I referred him to the web for some information about the only beach access in town.

In the course of his search we came across this set of archived photos, courtesy of Lompoc History Museum, via the city's website. I learned all kinds of things.

I didn't know that Teddy Roosevelt came rolling through town in 1903, stopping for a brief appearance at the Surf Depot. I didn't know about the Shriner's train wreck in 1907 or the eerily similar wreck near town 70 years later.

But what I really didn't know--and am quite grateful to learn--is that you can fish with just a roll of string and a rifle.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dead but not buried

McCain is toast:

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.“You’re really wondering?” Downey said he told Weaver. “What do you mean you’re wondering?”

“Well, if the right people asked him,” Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, “The calls will be made. Who do you want?” Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey “are very good friends.” He claims, however, that Downey is grossly mischaracterizing their exchange: “We certainly didn’t discuss in any detail about the senator’s political plans and any discussion about party-switchers, generically, would have been limited to the idle gossip which was all around the city about the [Democrats’] aggressive approach about getting any GOP senator to switch in order to gain the majority. Nothing more or less than that.”

Downey said Weaver is well aware that their discussion was much more than typical Washington chit-chat.

“Within seconds” of arriving home from his lunch with Weaver, Downey said he was on the phone to the most powerful Democrats in town. One of the first calls he made was to then-Senate Minority Leader Daschle.“I did take the call from Tom [Downey],” Daschle said in an interview. “It was Weaver’s comment” to Downey that started the McCain talks, he added. Daschle noted that McCain at that time was frustrated with the Bush administration as a result of his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary.

Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”

Absolutely not so, according to McCain. In a statement released by his campaign, McCain said, “As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period.”

As Dean Barnett puts it: Nevertheless, this incident illustrates a perfect storm of McCain’s shortcomings in a way that none of his other bi-partisan adventures do. The vanity, the immature pique of anger, the utter indifference and disloyalty to the people who voted for him and the party that supported him – they’re all on naked display. And it ain’t pretty.

This story if true, and honestly even if it isn't, demonstrates to Republicans everywhere just why McCain isn't the guy. The problem is that he even appears capable of what The Hill has described, not even whether he actually did actively pursue a switch.

Memo to the good Senator: Party loyalty matters.

Lost: Paulo lies!


Last night's episode would have made Poe proud; truly elegant in it's sadistic simplicity.


UPDATE: J-Pod hated it: let me say that Lost has grown so absurdly bad that it's now alternating between its pointlessly convoluted central mystery-within-a-mystery-within-a-mystery — which clearly its own creators no longer understand or can follow — and unbelievably stupid episodes like the one last night, which was little more than a Twilight Zone knockoff.


I empathize and understand his frustration about the over-arching plot line, but last night's episode having nothing to do, essentially, with that plot arc was a breath of fresh air. It was pure, simple, unadulterated, mean fun in the jungle.


It was the first time in nearly a season-and-a-half my wife and I have turned off the tv with a smile and a snicker. Relatively speaking, rip-off or not, it was a pleasure to watch.

Preach it brother!

Stan in Santa Maria takes a different--and I would argue refreshing--tack in this gripe-fest about the recent increase in gas prices on the Central Coast:

For gasoline consumers to better understand the cost of a gallon of gasoline, a few facts may help clarify what goes into making up the price that we pay at the pump.

California mandates that all gasoline must meet higher standards than required by federal standards. Thus, the gasoline produced here is available in very limited quantities from sources outside the state. When our supply and demand is out of balance, due primarily to refinery maintenance and occasional process interruptions, our specially formulated gasoline must acquired at then-prevailing prices and shipped in from out of state. Buying commodities at near-term spot market prices is not cheap. In addition to our state-mandated boutique gasoline formulation, our air-quality gurus have mandated that we also must add ethanol to each gallon. Ethanol is not produced here and must be acquired and shipped in from Midwestern producers. Ethanol requires special tank cars, storage in special tank facilities and blending into the finished gasoline, adding about 15 cents to the cost of a gallon.

Our fuel formulation requirements are not enough to cause our higher prices and, indeed, there is more to the story. A significant part of the price we pay at the pump is for taxes. California is among the higher-taxed states and, true to form, we pay among the highest gasoline taxes in the country. State and local taxes add about 24 cents a gallon, while the feds collect another 18 cents. Taxes make up about 20 percent of the price at pump and, guess what, the county sales tax is effectively indexed to the total price because it is charged on top of all the other costs and taxes! I wonder why we don't hear much about gouging from our local politicians?

So, when we feel the need to complain about high gasoline prices, let's not forget to direct some of our unhappiness toward local, state and federal politicians and air quality elites as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why I like Newt

Hugh interviewed former speaker Newt Gingrich earlier today. I look forward to listening to the entire thing when the chance arises. In the interim, I read the transcript and I must say, it was another fine example of what and why I love Newt Gingrich.

He's intelligent, conservative and not afraid to call a spade a spade. The best example of that was this exchange that Hugh noted in his own post on the ongoing crisis involving Great Britain and Iran:

HH: Super. It wouldn’t be a debate, just a conversation. Now let’s get to the first major issue of the day, which is Iran. Mr. Speaker, if the United Kingdom feels obliged to use force, if diplomacy fails to get their people back, will you applaud?


NG: I think there are two very simple steps that should be taken. The first is to use a covert operation, or a special forces operation to knock out the only gasoline producing refinery in Iran. There’s only one. And the second is to simply intercede by Naval force, and block any tankers from bringing gasoline to Iran…


HH: Would you do, would you urge them…

NG: And say to the Iranians, you know, you can keep the sailors as long as you want, but in about 30 days, everybody in your country will be walking.


HH: So how long would you give them, to give them that ultimatum, the Iranians?

NG: I would literally do that. I would say to them, I would right now say to them privately, within the next week, your refinery will no longer work. And within the following week, there will be no tankers arriving. Now if you would like to avoid being humiliated publicly, we recommend you calmly and quietly give them back now. But frankly, if you’d prefer to show the planet that you’re tiny and we’re not, we’re prepared to simply cut off your economy, and allow you to go back to walking and using oxen to pull carts, because you will have no gasoline left.


HH: I agree with that 100%. Would your recommendation to the United States President be the same if Iran seized our forces?

NG: Absolutely. I mean, the reason I say that, it is the least violent, least direct thing you can do. It uses our greatest strength…you know, the mismatch in Naval power is absolute. And so you don’t have to send troops into Iran. Everybody on the left is waiting for conservatives to say things that allow them to run amok and parade in San Francisco, and claim that we’re warmongers. I want to avoid war by intelligently using our power to eliminate the option of sustaining an economy, so that the Iranian dictatorship will be shown to be the hollow dictatorship it is, so the people of Iran decide they’d like to have a decent government with real electricity and real gasoline, so they overthrow it. And I want to do that without risking a single American life, or being engaged in a single direct confrontation. And Naval power lets you do that.

Sounds an awful lot like Newt read the scenario examined here back in December from the desk of Arthur Herman. It is, as is pointed out, direct and while not without risk, the option with the highest likelihood of success. Not just because of Iran's inability to stop it but because also of our ability to execute it.

And as for pushing Iran over the edge, aimed at driving it's government from power--we ought give serious consideration to just about every idea aimed at accomplishing that.

More signs of Global Warming

This one in my own back-yard:

It was announced earlier in the week that the always-popular Summer barbeque series is returning...in March.

Scuttled as last summer wound down, the ever-popular weekly workplace barbeque returns for the summer in early spring as sunshine begins to invade our little piece of the California coast.

I thank Global Warming for bringing back this fine tradition for an extra two months this year!

A purely Partisan Congress?

Now that the Congress is in Democratic hands, life is better and things run more smoothly, right? Well, not in the House.

Susan Ferrechio writes in CQ (hat tip to The Corner):

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday that during the upcoming two-week recess he will craft changes in the pay-as-you-go spending rules adopted in January (H Res 6) so that the GOP can no longer blindside the majority with broad and politically loaded motions to redraft legislation.

"We don't think that's appropriate," Hoyer said. "We don't think that serves
the legislative process, and we're going to address that."Like the Republican majority that ran the House before last fall's elections, House Democrats have been allowing the minority a last chance to amend or kill a bill during floor debate by offering a motion to recommit,or send the measure back to a committee with orders to make specified changes.

While such motions have traditionally been of limited use to the minority,Republicans have been able use the tactic successfully this year, thanks in part to the House's new pay-as-you-go rules for spending or tax cuts.

Democrats have had to include language in legislation that would provide away to pay for the measures. That has expanded the range of redrafting motions considered germane, or relevant to the legislation being debated.

Republicans have been offering motions to add language that is politically difficult for some Democrats to oppose.

And in it I see floating about as sub-text, every criticism the Democratic minority threw at the majority b/t 1994 and 2006. It's not so easy running things when the minority decides it wants to defeat something, is it Steny?

The insufferably indistinguishable Chuck Hagel

Earlier in the month I referred to Chuck Hagel as indistinguishable; as in indistinguishable from Senate Democrats on walking away from Iraq. This week Hagel ups the ante and moves into full-blown publicity-seeking idiocy.

First, he exposes his constitutional illiteracy and then on the very next day abandons his party on the Iraq supplemental. A fine week and it's still only Wednesday. Why again, exactly, is it this man thinks he could ever win the Republican nomination for President?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bribery still pays

This time 'round in the Senate. Glenn has his customary round-up with snarky commentary (No, I don't think Glenn is a snark but he can be and is often...usually at exactly the right time an at the righ pitch):

THEY'RE RUNNING AWAY WITH THEIR LITTLE CURLY TAILS BETWEEN THEIR LEGS: The Senate has just passed an Iraq withdrawal bill, which like the House bill was laden with pork to buy votes.

It's a disgrace, but par for the course for this bunch.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, read this from Jules Crittenden.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Driscoll comments: "Not at all a surprise, of course. But very far removed from how they were actually elected in the first place."

And Don Surber itemizes some of the pork and observes: "Disgusting is too nice a word for people who voted to send troops to Iraq in 2002, and less than 5 years later play political chicken with funding for those very troops."

You don't need a weathervane to know which way the wind's blowing. Just a copy of the Senate voting record.

MORE: Bob Krumm looks at the bright side: "Perhaps President Bush will finally veto a pork-laden spending package."

Heh. If he'd started doing that sooner, he probably wouldn't be facing this problem now.

Surber is right; disgusting doesn't quite cut it but for lack of a better (or more acceptable for family-blogging) adjective, this is disgusting.

And you voted for it America, lets not forget...

Taken Aback

What does it say about our culture when a pure act of simple honesty draws stares and elicits derisive comments? How low have we sunk?

On Sunday--a mere 12 hours after our Grand Opening had finally concluded--we found ourselves on the road to L.A. for the 2007 Spring Flower & Gift Show at the LA Mart. Ably hosted, the Mart offers an amazing array of vendors and goods for everybody from local florists to large design firms and wholesale buyers from all kinds of chains.

The showroom that elicits the most sideways glances and interesting commentary is undoubtedly Katherine's (as a quick glance at the product lines will make clear). Nothing in our experiences over the course of the day, however, drew anywhere near the kind of reaction (from us or anyone else) than my wife's aforementioned act of simple honesty at lunch.

Already tired from just 3 hours and only 2-floors of shopping, we traipsed back down to Barkley's deli on the main floor for lunch. Two of our five grabbed a table outside while the rest of us ordered.

The menu was quite full of intriguing options but what caught most of our attention were the nicely priced lunch specials. Feeding five on the road is not an inexpensive venture and we liked the idea of keeping it simple, quick and, yes, cheap. After all was added up, my wife paid out the $21.00 and followed us out to the table.

In the course of picking up our offerings, our friend and floor manager mentioned to my wife that she couldn't make the charges add up based on the menu pricing. Sure enough, she was right. By our calculation, we should have paid $28.00 for lunch and not $21.

When we ordered the line had been long; when my wife went back to the counter it took less than half-a-minute to get to the register and make the dastardly statement: "I think you under-charged us. We owe you $7.00."

The looks of incredulity from the clerks were surpassed only by the dumbfounded expressions on the faces of customers now in line behind her. One couple, in the middle of a conversation stopped on a dime while the gentleman turned to stare, apparently incapable of understanding what he'd just heard.

Meanwhile the clerks, thankful for being saved the consequences of a short till at the end of the shift, thanked my wife and collected their shortfall while my wife and I and our companions shook our head over the commotion we'd just created, figuratively if not literally, by such a simple act.

So I'm left wondering exactly what such a simple thing means. At a gathering of professionals, am I to believe that most or at least many of the business people there think it's okay to short a payment? Is that acceptable in their firms? In their homes?

It is a simple but large question that I leave behind then: what does it say about us when such a simple act can draw such reactions?

Monday, March 26, 2007

"He didn't!"

Oh, but he did.

Uncle Sy takes another step down the seemingly bottomless ladder of ridiculous behavior. Michael Rubin wonders how much Seymour actually pays attention:

Some of the assumptions, theories, and observations voiced by Seymour Hersh in this interview ("Iran is probably the most democratic country") with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting are astouding[sic]. He appears not to have read, or to have fully discounted, the IAEA inspection reports.

Me? I just wonder where he gets off peddling this garbage...

The political asendance of South Africa

Daniel Drezner provides his take on Michael Wines' article on South African foreign policy development. This month marks the first time that a democratic South Africa has sat as president of the United Nations Security Council. Some would argue that this event could be viewed as a victory for morality in international affairs, given the strong pressure placed on apartheid South Africa during the 1980s. But as Wines points out, Pretoria's stewardship of the Council is off to a rocky start:

After just three months as one of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa is mired in controversy over what could be its great strength: the moral weight it can bring to diplomatic deliberations. In January, South Africa surprised many, and outraged some, when it voted against allowing the Security Council to consider a relatively mild resolution on human rights issues in Myanmar, whose government is widely seen as one of the most repressive on earth. Last week the government again angered human rights advocates when it said it would oppose a request to brief the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where the government is pursuing a violent crackdown on its only political opposition. South Africa later changed its stance, but only after dismissing the briefing as a minor event that did not belong on the Council’s agenda. This week South Africa endangered a delicate compromise among nations often at odds — the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. The major powers agreed on an arms embargo, freezing of assets and other sanctions against Iran, but South Africa proposed dropping the arms and financial sanctions and placing a 90-day “timeout” on other punishments, which critics said would have rendered the sanctions toothless. “I’m not gutting the resolution,” Dumisani S. Kumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, told news agency reporters this week. “I’m improving it.”

As a result of these actions, South Africa has come under heavy criticism for not pursuing a course based on the same human rights and non-proliferation agendas which ultimately lead to the end of apartheid, greater equality and stability for South Africa itself.

Wines mentions several possible rationales: Pretoria's cozying up with Beijing, advocacy for UN reform which will make it a bigger player and splits within the ANC with regard to what role South Africa should play on the world stage. Drezner chooses a variant of the former:

Me, I buy a variant of the first hypothesis -- South Africa is becoming a normal country pursuing a realpolitik foreign policy. If this means coddling dictators in Harare and accomodating rising powers in East Asia, so be it. It should also be pointed out that they're not the only country in the Southern African region to be acting this way. From an IR theory perspective, however, post-1994 South African foreign policy might represent an ideal test of the power of ideas and norms to influence a middle power's foreign policy -- and the test suggests that ideas don't count for a lot. However, that's just my take based on a very surface-level scan of Pretoria's behavior.

Having spent some time in South Africa and having followed the nation's politics ever since, I would tend to agree with Dan's analysis plus the the third rationale advanced by Wines. Foreign policy is very often an outgrowth of a country's domestic politics. While I agree that South Africa is behaving as a normal country in pursuing its economic and political self-interests via realpolitik, I think it is also fair to say that there are divisions within the ANC that reflect a struggle between the party's revolutionary origins and that of true democrats faced with the realities of ruling. Let's not forget that the Mbeki government has questioned the link between HIV and AIDS and refuses to condemn the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe for fear that it will invite foreign solutions to 'African problems.' These leftover dependency concerns framed within a North-South context represent vestiges of the old ANC mentality, which are clearly in opposition with the more realistic, market-driven agenda which Mbeki also pursues. Nonetheless, an interesting question worthy of monitoring.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The debate in Washington hasn't caught up to the realities in Baghdad

The key line from this piece in the Weekly Standard:

If the Democrats get their way and Gen. Petraeus is undermined in Congress, the progress may indeed prove short-lived. But it's time to stop thinking so hard about how to lose, and to think instead about how to reinforce and exploit the success we have begun to achieve. The debate in Washington hasn't caught up to the realities in Baghdad. Until it does, a resolute president will need to prevent defeatists in Congress from losing a winnable war in Iraq.

I've wondered ever since the debate on the Surge began how the Democrats thought they could argue against themselves and three years worth of their own advice. Seems in the two months since all that they are no closer to understanding that this represents a very change they asked for years ago.

Now faced with the answer they begged for they still can't bring themselves to support the President simply because he might be right...

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Series: What's in The Nation

This afternoon I decided I needed something to laugh about. It's been a tough, tough week of work and I've devoted far too much of my time to slaving on behalf of the sales morons with whom I have to work (apologies to any sales-types in the audience). So I needed a cool-down. Something that would kick my weekend off in a good way. A variety of thoughts and considerations suddenly lead me to the belly of the beast, Christina Vanden Heuvel's hovel, The Nation.com. While there I perused the offerings to see what might appeal to me in such a battered and brutalized state. There was the expected Bush hatred, Halliburton, class warfare, Plame (still), and Iraq doom and gloom faire. But what caught my eye this afternoon was this preposterous title:


Ha, ha...ha.....ha....ha....ha, ha, ha....ha....ouch......oh.....ha.....ha,ha, ha...stop....stop....my sides are hurting. Now that was good. Just what the doctor ordered. The piece starts here: Al Gore is not one of those Power Point politicians, which is ironic since Gore has been selling his Inconvenient Perverication routine via PowerPoint for twenty years, but I progress. And it ends here:

Gore has something of the 19th century about him. He is almost courtly in his manners. He can talk to Republicans, at least of the non-flat-earth variety. He has a deep voice and sometimes he thunders as few modern politicians can. At the same time you would be hard-pressed to find another major public figure so conversant with such a wide span of technology and with the earth, air, fire and water problems which are reaching crisis proportions in our century. It has been so long since we have seen one that we may not remember what one looks like. We may not recognize that Al Gore has become a statesman.

Seriously, stop it! This isn't fair! I'm having a coughing fit.

Anyway, after recovering from this episode, I quickly decided that I need to start doing a series about some of the hilarity that one can find over at David Corn's pone-y home. I think I may do them on Fridays since that seems to be a point in the week when we could all use a little comedy break. So until next time, this is your roving seeker of humor signing off.

Stirring the Pot

Iran stirs the pot:

Hot off the Dow Jones newswire. This may be nothing, it may be 1979 redux, or it may be a provocation that turns into a legitimate casus belli. Reuters reports:

LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - Iran captured fifteen British Royal Navy personnel during a “routine boarding operation” in Iraqi waters on Friday, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
Iran’s ambassador in London has been summoned and Britain is demanding the immediate safe release of the sailors.


“At approximately 1030 Iraqi time this morning, 15 British naval personnel, engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters ... were seized by Iranian naval vessels,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level and on the instructions of the Foreign Secretary, the Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office. The British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Dumb Leading the Blind

As he's wont to do, Thomas P.M. Barnett cuts to the chase with an interesting overview of U.S. development efforts in Iraq. Barnett assembles a series of articles on the topic and brilliantly explicates for us:

This is classic stuff: the idealists and can-do types in DC constantly overridden by the realists and the not-invented-here types on the ground in Iraq. The former don’t realize what they can’t do and the latter know all too well all too much about all the things that will never--ever--be done in Iraq. This is the dumb leading the blind. Regional experts tend to go native, constantly telling you how “that won’t work here” for all these idiosyncratic reasons, while the functional experts assume their one-size-fits-all. Between them there’s almost no one with any serious private-sector experience making all sorts of decisions regarding market and generating business activity. How screwed is that?

He goes on to discuss the integration of the Iranian and Iraqi economies but draws conclusions that may ruffle the feathers of the know-it-alls:

Please don’t give me that crap about Iran “winning.” All this economic connectivity will change Iran more than Iraq, and the former will play Poland to the latter’s Russia.


Pet Food mystery goes Local


Beans is a sick little kitty. One of two belonging to local resident Ramona Lopez:

Beans, 9, has a catheter stuck into one furry little foreleg. She looks thin and her expression seems dour. She is suffering from kidney failure.
She and her feline buddy, KC, also stricken with kidney failure, are resting at the West Valley Veterinary Clinic after apparently eating food that was recalled because of contamination.

KC, a black cat, is normally 18 pounds; he now weighs 12 pounds. Beans, normally 10 pounds, has been reduced to six pounds.

Owner Ramona Lopez, of Lompoc, said her cats appeared to become sick three weeks ago after eating the Special Kitty brand foil pouched cat food she bought from Wal-Mart.



I wonder Why...?

The Today show clip of Senator Feinstein declaring in committee that the WH is in a "bunker mentality," over the US Attorney non-scandal was a priceless moment. I was frankly speechless and the only thing that did come out finally was a question: I wonder why?

Why would the WH be defensive when Congress has spent 4 years criticizing it's performance in Iraq, blaming it for everything that went wrong in Katrina despite the miserable showings of the local and state officials in Louisiana? Why would the WH be defensive after 4 years of being labeled as liars over it's pre-war case for attacking Iraq, or for the way that men and women of the Senate and Congress have kept alive the "WH outed Valerie Plame" meme?

Congress is truly a gathering of the least self-aware people on the planet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ooops

It didn't take long and we found out who the mystery creator of the Hillary 1984 ad was. Sadly, for Phillip de Vellis it also didn't take long for his firm to react:

This afternoon, an employee at our firm, Phillip de Vellis, received a call from Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post" regarding the "1984" video currently circulating online. Initially, de Vellis refused to respond to her requests. He has since acknowledged to Blue State Digital that he was the creator of the video.

Pursuant to company policy regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise, Mr. de Vellis has been terminated from Blue State Digital effective immediately.

Small problem...Blue State Digital works for the Obama campaign and Mr. de Vellis' extra-curricular activities are the kind of thing that makes firms put in that position rather unhappy.

On a side note, he likely won't even make it through the mandatory waiting period for unemployment before he's scooped up by some other agency somewhere else to perform such magic for some other candidate. Under proper supervision of course.

US Attorney non-scandal scandal: Why the President picks a fight

Start here for a quick primer on the question of Executive Privelege.

Quite a job


Congress truly is kicking hiny and taking names! Read John Hinderaker's take as to why. I personally can't argue with any of it.

Buying a Mandate to short-circuit success (Or, how Democrats are running to get behind the curve in Iraq)

A conversation with General Petraeus reveals what about the Surge is working and why. Yes, his optimism is tempered and wisely so but for the first time in months--even years--it seems we have a reason to hope that things can get better.

So while you might imagine, think or hope that in the light of the first good reports in who-knows-how-long that Democrats who begged and begged for a change in course would be willing to set aside their partisan criticisms for a time and see if we can make the necessary changes on the ground in Iraq. You would of course be wrong.

No, instead you can review here--along with all the attendant-and richly deserved-snark you could want--the Democrat's efforts to bribe their way to a majority on provisions within the Iraq supplemental funding bill that would kill funding for the war. For my money, GayPatriot put it best: "...I thought the Democrats had a 'mandate' on Iraq? Why do they need to buy votes?"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I don't care where it comes from



'Cuz it's marvelous.

I'm just waiting to hear about how it's some right-wing sleazeball's handiwork rather than the wholly obvious choice. Besides, thats how some guys roll.

UPDATE--Stopped before it could start: Lefty blogging rocket scientists have it all figured out!:

One thing that makes me think this was not a G.O.P. hit is the viral flow pattern. I first saw the ad on MyDD, right before it jumped to Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo, on March 5. Those are pro-Democratic sites, and that's the same day other Democratic political technologists started getting the ad e-mailed to them. I asked Josh via instant messenger where he got the link from, and he says a friend of his who knew the ad's creators sent it to him and that "the person assured me the creators were not tied to a campaign or a political org" and that "i took it as a given that they were dems [given who was doing the iming] and that they liked obama and that that was the point of their creating the video."

US getting a break with Iranian Nukes?

Russia is taking it's ball and going home:

Russia is bringing home its technicians and engineers from Iran's unfinished nuclear reactor site at a time of growing international pressure on Tehran to curb its atomic ambitions, U.S. and European representatives said Tuesday.

Although both Russia and Iran officially say their differences are financial, the dispute has a strong political component that the West hopes could result in Moscow lining up closer behind U.S.-led efforts to slap harsher U.N. sanctions on Tehran for refusing to freeze
uranium enrichment.

The representatives--a European diplomat and a U.S. official--said a large number of Russian technicians, engineers and other specialists were flown to Moscow within the last week, around the time senior Russian and Iranian officials tried but failed to resolve differences over the nuclear reactor outside the southern city of Bushehr.

Russian officials deny links between the dispute over Bushehr and Iran's nuclear defiance. But two senior European officials, speaking separately, said Moscow recently dropped all pretexts and bluntly told Iran that Russia would not make good on pledges to deliver nuclear fuel for Bushehr unless Tehran complies with the U.N. demand for an enrichment freeze.

If that last 'graph is true, maybe we're catching a break. Or maybe it's some sort of cosmic karma after the big dump Putin took on the US vis-a-vis Iraq...

The Iraq War Anniversary

This past weekend's peace marches coincided with the four year anniversary of the onset of the conflict in Iraq. It's always interesting to listen to these people even though you often find yourself scratching your head. That said, I came across a pretty interesting take on the peaceniks over at American Digest (hat tip to our pal The Chin). While I don't agree with all angles of the piece, it makes some very cogent points and is well worth the read.

Anna Nicole Smith saga: Judge nailed for smoking Pot in public

That would explain some of the surreal jurisprudence we saw in court, I suppose:

Just when you thought the Anna Nicole Smith saga couldn’t get any weirder, the Florida judge who heard evidence on the DNA paternity test was busted for pot possession!

TMZ.com reported yesterday that Judge Lawrence Korda was caught by the cops allegedly smoking weed on a park bench in Hollywood, Fla., over the weekend.

The judge was given a notice to appear in court. The offense is punishable in the Sunshine State by a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Plame: Who outed Who?

Cliff May, while commenting on this piece by Byron York, wonders aloud the thing that some others have likewise wondered but that no one seems willing to take head-on:

So I ask again: If Armitage and Novak did not believe Plame was (or had formerly been) undercover, where did that idea come from? The answer: It was first raised in a story by the Nation’s David Corn. And the only source named in that story is Joe Wilson, who had a close relation with Corn and with the Nation.

Does this suggest it was really Wilson who exposed his wife’s covert status and did so, in league with Corn, as a way to damage the White House? If there’s a more logical or likely interpretation of the facts as we now know then, I haven’t heard it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The March 18th, 2007 FNS Sunday Show-palooza

Quite the morning at FNS.

First off, Senator Schmuck Schumer's conflict of interest, or "Senator Specter almost grows a spine":

WALLACE: This week, you said that New York Democratic Senator Schumer -- that his role leading the investigation into the U.S. attorneys at the same time that he's running the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is a conflict of interest. Has he crossed a line here?

SPECTER: I think he has. And I confronted Senator Schumer on it eyeball to eyeball on Thursday in the Judiciary Committee meeting.

But let's look at what the facts are. Senator Schumer is leading the inquiry, and the day after we have testimony about Senator Domenici, he puts his name up on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, criticizing or really making the argument that he ought not to be re- elected.

Now, I think that the inquiry by the Judiciary Committee ought to have at least a modicum of objectivity, and if Mr. Schumer is doing a job to defeat Senator Domenici, which he is now -- that's his job as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee -- that he puts it up on their Web site the very next day, and then he has made very conclusory and judgmental statements all along.

And I challenged him on that a week ago in the Judiciary Committee, and he calls it a purge, and he's taken a very political stance. Now, he's got a right to do that. He's a politician and I'm a politician.

But I don't think he can do both things at the same time without having a conflict of interest, but that's up for him to decide.

WALLACE: Senator, we only have about 30 seconds left. Are you calling on Senator Schumer to step down -- if he's going to continue this political effort, are you calling on him to step down in terms of leading the investigation?

SPECTER: Nope, I'm calling on him to use his own judgment on that. If I call him to step down, somebody's going to say Arlen Specter is trying to stifle this investigation, and I'm not.
I've been totally cooperative, as all of my Republican colleagues have been, with this investigation. But when he has a conflict of interest, I'm not going to be afraid to say so
.

I would have been more encouraged to hear him truly go after Schumer on the issue but I'll take what I can get. The fact that he even brought it up is worth a brownie-point or two.

Next on the agenda, an interview with the man that you almost made President, John Kerry. It's too painful to put in words my utter disbelief that this man came within a state of the Presidency. Read the transcript and you'll understand.

Of course we wind down as always with the panel discussion, with this week's edition far more animated than many as a result of the topics: Valerie Plame and Iraq. It wouldn't be Sunday without the usual Juan Williams bitch-slapping and this time around we get two for the price of one. First on Plame:

WILLIAMS: Well, let's question somebody else's credibility. What happened to President Bush who said, "You know what, I'm going to investigate this and look into whether or not there was any such activity in my White House?"

According to the White House chief of security this week, he knows of no such investigation.

HUME: Can you imagine what would have happened once a special prosecutor had been named if the White House itself was still trying to conduct some type of inquiry on this?

LIASSON: He can do it now. He can do it now.

WILLIAMS: Of course he should -- the president said that he was going to do it, Brit, and apparently nothing was done.

HUME: It was done, if my memory serves, by the Department of Justice, which we are...

LIASSON: Wait a minute. What the president said is if anybody leaks anything in my White House, they're going to be out. That's different investigating the whole Plame...

HUME: And the guy who did leak it is out.

LIASSON: One of them.

HUME: Well, you say one. There was only one leak that ever mattered. And that was the one that first brought her name into the public eye. That was not done by the White House or through the White House. It was done by a guy at the State Department.
WILLIAMS: So it's only the first knife into the back that counts. All the other knives, that's okay.


HUME: Juan, look. Once something is out, it's out.

Second on the cautious optimism on the Surge:

WILLIAMS: Someone is trying to compromise with you, Bill. Someone is trying to say here is a reason -- OK, immediate withdrawal -- you think that's wrong, that might endanger American national interests. We'll do it slowly. We'll try to encourage some political development.

Chris asked Mara, "What about what's going on on Capitol Hill?" I think the key development here is the lack of political progress in Iraq. Where are the Iraqis in terms of making deals and allowing some kind of consensus government to form?

They're not helping. Why are we putting our people at risk?

WALLACE: Brit?

HUME: Well, Juan, two points. First of all, one of the critical elements in a political compromise that is thought necessary here is a petroleum revenue distribution measure.

WILLIAMS: Right.

HUME: The cabinet has now completed that, and it appears that it is on its way to passage. That's one thing the Iraqis are doing.

The other thing is you heard the military spokesman say this week was that the Iraqis have stepped up, they have sent the units into Baghdad they've said they would.

They are clearly trying their best to hold up their end of the bargain. So in two areas there, you have the Iraqis making a difference.

The other thing is we used to have a problem in places like Sadr City that U.S. and combined U.S.-Iraqi units couldn't go in there to try to sweep that place because it was too politically sensitive because of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Well, the Iraqi government has given the green light to all of that. Muqtada al-Sadr has gone to ground, thought to be in Iran, and the Mahdi army has melted away.

So just on those three counts alone, Juan, it's fair to say that while we're a long way from any kind of final success here, the Iraqi government has stepped up. They are doing something different. The strategy is different.

And the problem with the debate in the Congress as I see it at the moment is that the Democrats seem impervious to the fact that something genuinely new is being tried there. That doesn't mean it's going to work, but it does mean that it is something different.

WILLIAMS: No, but here's the thing. The Pentagon this very week, Brit, said this is a civil war. They're using that language that has been resisted by the White House and by Republicans. It's a civil war.

The second thing to say here is...

HUME: Well, all that may be, Juan, but would you dispute that militarily at least some signs of progress are evident, and that on the political side there are signs of progress evident there as well?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's why you have military people in this town calling it, you know, by this derisive term, the "whack-a-mole" strategy.

You've got a huge surge right now. Some people withdraw. Some people wait. Are we going to be there forever to try to hold peace between warring sects?

HUME: Evidently.

WILLIAMS: That's not the American military interest. That's not why we should be there. So, yes, for the moment, you look like you have a decrease in violence, but you know what? It's not anything that we can say is now in place to offer a stable future for Iraq or for our interests in the Middle East.

HUME: Things are better or not?

WILLIAMS: Better for what? For the moment?

HUME: Well, that's the only time we can talk about here.

Juan apparently didn't catch that little tidbit of polling news earlier in the weekend. Like I said though, it just wouldn't be Sunday...

The NY Times 'Duh' of the Week

Courtesy of Mickey Kaus from yesterday:


U.S. military deaths in Iraq have apparently declined by about 20% since the "surge" began. It would be a caricature of MSM behavior if the New York Times, instead of simply reporting this potentially good news, first constructed some bad news to swaddle it in, right? From today's Times:

The heightened American street presence may already have contributed to an increase in the percentage of American deaths that occur in Baghdad.

Over all, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq from hostilities since Feb. 14, the start of the new Baghdad security plan, fell to 66, from 87 in the previous four weeks.

But with more soldiers in the capital on patrol and in the neighborhood garrisons, a higher proportion of the American deaths have occurred in Baghdad — 36 percent after Feb. 14 compared with 24 percent in the previous four weeks. Also over the past four weeks, a higher proportion of military deaths from roadside bombs have occurred in Baghdad — 45 percent compared with 39 percent. [E.A.]

Soldiers presumably get attacked where they are, not where they aren't. If we deploy more soldiers in Baghdad more soldiers will presumably be attacked, and killed, in Baghdad. I don't see why that in itself is bad news, or even news news, if the overall casualty level is declining.

I used to have a foil in the ether-world of Internet message boards who continually harped on how the US had brought nothing but hardship and destruction to Iraq. In reply, I often would exclaim back to him in mock surprise that I'd been unaware that nothing good had happened in that country since August 1st, 1990.

I just didn't realize that he apparently worked at the NY Times...

Iraqi's chime in on Iraqi non-civil-war civil war

Or something like that...

Don Surber nails this thing head on:

But this was the big news:

Another surprise was that only 27% believed they were caught up in a civil war. Again, that number divided along religious lines, with 41% of Sunnis believing Iraq was in a civil war, compared with only 15% of Shi’ites.

Not even a majority of the Sunnis say it is a civil war.

I guess the American leftist media forgot to tell the Iraqis that Iraq is having a civil war.

Either that or Iraqis are all watching Fox.

Read it all to get the full snark effect.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Valerie Plame goes to Washington!

And makes little sense. The Cornerites offered some play-by-play earlier in the day and several have more thorough reflections.

First, Byron York on the issue of the mysterious recommendation of Joe Wilson:

At her appearance before the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Valerie Plame Wilson flatly denied playing a role in the choice of her husband for a CIA mission to Niger. "I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him," she said. She also testified that a Senate Intelligence Committee report which concluded she did suggest her husband was wrong.

In particular, Mrs. Wilson said a CIA reports officer who, according to the Senate report, told Senate investigators that she had suggested her husband, "came to me almost with tears in his eyes. He said his words have been twisted and distorted."

Tonight a key senator is disputing Mrs. Wilson's testimony. In response to an inquiry from National Review, Senator Christopher Bond, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, released the following statement:

I stand by the findings of the Committee’s report on the Niger-Iraq uranium information, including the information regarding Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

We have checked the transcript of the comments made to the Committee by the former reports officer and I stand by the Committee’s description of his comments. If the reports officer would like to clarify or change his remarks, I’m certain that the Committee would welcome his testimony.

We have also checked the memorandum written by Ms. Wilson suggesting her husband to look into the Niger reporting. I also stand by the Committee’s finding that this memorandum indicates Ms. Wilson did suggest her husband for a Niger inquiry. Because the quote [the portion of the memo quoted in the Senate report] obviously does not represent the entirety of the memorandum, I suggest that the House Government Reform Committee request and examine this memorandum themselves. I am confident that they will come to the same conclusion as our bipartisan membership did.

Having not seen or heard any of the hearing I have no concept if any members of the committee were quick enough to ask the obvious questions about the difference in testimonies and recollections, but they should have.

Moving forward, Former U.S. attorney and NRO contributor Andy McCarthy notes our gal Val's conflation of Rank with Status:

Valerie Plame Wilson said in her testimony that she continued to be "covert" while working at Langley — long after her assignment overseas — because she had been covert while working overseas. Her analogy was to a general in the army. A general, she said, remains a general even if he is rotated from combat overseas to a post in the U.S.

This seems pretty silly to me. It conflates RANK with STATUS. The better analogy, I think, would be to a DEA or FBI undercover agent. When the agent is on the undercover assignment, he/she is "covert"; when the agency ends the U/C assignment and transfers the agent (often to a supervisory position), the agent is no longer covert, even though aspects of the former assignment remain closely guarded.

Obviously, when an undercover agent moves onto new, non-undercover responsibilities, that does not mean all entanglements of the covert assignment are over. If, for example, there were classified aspects of the assignment (e.g., the agent's cover was a sham corporation that the agency is still using for undercover purposes), or if the agent, while covert, reported information that is still regarded as sensitive or classified intelligence, all that remains closely guarded (perhaps even classified). So, to that extent, it can still be said that the agent has "covert" responsibilities.

BUT, that doesn't mean his or her day-to-day responsibilities are any longer covert. The agent, for example, walks in and out of headquarters everyday, like hundreds of other people, because there is no longer any imperative to conceal his/her connection to the agency.

We don't know all the facts necessary to render a definitive judgment, but it sure seems like Mrs. Wilson is using the continuing sensitivity of facts about her formerly covert STATUS to suggest, misleadingly, that she continued to have a covert RANK once she returned back home and was assigned to headquarters — where a zillion people a day saw her walk in and out of CIA and the Agency was obviously not trying to conceal the fact that she worked there.

Friends of Joe and Val have continued to equate the meanings of covert and classified, it seems attempting to use them interchangeably while in the highly sensitive world in which she operated each has a specific meaning and application. All, seemingly, to the end of so confusing the two that CW ossified and it is now somehow beyond questioning that Valerie Plame, super-double-secret agent was ruthlessly outed for political purposes.

Life > Blogging


And will be that way for I-don't-know-how-long. See you when I don't know when...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCAA Tournament Update #1: This is why we watch

I walked into the last glorious minute of it and enjoyed every second..as VCU downs Duke.

As upsets go 6-11 isn't huge but it is going to leave a mark on the perennial powerhouse from Durham.

Heh.

It is that time of year, after all!


Q & A



Q: What is scarier than this?

A: Lots of things, this not the least of them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why the US Attorney scandal isn't a scandal

Courtesy of David Frum today:

1) Nobody has yet adduced a gram of evidence to suggest that anyone did anything wrong. All we know is that the White House replaced 8 political appointees with 8 other political appointees.

Not the sharpest tool in the shed

Kevin Drum offers proof again that...well, the Peter Principle is alive and well. Harsh you might ask?

Probably, but this is the guy who told us that Bill Burkett was credible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Shredded

Yesterday while sitting-in at Instapundit, TM noted an academic "study" that purports to prove that the Bush Administration has set an all-time record for Political profiling of Democrats while in office. And today, some guy I've never heard of at Stubborn Facts shreds the study mercilessly.

I've said it before and I make no claim to expertise but I spent 3 1/2 years working in research. Pat's analysis is not overly-complex and that more than anything indicts this study as the piece of junk it is.

Read it all then marvel and laugh.

The Indistinguishible Chuck Hagel

It's been believed for a while by some that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel had intended on announcing a run for President this week. That was the buzz when he announced a press-conference for first thing yesterday, only to hold the press conference and do nothing of the sort:

Hagel called a news conference on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha on Monday morning to say that he and his family would not make a decision about the 2008 race right now. The national media followed Hagel to Omaha, anticipating a new presidential candidate.

ABC News political director Mark Halperin said the so-called "Seinfeld announcement" -- the label many have put on the non-announcement -- may have fed the attitude that Hagel is too quirky to run for president.

K-Lo made this observation while the presser was going on yesterday:

Hagel...is going to have a hard time rallying anyone wasn't simply waiting for an antiwar Republican to join the field.

That is true and it is a more elegant enunciation of my own position. Said position is simply this: On the most important issue of the day, the Senator is indistinguishable from most Democrats. That is a recipe for primary defeat, a sort of Zero-percent Solution.

I'd like to believe that Hagel put on the brakes because he's wising up. I'm not sure I do believe it however...

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Dogs are Smarter (Or, What an appetite!)

In his masterful puppy-biography, John Grogan recounts the numerous things his over-grown playmate stole from his family and ate in the 13-years that Marley shared their home. The list was extensive.

I've mentioned it numerous times before but it seems genetic; Lacy will and does eat anything, much like Marley would. While reading of the misadventures of Marley, I recognized immediately how and where he and Lacy shared the worst of all the canine traits.

To date the most bizarre thing that Lacy has managed to consume is still the first thing I wrote of. That harrowing tale of sock-swallowing helped name this venture and I've yet to run across another dog or it's owners who've shared any such experience.

Until I read Grogan's book. His chapter on the culinary habits of the domesticated Yellow Lab begins with a veiled reference to a similar sock-swallowing episode. It is never made clear whether Marley's love of socks led him to a similar fate as Lacy's on that night 3 years ago but by the end of the chapter, I didn't hardly care...so engrossing was the tale of everything else Marley consumed.

Just last week for no reason in particular my mind wandered back to this question of which behavior was stranger...which animal had the more bizarre appetites for destruction. That led me to wonder what was the strangest thing we've ever seen or come home to find destroyed beyond recognition at the mercy of Lacy's jaws.

Though I never wrote of it, the most irritating display of poor judgment from her came about a year ago when she decided to shred a stack of checks that lay interspersed with cash overnight on the dining room table. I awoke one Saturday morning to find the remnants of $1,100 worth of fundraising efforts in pieces on the living room floor. In that year since she's managed not to outdo herself. Until yesterday.

Upon returning from church we found one item and one item only removed from the neat stack of paperwork left on the table. As is usually the case it takes several minutes of study in order for a determination of just what the damage is.

On this day it became clear within seconds that Lacy had grabbed the mortgage statement from the top of the paperwork pile and ripped it to shreds. This would be the first mortgage statement from the new lender. The first payment on the new loan...the new loan that was born from months of agonizing roundy-round with our broker and the lender both.

Thankfully though, apparently only the right half of the statement tasted good as the other remained in large enough parts that we pieced together the customer service contact. And today I honestly did call them to tell them that my dog ate my statement.

Democrats on TV: Inspired to mockery

Maxine Waters gave an inspiring performance on FNS yesterday. Inspired to mockery, I gladly give you the highlight of the morning's inanity.

After spouting the usual garbage about how Bush lied and they all died, she let fly with this gem. Here is the exchange:

WALLACE: Congresswoman -- and I want to make it clear that you want to get all troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, but you also make it clear you want to fund it, as you say, to make it safe, to make it thoughtful.

But let's talk about your policy and what would happen if all U.S. troops are out of Iraq by the end of 2007. Don't you worry about a possible -- it's been called genocidal blood bath between the Sunnis and the Shia once we're out of there?

WATERS: Well, let me just say this. And I don't think there's any problem with leaving some of our soldiers what we call over the horizon, in Kuwait someplace, to help respond to a major catastrophe of some kind.

But don't forget, the Sunnis and the Shiites were getting along before we went in with our occupation, and I don't think that we can use the argument that if we're not there, it's going to be a bloodbath, or they can't manage to do what they were doing prior to our being there.

Too dumb for words...

I can understand the desire on the part of some for an unqualified withdrawal of US forces. They don't like seeing US soldiers blown up and of course, none of us do. But the ignorance (willful or otherwise) displayed in that comment is mind-numbing.

You voted to put people like this back in a position of power, America. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What do you really think?


Idiotic is the first word that comes to mind. But there are more, most not fit for family-blogging:


Americans’ clocks will spring forward three weeks earlier this year (2 a.m. Sunday, March 11), but more than half of Americans (54%) say they’re relaxed and haven’t really thought about the change, a new MSN/Zogby Poll shows.


But one in four (23%) say they’re excited about this year’s early time change – they’re looking forward to the longer daylight and a chance to conserve energy. Those living in the Eastern U.S. are more likely (27%) than those living in other regions to be excited about this year’s early time change.


Some may find themselves out of sync with everyone else March 11 – 16% had no idea daylight-saving time would be any different this year. Younger Americans are most likely to fall into this category – 21% of those age 18-29 say they are clueless about this year’s time change, compared to just 10% of those age 65 and older. Women (19%) are more likely than men (13%) to draw a blank about daylight-saving time.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Oliver Rose Strikes Again!


Very War of the Roses-ish...




Police in the eastern town of Sonneberg said on Friday the trained mason measured the single-story summer house — which was some 8 meters (26 feet) long and 6 meters wide — before chain sawing through the wooden roof and walls.


"The man said he was just taking his due," said a police spokesman. "But I don't think his wife was too pleased."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

America getting Richer

The AP reports today that the net worth of US citizens is up in 4Q07: The net worth of U.S. households climbed to a record high in the final quarter of last year, boosted mostly by gains on stocks, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.

Net worth — the difference between households' total assets, such as houses and bank accounts, and their total liabilities, such as mortgages and credit card debt, totaled $55.6 trillion in the October-to-December quarter.

That marked a 2.5 percent growth rate from the third quarter, the previous quarterly record high. Stocks gains helped fuel the increase in net worth, although real-estate gains played a role, too.

But of course, the sky is falling all depending on who you read. I'd simply offer that it's feasible to have different parts of the overall economy performing...differently. Happens all the time; doesn't mean it's the end of the world or heaven-on-earth.

Anyway, I just find such stats as these humorous in light of all the nay-saying that's been going on about Bush's horrible economy.

Almost the last Plame Post: Memes are like Cockroaches

You can't kill them. That's the conclusion I'm reaching.

The Bush Administration is destined forever to be associated with a political smear campaign that never was anything like what has hardened into Gospel fact. Democratic strategist Jano Cabrera's explanation is plenty succinct on this point:

But Cabrera said if Bush does pardon Libby, “he may not have the last laugh. Pardons, often the last acts of outgoing Presidents, sometimes — fairly or unfairly — end up epitomizing the administrations themselves. Bush pardoning Libby would just serve as a living reminder that in his rush to war, his administration smeared those who would raise questions and placed more of an emphasis on PR than on actually securing the country.”

And no one in the Media is aware enough to counter and the Administration that knows they've gotten the short-end, won't.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Obligatory Sports Post

I missed it in all my busy-ness. Then again, it's starting to become part of the scenery and par for the course. Bastards:

Gonzaga, which finished the regular season one game ahead of Santa Clara (21-10) in the WCC, have won eight of the last nine WCC tournaments, with the streak interrupted only by San Diego in 2003.

Game Over

Dean Barnett offers an observation that is, at best, very unsettling about the conduct of the Libby prosecution. Not anything new on the political right; a lot of people are not enamored of the way Fitzgerald handled himself in this.

Dean's observation is more disturbing because it gets to the heart of the matter in a context that is more discomfiting for the ease with which we can identify with the dynamic. I can't and won't speak for anyone other than myself but I don't want a prosecutor acting-out this way:

And yet there’s something about this case that still strikes me as unsettling and unnerving. For political reasons, the purportedly aggrieved parties of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame got their own private prosecutor whose entire job was to make sure someone went to jail because of the scandal in which the Wilsons were the featured players. Even as the main charges turned out to be unfounded or at the very least un-provable, an undeterred Fitzgerald fought on, determined to get someone, anyone, thrown in jail.

As I watched Fitzgerald give his presser yesterday, I didn’t get the sense that this was a man who thought justice had been done. No, his satisfaction was more akin to the athlete who had just won a big game. And the loser was Libby, even though he had no interest in taking the field.

Preemptive strike

TM promised a preemptive strike yesterday in wake of Media Matters' promise to address "numerous myths and falsehoods," surrounding the Plame matter. Here is Strike One.

My personal favorite:

Let's have one more from Media Matters:

Libby's leak was an effort to set the record straight. Critics of the CIA leak case have repeatedly claimed that the indictment stems from an effort by Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney to rebut a purportedly inaccurate attack on the administration by Wilson. According to these critics, Wilson falsely accused Cheney of having sent him to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from the African country. In fact, Wilson, in his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, did not say he was sent by Cheney. Rather, Wilson wrote that it was "agency officials" from the CIA who "asked if I would travel to Niger" and "check out" a "particular intelligence report" that "Cheney's office had questions about," so that CIA officials "could provide a response to the vice president's office."

My goodness - did the story really begin with Wilson's July 6 op-ed? They why was Washington buzzing about an anonymous Ambassador in June? Evidently Media Matters' subscription to Google has lapsed, but let me help.

Nick Kristof, May 6, 2003,with an anonymous source later revealed to be Joe Wilson:
I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.


Nick Kristof, June 13, 2003:
Condoleezza Rice was asked on "Meet the Press" on Sunday about a column of mine from May 6 regarding President Bush's reliance on forged documents to claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. That was not just a case of hyping intelligence, but of asserting something that had already been flatly discredited by an envoy investigating at the behest of the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Summing up Libby the Steyn way

As only Mark Steyn is capable of doing, of course:

The lies about who leaked Mrs Wilson’s name, the lies about what her husband was told in Niger and what he reported back to the CIA and how he got the job in the first place, all these are still out there. And in particular the leaker Armitage – who remained silent as the drip-drip-drip of speculation corroded the Administration’s integrity month in month out – remains a beloved figure on the social scene, full of delightful asides and amusing gossip. Only the peripheral lie about the minor lie arising from major lies is to be punished.

The Bush Administration can be faulted on several grounds for its conduct here, but one of its earliest errors was apologizing for the notorious “16 words” in the SOTU that started this thing:

''The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The British government stands by that statement. So does Lord Butler, in his investigation. In stepping back from the statement, the Administration showed an astonishing political ineptness, and in effect legitimized Wilson’s core grievance.

Three years on, meanwhile, MI6, the French and others still know far more about what’s happening on the ground in Africa. The real scandal has always been that the world’s most lavishly endowed intelligence agency’s idea of an investigation is flying in a politically-motivated tourist for a long weekend.

I'm with his NRO colleagues, this never should have happened but it did. And now an Administration notoriously bad at meme-killing and communicating in general will wear this like an albatross, regardless of the fact that there was no conspiracy aimed at punishing poor Joe Wilson.

And as for Richard Armitage and Colin Powell...the less said the better. Their behavior in letting the WH flap in the breeze for years goes beyond disgraceful.

MORNING UPDATE: Joe Wilson--"one of the biggest liars I've ever seen skate across the Washington stage." Joe Scarborough was torqued last night.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Congress to give Iraq 80 days to fulfill promises

Did I miss the coup?:

Rep. Jack Murtha is expected to lay out his Iraq plan later this week to the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. James Moran, D-Virginia, told CNN Monday.Murtha will propose initially giving Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki 80 days to "fulfill the promises" he made to the Bush Administration, Moran said. Namely, there must be fair sharing of Iraq's oil revenue between the three main ethnic groups, the Iraqi constitution must be approved, and there must be "sufficient security" in Baghdad.

Murtha's plan calls for redeploying U.S. troops during the subsequence six months after the 80 days expires if the Malaki government does not meet those benchmarks.

When was Jack Murtha put in position to be making such decisions anyway?

Fitz gets his scalp

Scooter Libby found guilty on 4 of 5 counts against him:

Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted Tuesday of obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI in an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was accused of lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to reporters.

Apparently you can do the time when there is no crime.

Iraq: Just how many reasons were there, exactly?

In catching up on the backlog of podcasts, I ran across this hour which included clipped comments from everybody's favorite Senator from Delaware. Listening to Joe's prattling on about reworking the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq reminded me of this offering--also from last week--from VDH.

Compare it to Joe's wilfully obtuse comments on the "reasons" we went to war in Iraq. Namely, these:

There were numerous reasons to remove Saddam — 23, according to the Congress that authorized the war — but the administration privileged just one, the sensible fear of weapons of mass destruction. That was legitimate and understandable, and would prove effective so long as either a postwar weapons-trove turned up or the war and its aftermath finished without a hitch.

Unfortunately neither proved to be the case. So with that prime rationale discredited, the partisan Congress suddenly reinvented itself in protesting that it had really voted for war on only one cause, not 23. And when the news and evidence both went bad, that lone reason was now pronounced null and void and hardly a basis for war.

23 is not 1. I feel no sympathy for Joe or Hillary or any other Democrat who cries foul here; "I was lied to!," offers no real haven. If you were stupid enough to be fooled into war, why would I want you anywhere near any important national decisions?

What does 'Minimally Involved' mean?

That's my line. Numerous people have asked exactly how involved will I be at the shop. My answer is nearly always the same.

This is a four-person deal, yes but only two are working full-time and I am not either of them. "I'm minimally involved."

My employer asks how much might this endeavor potentially interfere with your work here? "It won't. I'm minimally involved."

Sim wonders what I'll be doing. "I'll be in on the decision making but won't do much of the day-to-day stuff...I'm minimally involved."

Friends have asked similar questions. You guessed it; "I'm minimally involved."

So what exactly does that phrase mean? For as easy as it rolls off the tongue, it's rather vague.

Well, on Opening Night at least, it meant that I was the guy at the shop 'til 10:45 working with the IT guy getting the computer systems up and running.

I'm minimally involved, yes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

If Health Insurance is a right...

why does it show up in my employee handbook under 'benefits'?

Obliatory Sports Post

Interesting:

The Chicago Bears reached a preliminary agreement to trade running back Thomas Jones to the New York Jets on Monday for a second-round draft pick.

A person familiar with the trade told The Associated Press the Jets will give up a second-round draft pick, 37th overall, for Jones, who rushed for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns in helping the Bears make the Super Bowl. The person did not wish to be identified because the trade has not been officially announced.


The 28-year-old Jones must pass a physical before the deal is complete. The Jets also would receive Chicago's second-round choice, No. 63 overall, in the trade. New York would surrender the second-rounder it received from Washington in a previous deal.

The Jets have been looking for a No. 1 running back since Curtis Martin was sidelined a year ago by knee problems. Martin is expected to retire.

Jones, who also has played for Arizona and Tampa Bay, had big postseason performances this year. He rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC championship game win over New Orleans, then had 112 yards on 15 carries in the Super Bowl. He has one year remaining on his contract.

The Bears have decided to go with Cedric Benson, their first-round pick (fourth overall) in 2005, although Benson has not done much yet for Chicago. He also injured his knee in the Super Bowl and had only two carries for minus-1 yard.

I'm never a big fan of giving up the known for the unproven. But then I'm not a GM.

American Politics: Where have all the Christianists Gone?

If today is any indication, they've turned Left: This past week the pro-gay, pro-choice, twice-divorced Republican from a Northeastern state received just two less votes than the highest vote getter in a straw poll conducted in one of the most conservative Southeastern states. Also, at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC convention over the weekend, this “moderate” candidate, again came in second to a different primary opponent. And when you factor in “second choice” votes, he resoundingly carried the field. Meanwhile, at the same conference, a very conservative pundit makes an anti-gay remark and is denounced for it–not just by Democrats, but by most Republicans as well.

I thought that the GOP was supposed to be the hate-mongering christo-fascist theocratic party. What happened?

Couple that with this from later in the day:

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards says Jesus would be appalled at how the United States has ignored the plight of the suffering, and that he believes children should have private time to pray at school.

Edwards, in an interview with the Web site Beliefnet.com, said Jesus would be most upset with the selfishness of Americans and the country's willingness to go to war "when it's not necessary."
"I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs," Edwards told the site. "I think he would be appalled, actually."


Edwards also said he was against teacher-led prayers in public schools, but he added that "allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only OK, I think it's a good thing."

In the interview, the former North Carolina senator discussed how he lost touch with his day-to-day faith during college, but that it "came roaring back" after the death of his 16-year-old son, Wade, in 1996.

Edwards has often cited religion as a part of his politics, frequently linking his efforts to fight poverty as a matter of morality.

For all the problems that remain in dealing with poverty, I find it difficult to believe that Edwards actually believes that we ignore suffering in the United States. I've got 5,429,739,000,000 examples that say we don't do anything of the sort.

Living in the 80's (Or, Old Media habits Die Hard)

Working for a newspaper I'm far more familiar than I care to be with the arguments that papers are doomed: doomed to lose readers, thereby doomed to lose money etc., etc., ad-infinitum. While I see it happening, I will tell you the dirty little secret that ought to accompany those reports.

That is, newspapers--while still behind the eight-ball due to a late start--understand the need to move from print to online and into other delivery vehicles. In some cases, the online edition's 'circulation' can sometimes outpace the print circulation. At the NY Times, Bill Keller's recent comments about the future of his product intimate just that.

Suffice it all to say, media habits are changing and will continue to.

In the meantime I've noticed that media habits die hard, particularly for people in my age cohort and older. Take for instance my in-laws.

I love them dearly...always have and always will. But they still get their news like it's 1985.

As a teenager in the early 80's, the routine was always the same in my house: watch the early local edition of the news at 5:00 o'clock, again at 6:00 followed by the network news (Tom Brokaw and NBC being the preferred provider). At 7:00, take a break with some Jeopardy and/or Wheel of Fortune which led into the night's prime-time offerings. For a nightcap of course, what else...local TV news again at 11:00, assuming anyone was still up that late.

During the run-up to Green Thursday, the four of us spent many an evening planning things out over dinner; sometimes at our place, sometimes theirs. Every night at their house was the same. In the background, pretty much everything I've just described.

It isn't that they're not 'connected'; I personally connected their DSL. For them though the Internet is a distraction, not a destination. It is for email and whiling away a spare half-hour at the end of the day at MSN.

It is not where you go for your news. That's still what the anchorman is for.

I read Hugh daily and I've read and believe I understand his concept of new media and how it drastically differs from the 'old'. His longer-term vision of how the new will replace old media-gathering habits I believe is correct. I'm just not convinced it's near as far along as he sometimes believes.

Media habits die hard.

I'll let the Professionals handle this one

Russ in Orcutt looks out at the American economy and sees a looming disaster:

The Bush administration has preached lowered taxes as pure panacea, relying on growing our way out of deficit spending.

Former advisor Gregory Mankiw dissents, saying “cuts in income taxes, long term, deliver a boost that recoups less than half of the lost revenue.”

...

We cannot go on failing to pay our way, trusting that trickle-down theory will succeed. We can well afford higher taxes levied on a far more progressive basis. I find it sickening to see young people die defending us in a questionable war while we the fortunate indulge ourselves with tax breaks.

Unless we demand realistic fiscal responsibility, we are headed for deep trouble. The current boom will not last. When it finally ends, it may seem like 1929 all over again.

As to watching young people die while the fortunate indulge themselves...well, sounds like Russ has some issues to work through. Meanwhile, I'll let a professional tackle the other point(s):

The U.S. stock markets were looking for a correction for some time now and on Tuesday they found it: a 3.5% sell-off across the board. The plunge follows a 20% run-up that began last summer, and some analysts believe it was overdue. Indeed, 3% corrections are normal and healthy. Legendary financier J.P. Morgan knew this a hundred years ago when he told a congressional panel that prices fluctuate. But the trigger for Tuesday's drop undoubtedly came from China.

The Chinese have sent a Shanghai flu across the globe. There is talk in China's government circles of slowing its boom and the "speculative" stock rise that has taken place over the past 18 months. Higher reserve requirements for banks, tighter interest rates, stricter implementation of a capital-gains land tax, and perhaps some form of capital controls are all in the rumor mill. This sounds like root-canal advice from the U.S. Treasury and the IMF, which somehow are dissatisfied with 10% growth and 2% inflation in China. France, Germany, Japan or Latin America should have it so bad.

At home in the U.S., there are still housing-slump worries and concerns about an inventory correction in autos and factories. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan this week even predicted a recession, naming the budget deficit as the cause. Huh? The deficit is evaporating as record tax revenues are being generated by a solid economy, itself a function of the low marginal tax rates put in place by President Bush.

Current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is looking for a soft economic landing, and I agree.A quick tour of the data: Consumer incomes keep rising amidst low unemployment and record job creation. Ditto for business profits -- the mother's milk of the economy and rising stocks. Exports are strong. An inventory correction, which helped knock fourth-quarter GDP down to 2.2% from 3.5%, will pass. As yet there is no evidence that a sub-prime mortgage lending problem is spreading. There is no economy-wide credit crunch. And bond rates are a low 4.5%, adding more value to stocks. The prosperity boom is alive and well.

In fact, using a modest 8% growth estimate for 2007 earnings, and capitalizing that profits forecast with a 4.5% bond yield, shares appear to be anywhere from 15% to 25% undervalued today. Put another way, the 6.7% forward earnings yield of the S&P 500 compares very favorably to a 4.5% Treasury bond or a 5.7% A-rated corporate bond.

The high-tech, productivity-driven U.S. economy is more durable and flexible than its liberal-left critics will ever admit. It is a private-sector free-enterprise economy, not a government-planned one. Innovation is strong and entrepreneurial spirits are high. The four prosperity killers, a paradigm coined by Arthur Laffer many years ago, all look dormant: inflation, taxes and regulatory burdens are low, while free trade keeps expanding.One of the most underrated aspects of this bull-market economy is the sharp drop in marginal tax rates on capital formation. After the levies on capital gains and dividends were reduced to a scant 15% in 2003, the supply of easy capital surged, holding down real interest rates and expanding internally generated liquidity. This, plus record profits, has been the major source of the new-liquidity generation that has fueled stock markets at home and abroad.

Liberal seers have been predicting the downfall of U.S. stocks and the economy several times a year since the Bush boom began back in 2003. Yet at comparable points in the business cycle, wages and wealth have outperformed during the current expansion.

My advice to investors is to remain optimistic and stay in stocks for the long term, since economic freedom is the tried and true path to growth and prosperity. Isaiah Berlin wrote many years ago that hedgehogs always win the long-term race against foxes. Message to the investor class: Hold that thought.

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