Monday, April 30, 2007

You know you're incompetent when...

You're getting pilloried from both sides. George Tenet's memoir and the obligatory "60 Minutes" interview are the target of much criticism, not just from the hard-core Bushies as it were. He's also gotten clobbered today from some hard-core anti-Bushies as well.

First things first though. Bill Kristol fires an opening salvo about a purported exchange between Tenet and widely-hated neocon Richard Perle on September 12th 2001. Tenet's biggest problem here is the simple fact that Perle was out of the country on that date. Oops.

NRO is full of fine prose today devoted to Tenet's tome. The Editors speak here, Andy McCarthy blasts away here and Victor Davis Hanson's thoughts from Saturday are here.

The best part of this whole attempt at CYA at the CIA is hearing what former CIA types think of the former Director and Medal of Freedom winner. They published their thoughts here.

Strange bedfellows Victor Davis Hanson, Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson are. The fact that such disparate minds can find common ground on the subject of George Tenet's tenure speaks volumes about just what kind of job Tenet did at CIA.

Movie Review

More like a constant bore.

Question of the Day

Has Bill Belichick lost his mind?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ode to Harry

Harry Reid, pilloried in prose yesterday:

Would Rockne be remembered
If the towel he had tossed?
Forget about the Gipper, boys
This game’s already lost.

Would Lincoln be a hero
And on pennies be embossed
If he announced that, after Shiloh
This Union, friends, is lost.

Would Caesar have surrendered
Before the Rubicon was crossed?
Did Ulysses pull the plug
When his barque was tempest-tossed?

Would Perry’s flag be flying
Would hist’ry gip a rip
If, on it, he embroidered“Do give up the ship!”

If we’d been bowed by setbacks
Or our opponents’ fury
Nothing would have happened
On the deck of the Missouri

So in the battle of our lifetime
If I can be the chooser
I’d rather keep on fighting
Than declare myself the loser.

A master-work from the pen of Tarzana Joe!

It makes one wonder

Brian Williams' question to the Democratic candidates during Thursday night's debate about their response to the destruction of two American cities has caught the attention of at least one or two folks on the right. One would think the answer to Williams' question is fairly obvious and straight-forward.

Not for the left however...or at least it appears that way. Both Dean and Byron rightly note the hesitancy of presumed presidential heavy-weights like Obama and Edwards to "get military" in response to the proposed hypothetical.

I'm left wondering what--if as apparently this scenario wouldn't--exactly would wake the Left from it's anti-Bush, anti-war, everything-but-anti-terrorist stupor and force them to get serious.

When is a civil war not a civil war?

Michael Novak explains:

Two false assertions are being made these days about the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq. The first is that they have been fighting one another for ages. The second is that they are currently waging civil war upon one another.

Shiites and Sunnis have lived in rather remarkable proximity in many cities of Iraq, with not a few intermarriages, and for many generations. They have often boasted of being Iraqis first, before being Sunnis and Shiites.

The most influential Shiite Imam, Ayatollah Sistani, has been amazing for his peacekeeping and calming effect, urging the Shiites not to seek revenge and, instead, to turn to democracy and peaceful ways, rather than futile combat. In fact, Imam Sistani has been so successful at this preaching that, in desperation, al Qaeda dramatically changed strategy during 2005. They viciously destroyed the old, revered, beautiful “golden dome” of the mosque in Samarra. They stepped up their campaign to terrorize other Shiite mosques and the worshipers attending them.

Al Qaeda members are virtually all Sunnis, from foreign countries, and they care not a whit either for Iraqi Shiites or Iraqi Sunnis. Their strategy for 2006 was to commit horrible atrocities against Iraqi Shiites, so that the hotheads among them would unleash death squads against the Sunnis in retaliation. Then the Sunnis would retaliate against the Shiites. This was not real civil war. It was a contrived and phony ploy to bait each side into fighting the other, while the foreigners waited to pick up the spoils.

One has to remember that the foreigners who make up both al Qaeda and nearly all the (self-immolating) bombers are motivated by politics, not by faith in Islam. They have no hesitation about bombing mosques, murdering imams, or destroying hundreds of worshipers. They regard anyone who does not join their war of terror, even if they are Muslims, as infidels worthy of death. They will use any means necessary to keep their toehold in Iraq and to work to eventually take over Iraq for their own political purposes.

This is not civil war in Iraq; it is a limited, strategic, and tactical ploy whereby foreigners try desperately to inflame Iraqis against one another. The aim of these foreigners is to bring about such a cataclysm of murder and insecurity and fear that their tiny, tiny minority can then capture total power — just as the small minority of Bolsheviks did in the early rise of the Soviet Empire; just as the tiny bands of ruthless black shirts and brown shirts under Mussolini and Hitler spread social paralysis to launch the rise of Fascism. Mayhem requires only a ruthless few.

Those who falsely call this a “civil war” in Iraq are conferring on al Qaeda a success that al Qaeda has not been able to bring about itself. They are puffing up a phony, contrived civil war far beyond the bounds of reality.

I'm not 100% convinced that he's wholly right but the highlighting of Al Qaeda in Iraq's changed strategy is a marvelous point and one that is either glossed over or ignored completely when pundits gather to discuss the situation.

Breakfast at the Village Coffee Stop Cafe

Yum...there are worse ways to start your Saturday.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Did somebody say "mouth-breather"...

Subject: Comments Sectino
To: pundit

So, did you eliminate the comments section because you were tired of having us Libs hand you your anti-intellectual ass, or were you just trying to hide the fact that your fans are drooling mouth-breathers?

Given that I've never had a comment section -- or even a "comments sectino" -- I have no idea what provokes emails like this. But they certainly don't encourage me to add one, if this is the kind of person who's, er, drooling at the prospect of posting on my site.

The Paul Wolfowitz Controversy in Perspective

Imagine that a top civil servant at a major multinational institution arranges a job for a fortysomething female colleague that comes with a $45,000 raise and brings her yearly salary to about $190,000, tax free. Now imagine that the couple has been photographed at a nudist beach--him wearing nothing but a baseball cap.

The latest sordid twist in l'affaire Wolfowitz? Not at all. This is the story of Günter Verheugen, first vice president of the European Commission in Brussels.

The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens compares and contrasts the facts and responses surrounding the Wolfowitz and Verheugen scandals. Clearly, Mr. Verheugen is neither an American nor a neoconservative.

Who is Mike Gravel and why is he running for President?

I certainly don't have the answer to either of those but Instapundit rounds up reaction to Gravel and the other seven dwarfs in the wake of last night's Democratic Presidential debate.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good Reasons and Bad

Last fall's decision by the previous owner of Avenue Flower Shop to sell the building to a management firm who in-turn has arranged for a Detox center in the old heart of town continues to rankle some. The latest rankling wrinkle involves a grant that Good Samaritan Shelter Inc. has applied for:

Fueling the complaints is a request for a $1 million grant that Good Samaritan Shelter, Inc., submitted to the state Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP). The state grant requires that the center be used to help the homeless, opponents said.

Good Samaritan responds with what strikes me as a reasonable clarification: Sylvia Barnard, Good Samaritan services director, said the grant will indeed help some homeless people - those who are trying to recovery from substance abuse - but that the criticism is unfounded.

Barnard said the EHAP money is for the “already homeless, formerly homeless and those at risk for homelessness,” which she said are categories that most of the clients who will use the facility will fall under.

“It's an easy argument that anyone with addiction is at risk for homelessness, which falls under the category to receive this money,” Barnard said. “The national statistics show that 80 percent of chronically homeless people are substance abusers.”

Meanwhile, local activists continue pining for their lost downtown:

“I had heard that the EHAP money was for the homeless and Good Samaritan did not submit an application for a homeless shelter. They submitted it for a detox center, so I'm concerned,” said Alice Milligan, a leading critic of the project.

“We already have one homeless center, the Bridgehouse on Sweeney Road. This is not what we would like to see on Ocean Avenue in our downtown area,” she said.

In a chance encounter over the weekend, we happened to speak with a representative of Trinity Management, the firm that bought the building. She confirmed our suspicions that much of what opponents have said about Good Samaritan and the Center has been distorted or simply wrong. Yet the effort continues.

I don't have a problem with NIMBYs on this...I'm not sure I'd want to live nearby in all honesty. But for critics to say the Center will create problems that don't already exist in the area is an exaggeration. And frankly, not overly truthful.

During our discussion with the Trinity representative on Sunday, we learned that the Center has been vandalized and has had cause to alert police to drug deals going down in the back alley...all well before any struggling drug addicts or homeless have moved in.

As to the future of 'downtown' Lompoc, I must again respectfully disagree. Aside from some select restaurants along Ocean Avenue there is no compelling reason these days for people to make H Street and Ocean a destination. The commercial heart of the city has long since moved north along H Street and that ought to be obvious to anyone who drives down either of these streets on a given day.

Critics of Good Samaritan have good reasons not to welcome the Detox Center. Opposing it on the grounds that it will transform the area into something it isn't and that we don't want or to say it somehow hurts a thriving part of the city don't qualify.

The Securing Defeat in Iraq Act of 2007

It passed the House late yesterday and in the Senate early today. The President will veto it.

He has said he'll veto it and the Democrats have known that he'll veto it. Meanwhile, the very troops these same politicians go out of their way to say they support now face the risk of material shortages due to lack of funds.

And the posturing continues.


Didn't see it coming

There is a gathering storm around Harry Reid and his comments last week about Iraq. Three more Senators went public with criticism of their leader and two went so far as to call for his resignation.

Now certainly there is a political element to all this, especially when you consider that two of the three Senators are Republican presidential candidates. At the same time however, Reid's comments have struck a chord in some circles and angered many. Frankly, I didn't see it coming.

I didn't think America cared at this point. That is the media's tale: we're all tired of Iraq and want to come home. Well, apparently there are still folks out there who get it and care enough to push back.

And in the credit-where-credit-is-due department, kudos to Senator McCain. He's right:

"...Presidents don't lose wars.
Political parties don't lose wars.
Nations lose wars.
And, when nations lose wars, nations suffer."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Who Lied and People Died?

K-Lo posted this earlier today over at the Corner. It comes courtesy of an unnamed Republican on the Hill and it exposes Dick Durbin as a hypocrite of the highest order:



“I was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and I would read the headlines in the paper in the morning and I'd watch the television newscast and I'd shake my head. …[T]he information we had in the Intelligence Committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn't believe it.” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)

“You see, in the Intelligence Committee, we're sworn to secrecy. We can't walk outside the door and say, ‘The statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that's being given to this Congress.’” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)

“And so in my frustration, I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth.” (Sen. Dick Durbin, Floor Speech, 04/25/07)


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): “[Saddam] has ignored the mandates of the United Nations, is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” (Committee On Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 09/19/02)

SEN. JOHN ROCKFELLER (D-WV): “There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons. And will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.” (Sen. John Rockefeller, Congressional Record, 10/10/02, p.S10306)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN): “Bill, I support the president's efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein. I think he was right on in his speech tonight. The lessons we learned following September 11 were that we can't wait to be attacked again, particularly when it involves weapons of mass destruction. So regrettably, Saddam has not done the right thing, which is to disarm, and we're left with no alternative but to take action.” (Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," 03/17/03)


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “Saddam Hussein, in effect, has thumbed his nose at the world community. And I think that the President's approaching this in the right fashion.” (CNN's "Inside Politics," 09/18/02)

All posturing, all the time. The Dems have tried to wash their hands of Iraq for years now, and it doesn't work. These statement are too readily available and they can not run far or fast enough away.

As I and others smarter than me or my dogs have said, this is not flattering stuff. Either the Dems, contrary to all the rhetoric, went along with the "lies" and voted for the war. Or, they disagreed but went along to get along out of political expedience.

Either way they don't look at all smart or honorable and given the posturing and rhetoric of the last few year, not at all principled.

Somewhat later in the day, colleague Stephen Spruiell posted a follow-up. The key quote here gives away the game:

Actually, Sen. Durbin’s been saying stuff like this for a few years now. When pressed to name what specifically Durbin saw in classified intel briefings that differed from what the administration was telling the country, a spokesman for Durbin cites one of the key judgments from the Oct. 2002 NIE (declassified on July 18, 2003):

Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors—as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools—provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program. ([The Department of Energy] agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)

Durbin's spokesman argues that the administration, while "factually correct" when it told the press that most agencies believed the tubes were part of a reconstituted nuclear program, was not being totally honest because it omitted the "greater expertise" of the Department of Energy.

Blame, blame and blame again.

Bush as Puppeteer (Or, A great one-liner!)

The mastermind of last fall's Democratic take-over of Congress, Illinois Representative Rahm Ehmanuel will give a speech today at the Brookings Institution. According to this report in the Washington Post, the focus will be on the dark side of the Bush Administration.

When asked about the speech, Republican National Committee spokesman Tracey Schmitt answered with a question of his own:

"Talk about conspiracies. Is he arriving for his speech in a black helicopter?

After Florida 2000 and especially after the Iraq "lies" of 2002-2003, the story was all about Bush as evil-genius. As Jonathan Weisman points out, over the last two years the story has been all about the Administration's incompetence.

So, which is it? The Democrats don't seem to be too sure at this point, as if this is any indicator, they're shifting back to conspiracy models of Bush the malevolent Puppeteer.

The Bush Administration: the biggest collection of incompetent super-geniuses ever!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Low-key Meltdown

It seems that the ever low-key Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader from Nevada finds himself in the middle of a bit of a meltdown. Like most everything else about him it is definitely low key; but a meltdown none the less.

First of course came the now-infamous proclamation that Iraq is lost. Then came the attempted clarification on the day-after.

In the days since he's endured many a call for apology at the very least and from some, a demand to step down. Now we're getting Act III in this interview where Reid insists that he will not believe any reports of progress from General Petraeus in his briefing to Congress this week. Rather odd then, as Jonah Goldberg points out, that Reid prefaces those remarks with comments attributed to Petraeus himself as though the "Lying General" and his words to the President can be believed while his report to Congress can not.

When the Senate Majority Leader says there can be no military solution in Iraq, he ignores the truth about what the surge is, what it's goals are and the strategy and tactics involved. On this point, based on watching this ridiculous video, I'm forced to believe that Reid and fellow Democrats who have postured on the Surge since the first discussions in January make a conscious choice to play dumb.

Anyone who looks at the surge, what it is designed to do and how it aims getting there, must conclude that it is not just a "military solution." Indeed, it is setting the table for just the solutions that Democrats are screaming for, namely political and economic reconciliation and reform.

For two years Democrats screamed that security was the primary issue in Iraq--and they were right. The poor security situation was allowing the insurgency and Al-Qaeda to create the mess we have found ourselves in.

Now that the President has, in essence, taken the Democrats advice and added troops in an effort to create the necessary conditions that will foster needed political progress, they complain and call the effort ineffectual.

The willfully obtuse act is not holding up. They're an odd bunch, these Democrats but they aint dumb. You can't be this dumb and win and keep your seat in the US Senate.

Though there are exceptions to every rule.

UPDATE: The Vice President on the good Senator, earlier today.

Five Reasons we're Winning

Think it sounds crazy? Read them, courtesy of NRO's W. Thomas Smith from Lt. Jason Nichols, USN:

Nichols and I discussed five primary reasons he and others in Iraq believe in the effort and want to see the war through to its completion.

First, aside from the complexities of establishing a working, unified government (not necessarily the task of the military), the U.S. military does have a sound plan for victory that is being implemented. The enemy does not. The U.S. plan is based on developing the Iraqi military and police forces to a point that they can independently assume most extra-national defense and all intranational defense/security operations in that country. This includes an improved Iraqi capability for logistics and command-and-control.

“It’s not enough just to have people in the security forces,” Nichols says. “You need to make sure they can lead, gather intelligence, and be resupplied effectively. And we are accomplishing those things.”

The enemy’s only plan for victory is to force the U.S. to leave before those things happen. Instead, the enemy is experiencing “a surge” of U.S. forces.

Second, the enemy — including the Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists — is progressively splintering into smaller sub-groups.

“This is often reported in the media as a bad thing — an unknown force being broken up into many unknown forces,” says Nichols. “Fact is, breaking up a larger force into smaller ones is what you want to do.”

Breaking up forces is in fact a textbook means by which a superior military force destroys an inferior enemy force — dividing and conquering. And in Iraq, some of those splintering subgroups are now providing intelligence to — and cooperating with — coalition forces.

Third, an increasing number of Iraqi civilians are providing the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces with information about the enemy that is being processed into solid intelligence.

Fourth, Coalition forces are increasingly “driving a wedge” between the insurgents and the general population. And more and more insurgents are turning against the sectarian violence-instigating terrorists.

And lastly, as I discussed at National Review Online’s military blog, “The Tank,” while I was in Iraq, one of the most effective elements of General David Petraeus’s strategy is his approach to a given area of responsibility (AOR). Petraeus’s predecessor, General George Casey, would have his subordinate commanders move their forces into an AOR, kill, capture, or run the enemy out; bring in some infrastructure for the community; and then leave. It worked to be sure, but only temporarily. The enemy almost always came back.

Petraeus’s approach is to do those things, but never completely leave. His commanders are responsible for ensuring their AORs are progressing. And U.S. soldiers are staying. In Sadr City for instance — as dangerous as it is — U.S. soldiers are living there, bunking side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts.

Oh, but to read such straight-forward and solid analysis in the NY Times...

Nichols goes on to make it clear that morale remains good in spite of Harry Reid's best-efforts to the contrary. He's not the first to suggest that the only thing needed to ultimately defeat the insurgency is time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Who is Andy Ostroy?

And how did this Daily Kos-lite drivel get published at

It was Sunday after all...

And what is Sunday if it isn't Punk Juan Williams day over at Fox. This week was no different.

First this at the hands of Brit and Bill on the Supreme Court's Gonzalez v. Carhart ruling:

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Well, I think that the difference here is you've got Hillary Clinton as a candidate. You've got a female candidate. And I think that it's very clear that she's making a concerted effort to try to stir women as part of her base, and I think this issue plays right into that hand.

I also think it plays into the hand of just changing the landscape, the political landscape in the country at the moment.

I think people are going to say that if the court is going to start intruding in this way, well, what are they going to do on affirmative action? What are they going to do on election law? What are they going to do about religion in the public space?

This court has now become a real political symbol of the right wing in the country, and I think it's scaring lots of people in the middle and the left.

KRISTOL: The court upheld legislation that was passed with 65 senators voting for it and, I think, about 290 House members. That's an intrusion in politics? That's deferring to the legislative branch.

If the Democratic Congress wants to repeal the legislation that was passed in 2003, they can do so. The court is not imposing anything on anyone.

They are saying that one does not have a constitutional right to a medically unnecessary partial-birth abortion.

WILLIAMS: You know what? I think this is an interesting argument, because to my mind, OK, let the states decide. But the court is involved.

And if the courts are involved, how can they say to a doctor, "No, you can't do this on this woman? It's a matter of saving her life? OK, you can do it. But if it's a matter of her health, no, you can't do it?"

As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists...

HUME: The Congress did that.

WILLIAMS: No, the courts have also said...

HUME: I know that, but, Juan, this was not a ruling that the Constitution forbade partial birth abortion. This was a ruling that said that Congress has a right by its majority vote, representing the people, you may recall, to oppose such a ban. That's what happened here.

States 1, Juan 0.

Not to be outdone by his own ridiculous arguments, at the very end of the panel discussion he gets into it again with the dynamic duo, this time on who is doing all the killing of Americans in Iraq:

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. Brit says this is laughable. You say it's a disgrace. I think he simply said the truth. I mean, it's unavoidable.

How can you say, watching the kind of carnage that takes place there on a daily basis, that this is not an effort that is misbegotten at this point?

Most Americans think we should never have gone in there. So he's speaking in a voice that represents the majority of the American people.

Secondly, when he says that it's lost, he's talking about the idea that we need to have a diplomatic, economic, political solution. We're not seeing any political progress in the country.
In fact, the al-Maliki government looks to me to be weak and weaker, and getting weaker, with the withdrawal of people like al- Sadr's forces from the parliament, and from support of his government.

So what we have here is a civil war in which Americans are caught in the middle. So the idea of withdrawing -- it's not a strategy, as the president said. What Senator Reid is talking about, what most people are talking about, is trying to contain it.

I think that we have General Petraeus coming here this week. And the Republicans want to make the case that it's Senator Reid and the Democrats versus the troops, that the troops are standing tall and the Democrats aren't supporting them, or, as Brit said, it's pulling away from fighting Al Qaida.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. What we're doing here is we want to fight Al Qaida. We want to fight terrorists. We should have gone after them in Afghanistan.

Going into this war in Iraq -- well, we got rid of Saddam Hussein, but I don't know why we need to be there right now. What is the point?

HUME: Fighting Al Qaida. How about that? Do you like that idea?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'd love to fight Al Qaida. But do you believe that we're really fighting -- are our people dying because of Al Qaida? Or are we dying because of an intramural fight between three...

HUME: Well, they're connected, Juan, but Al Qaida is a very major actor in Iraq now. There is no doubt about that.

I mean, if you look at what we're now seeing from these spectacular -- we've done some good here in terms of the this terrible violence that was going on among the militias. That has subsided.

What we're getting are spectacular terrorist attacks by Al Qaida in Iraq.

WILLIAMS: I think you're getting spectacular attacks by Sunnis, by Shiites, against each other. We're trying to build walls to try to separate. Why do you think we're building -- we're not building walls to separate Al Qaida out. We're building walls to try to separate one warring faction from another.

And I think it's just like -- there's no end in sight to this. Of course we should pull out. Why shouldn't we pull -- what are we doing there?

LIASSON: What do we do after we pull out?

WILLIAMS: Well, we have to...

KRISTOL: We are fighting Al Qaida. Have you talked to a single person who's fought over there? Have you looked at one of their -- what do they do each day?


KRISTOL: Do you think they just drive around aimlessly to get blown up randomly by Shia and Sunni? They are fighting Al Qaida in Iraq.

What is happening in Anbar province? What is happening in Fallujah? What are the Marines doing in Ramadi? They're fighting Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: They're trying to stabilize the environment.

KRISTOL: They're fighting Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: No. They're trying to stabilize an environment so that political progress can take place, and...

KRISTOL: And who is killing them? Whose bullets are killing these...

WILLIAMS: Both sides are -- everybody's.

KRISTOL: That's not true. Mostly it is Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: Oh, you don't believe that there are Sunnis involved, there are Shiites involved in killing Americans?

KRISTOL: There are some Shiites involved in killing Americans.

WILLIAMS: OK. I'm just saying...

KRISTOL: But Al Qaida is the main enemy.

Big Cajones

Yesterday was an investment in the Flower Shop. We spent the day at the first-ever Best Bridal Faire in Santa Maria, sponsored by the Santa Maria Times.

For a small shop 20 miles south, it was not necessarily going to be a great day though we did talk with multiple couples who had come up from Lompoc and those connections may turn out to have been worth the effort. For the most part though, it was not a banner day.

We did alot of people watching...the young Hispanic girl trying on dresses in anticipation of her Quincineria...the creepy guy in his late 40's with his fiancee in her early 20's and everything in-between.

But the most audacious display of the day came from the only other Flower shop at the Faire, who early on in the day sent a youngish 20-something year old employ over to our booth to inquire about pricing and minimums.

Additional 'Surge' troops sourced

The president has come up with a unique plan for finding additional troops to support the 'Surge' strategy.

Party like it's 1996!

Everybody's favorite (OK, my least-favorite) Senator appeared again this week on FNS. In a discussion with host Chris Wallace and fellow guest, Senator Arlen Specter, Chuck Schumer had this to say on the subject of Iraq and Harry Reid's comment last week that the war there was a lost cause:

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, do you agree that the war in Iraq is lost? And is that the consensus of Senate Democrats?

SCHUMER: OK. Well, what Harry Reid is saying is this war is lost — in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.
We are not going to solve that problem. And we could stay three months or three years, and as soon as we leave, the Sunnis and Shiites, who have had 100-year enmity against one another, would continue shooting.

The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this — we Democrats believe it — if we change our mission and focus it more narrowly on counterterrorism, going after an Al Qaida camp that might arise in Iraq. That would take many fewer troops out of harm's way. That's what we're pushing the president to do.

So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win.

But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win.

That's a plan I could almost get behind if not for the fact that history doesn't look too kindly on that approach.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What does Democrat posturing on Iraq boil down to?

Don Surber nails it in these comments on Harry Reid's comments from mid-week:

I don’t know if Reid truly thinks the cause is lost or he overplayed the hyperbole. I mean, I never trust anything that politicians say. If they tell me the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, I get up early the next morning just to be sure.

The editorial ended:

Sen. Reid then attempted the old cushion shot — “deny everything and make counter-accusations” — as he sought to shift the blame to those who had criticized him the day before.”The partisans who launched attacks on my comments are the same ones who continue to support a failed strategy that hurts our troops,” Sen. Reid said.

Ah. But it doesn’t “hurt our troops” to tell them — and the enemy — that our Marines and G.I.s are risking their lives in a lost cause before they even suit up and start their engines for this morning’s patrol?

By the way, Reid was among the 77 senators who voted to send the troops into Iraq. It was popular then. Now that it no longer is popular, he opposes the war.
Support the troops? He exploited them.

Virginia Tech shootings: I think I've now seen it all

This past week's shocking events on the campus of Virginia Tech University have left the nation grasping for answers. "Why?" we ask. An understandable and natural question which has lead to the predictable litany of explanations (availability of guns, dehumanizing technology, video games, violent pop culture) and suppositions emanating from psychologists, politicians, clergy, activists, media and celebrities.

But what happens when we try to rationalize the irrational?

Well, we get this kind of drivel. The most cogent answer to the question of "Why?"--that Seung-Hui Cho was most likely (or even, obviously) emotionally disturbed--is simply not enough for many in our society. Rather, that's too neat and dismissive of an answer. We have to become more sophisticated in our analysis and in doing so, the question morphs into "What drove him to insanity?" This leads to only one natural and obvious outcome: It's our fault.

The parents of these fine children are so devastated, they are residing in a community hospital. They feel deeply pained by their son's circumstance. The mother and father meant no harm; they as all parents hoped to provide the best for their children. They are troubled and think themselves responsible. Perhaps, America has let the Cho family down. They expected so much, all Americans do. However, little is received. The rewards are few. Many in the Korean community think the problem lies in the life of an émigré; however, even native born Americans struggle to make a decent wage or create a comfortable caring environment for their children. Most of us think our lack of personal success is our fault. When our offspring struggle or hurt another, we are pained. A Grandfather feels responsible for his own progeny and the product of their love. As a child Seung-Hui Cho was ridiculed and bullyed. As an adult he hid; he hoped to avoid the taunts and teasing.

According to this article, it would seem as if everyone but the man who pulled the trigger is responsible. But this obtuse line of thinking actually shouldn't surprise us. It parallels the predominant mindset which accompanies much of today's nanny culture. George Bush and the United States were responsible for the 9/11 attacks, not the 19 hijackers that commandeered the jets or a megalomaniacal religious fascist sitting in a cave in Afghanistan. 9/11 was merely the case of Churchillian chickens coming home to roost.

In his seminal book, Terror and Liberalism, author Paul Berman develops the point that when confronted with the irrational, elements within Western liberal democracies have historically resorted to such attempts to rationalize. French Socialists perceived Hitler's rants against the Jews as "excessive" and they grated on the ear, but they were not altogether without merit. Rather than simply dismissing their enemies, the Socialists wanted to understand them. After all, that's what sophisticated, rational people do. Similarly, in the wake of 9/11 many believed that Bin Laden and his thugs, while thoroughly distasteful, were only responding to the actions of the imperialist oil-suckers from the West. Strange for Saudi plutocrats to react in such a way, but so be it. In other words, rational people have a tendency to try to explain the irrational in rational terms. Bin Laden is an awful person, but he must have his reasons.

Which brings us back to Virginia Tech. Yes, Mr. Cho committed a dastardly deed. But to simply chalk it up to the man's insanity is neither rational nor sophisticated. We must analyze more thoroughly in our zeal to consider all of the possibilities. How can one person become so unhappy, angry, isolated and desperate? It defies rationality, so we must broaden our scope. Which seems more likely? That the young man was on a lifelong path to mass destruction fueled by his own inner demons or that factors imposed upon him by his environment created and encouraged those demons? It is incomprehensible that a young man could arrive in such a dark place on his own. How could one even hope to explain that? But if one considers the hardships of emigrating to a new country which provided he and his family with few rewards (like a middle class station, his sister with a Princeton degree and him with a Virginia Tech education), inadequate social services (which allowed him to slip through many a crack) and subjected him to the kind of ridicule and bullying that no other child in the country apparently undergoes, it becomes very clear why this young man snapped. And our hearts should go out to him. We mourn his life and loss. Indeed. And we should do the same when Alec Baldwin's daughter goes on a three state killing spree as well.

Poppycock. It is a fool's errand to try to explain the irrational mind with our inadequate concepts of rationality. Try as we might to understand the inner workings of Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Kaczinsky, we cannot. And efforts to do so only muddy the waters. The rationalists will tell us that there is always a 'why.' I would humbly submit that as unnerving and terrifying as the concept may be, there is not always a 'why.'

Hillary Clinton: We Hardly Knew Ye

Yesterday I wrote about why people dislike Hillary Clinton and why she probably won't win the presidency. In a little less than 24 hours she has managed to put what may be the final nail in her own coffin:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that if she is elected president, she would make her husband a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation's tattered image abroad.

"I can't think of a better cheerleader for America than Bill Clinton, can you?" the Democratic senator from New York asked a crowd jammed into a junior high school gymnasium. "He has said he would do anything I asked him to do. I would put him to work."

While a good number of people may agree with her assessment and an even larger group may agree with her assessment relative to the current Administration, there is a major swath of America that simply does not want a return to the Clintonian approach to governance. The old "2 for 1" bake sale approach to the presidency annoyed and angered many, and not just on the right. When people begin to think back to what the Clinton years were about at their essence, I feel confident that we will witness a clear rejection of such a turning back of the clock.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why people don't like Hillary Clinton

This article pretty much summarizes why so many people have such a visceral reaction to Hillary Clinton. It's also basically a summation of why I don't think she has much of a chance of winning the White House. The blatant political opportunism and faux solidarity harkens back to the lower lip bite and seems just a tad disingenuous. The quick whisk to Rev Al's underscores the point.

Renaissance man

Another email from the Fantasy sports email list-cum-political forum--

The first: Olberman is moving to the NBC pregame show. I wonder if he’ll continue in news?

The reply: Yeah, he's going to do both. He is amazingly intelligent, articulate, and witty. A kind of "renaissance" man.

And finally the reply to the reply: I don't agree all the time either, but he is right on target most of the time and hardly over his head. His insights are interesting and thought provoking. Not the mindless repeating of so-called conventional wisdom that passes for critical thinking in so much of the media.


Over the edge of Loyalty

Losttxn responds to yesterday's post calling for AG Alberto Gonzalez to step down. He makes an interesting point along the way but one that I'm inclined to think ultimately doesn't make a difference. His response:

I'm afraid of how a resignation would be reported and viewed by the poor uninformed that still get their news from the MSM.

Heck, my mom believes that Scooter got convicted for exposing Plame! If Gonzo leaves she'll likely think that he was removed for "illegally" firing judges. It would only embolden the right to do the same to the next Dem president, further diminishing the power of the Presidency.

Yes, this was poorly handled by the AG, but that doesn't warrant him leaving. Congress is overstepping and the cowardly republcans don't want to stand up to the political heat they are getting. They should grow a pair and back Gonzo because he is a quality individual. The truth is that giving in now would only encourage the libs to go after something or someone else!

What I agree with: Republicans in a Congress with worse ratings than the President are indeed afraid of confronting the Democrat's political grandstanding. I don't know why.

What I'm unsure of: How even an articulate argument pointing all that out benefits the Administration after being filtered through a media whose main story for 3 years now is Bush incompetence, 24/7.

What I disagree with: Sadly, folks like Losttxn's mom are irretrievably lost to the truth in some of these matters. As mentioned above, can/will the truth of this matter change the perception?

Frankly, would the resignation or dismissal of Gonzalez likewise change the perception? Probably not and again I tie it back to the media story of the Bush Administration that has solidified since Katrina.

To the extent that anything can change in these last two years, it needs to start with better decision making and better personnel. Bush's team has, for the most part, always looked pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, the reality has consistently been less impressive.

The Way we Were

Friday, April 20, 2007

LOL of the Day

Moonbattery for all!

The edge of Loyalty

Strong personal loyalty is a trait I share with the President. So when he seemingly blindly holds fast in support of his people, I get it. And it is more than admirable.

In the case of Alberto Gonzalez though it's come time to let go. These reactions to yesterday's train-wreck in the Senate make it obvious that the man has passed a point of no return.

Though I believe that he hasn't truly done anything wrong (and you can hear the same admission from the linked comments), this is too injurious to the Justice Department, it's reputation and to the Administration. There is no evidence that there was illegal or unethical conduct here but the AG was not able to present a simple, coherent defense of his and his department's actions yesterday and hasn't since this would-be scandal broke.

End the ridiculousness and step down.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Refresh my Memory

Today at the Washington Monthly blog Kevin Drum highlights a piece from McClatchy's Greg Gordon discussing the politicization of the Bush Justice Department. Kevin calls it Banana Republicans:

Greg Gordon of McClatchy on the politicization of the Justice Department:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

....On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the [Civil Rights] division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

At first blush I wasn't sure who to be most appalled by...Kevin or Greg. For all his success--after all he blogs for a living, I do not--Kevin is not exactly the most astute blogger in the world.

Upon further review however, the ridiculousness of all this is all on Gordon. Kevin, as good bloggers do, only highlighted the bad logic. He just forgot to call it that.

It's that last quote that kills me. Essentially we're to believe that part & parcel with a systematic shredding of the Constitution over the last 6+ years the Bush Justice Department has acted inappropriately--dare we say illegally--to influence elections!?

Let's hit the refresh button for a minute and reflect; was it Republicans that car-pooled homeless folks to the polls in Wisconsin, enticing them with free cigarettes in 2004? Did Republican would-be student activists vote multiple times in 2004?

Was it dead Republicans voting in both 2000 and 2004? Or maybe it was Republicans who sought recounts in only certain counties, applying different standards across Florida in 2000?

Well, no it wasn't. And perhaps the reason the Voting Rights Division "sided" with Republicans so often since 2001 is that Democrats were responsible for the majority of documented voter rights violations and attempts at voter fraud.

Just a thought.

Another open invitation?

Omar of Iraq the Model wonders aloud at Pajamas Media about the meaning behind Moqtada Al-Sadr's recent pull-out of the Iraqi government:

What I think is that Sadr is making a decision in which he plan[s] to switch from half-government-half opposition status to all-out opposition.

This has not been declared explicitly so far.

Why? Because while Sadr’s followers are still quite strong, whether in the political wing or in the Mehdi army, they haven’t and appear incapable of acheiving[sic] the level of exclusive dominance they aspire to. They can make serious trouble and occupy the streets for a while when they want, but those periods of time aren’t enough for them anymore.

Thus far, the results of the war between Sadr on one side and the government and the coalition on the other side - particularly in the southern part of the country- have been a disappointment for Sadr. It’s likely that he’s considering adopting a new approach by openly declaring his party in the opposition.

If that is the case, I would reiterate the point I made here. The Mahdi Army and Sadr are a road-block to stabilization in Iraq; a roadblock that must be removed. In fact, as B Dubya says clearly, one that should have been removed years ago. With that, I concur.

Adequate security to foster the necessary political developments means killing the insurgency over time. But it also means that the vigilantism of the militias can no longer--or at least should no longer--be tolerated.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Good Day

The Supreme Court today upheld the 2003 Congressional ban on the procedure known as Partial-birth Abortion:

The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long-awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.

The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The decision pitted the court's conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also were in the majority.

It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how - not whether - to perform an abortion.

Abortion rights groups have said the procedure sometimes is the safest for a woman. They also said that such a ruling could threaten most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, although government lawyers and others who favor the ban said there are alternate, more widely used procedures that remain legal.

What of course they've never acknowledged is the barbarity of the act. It is that barbarity that I--and most conservatives who cared about this--have argued to ban.

It seems that at least in analysis coming from some corners, that the door is still open to a return to this procedure under a more and better-clarified statute. Perhaps, perhaps not.

If so, at least one person will be comforted. The rest of us can cross the bridge when we get to it.

Return of the Pander-Bear

In a big way. I like how Dean Barnett put it: I thought he was different. You know, smarter. And decent. Or at least shrewder.

The urge to pander runs deep, especially in Democrats. Frankly, can you blame them?

Far too much of their constituencies look to blame everybody for something. It's the natural next step to give them what they scream for.

A Bird Flu deterrent

The FDA has approved the first Bird Flue vaccine, calling it a "deterrent." From the Washington Times report late yesterday:

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday announced approval of the first vaccine to protect against the avian flu virus, commonly known as bird flu.

The vaccine, which has yet to be named, is manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis SA and is being viewed by public health officials as a deterrent to the virus rather than a panacea.

"The vaccine may provide early limited protection in the months before a vaccine tailored to the pandemic strain of the virus could be developed and produced," the FDA said.

That is certainly better news than what we saw back here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Doing your Civic Duty

Some are a bit more excited about paying taxes than you'd think they ought to be. Matt Stoller at MyDD relishes the opportunity:

I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don't like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don't want. Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I'm just being ripped off to pay for someone's summer home.

Patriotism is about recognizing that we are all connected in a fundamental moral and physical sense, that the war in Iraq is our war, that poverty in New Orleans is our poverty, that public funding to cure cancer comes from each of us and not just the scientists who have made it theirs. The tax burden we face is a very small price to pay for the privilege of taking responsibility for our own freedom and our own society. And the hatred of taxes on the right comes from a hatred for this responsibility. It's childish and immoral and unAmerican.

Now, what is a problem is the complexity of our tax system. Complexity is a tool that powerful elites can and do use to intimidate and control people without access to capital and connections. With modern technology, there is just no reason for this complexity anymore except the business coalitions that push for specific tax breaks and the politicians who love them. This complexity not only upsets and disempowers people like us, it empowers the powerful to skip out on their tax burden.

It's not a coincidence that Grover Norquist, the architect of the right-wing ascension to power, runs an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. People like Norquist, who are charlatans at heart and deeply unpatriotic and immoral, use the complexity in the tax code that they help to create to persuade Americans that taxes are bad. This is also true in states all over the country, where it is the unpredictability of property tax burdens and not the amount that causes schools to go wanting for funding.

Our tax code is the DNA of our nation's moral compass. I am proud to pay taxes because I take pride in America, and paying some tiny burden to keep our society running is an extremely small price to pay for being able to call myself an American citizen. The old expression 'you get what you pay for' is apt for all sorts of situations. People tend to express what they value in how much they are willing to pay for it. I am willing and feel privileged for the right to pay for my country. The right-wing is embittered to do so, if they do so at all. And that, more than anything, says something about how much they value this experiment called America.

The comments are full of kind words for all of us who think Washington could curb it's income without threatening civilization as we know it. And that's fine.

They are entitled to grin madly while Uncle Sam screws 'em. Myself, I'll be laughing my right-wingnut, America-hating self all the way to the bank with sizable Federal and State refunds.

I guess that makes me a cheat!

What a difference a year makes

Last year I stopped caring about Fantasy Baseball by the end of May. This year, I don't even think I'm going to make it to the end of April...

He looks average enough

Cho Seung-Hui, the lone gunman who murdered 32 at Virginia Tech yesterday. There's nothing remarkable about him it appears.
Though it seems that some had questions, concerns and had even raised a quiet alarm:
The gunman who shot 32 people to death before killing himself at a Virginia university was described Tuesday as a depressed and deeply disturbed young man whose “grotesque” creative writing projects led a professor to refer him for psychological counseling.

Hillary has a big problem

Men don't like her:

"Obama has climbed to within 2 points of Hillary in the latest Rasmussen robo-poll. Hillary has a big problem with men--Obama leads her by 11% among men."

Go figure.

Monday, April 16, 2007


This time it's Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. The WSJ has taken the time to go through official paperwork about the scandal and has amazing things to report. Now if only people will listen:

The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:

"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)

That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.

Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."

Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.

And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.

Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.

What to Say

There really is not much to say about such a thing as the events of early today in Blacksburg, other than to note the horrific nature of the entire incident. Regardless of motive or cause.

If I do have anything to say, it would be about the already unfolding analysis of different elements of the story as the day went by. First, it seems to me that any discussion of this needs to understand why it is only for would-be killers or criminals to carry weapons on campus at Virginia Tech.

Not a nice sentiment at this point and it borders on inappropriate only 12 hours later but why on earth would an administration advocate such a policy that leaves thousands of staff, faculty and students vulnerable to just this sort of event?

Moving on, MKH notes the first bits of the political fallout in this: look at their websites, you wouldn't know a thing about what Mitt, McCain, and Rudy think about this national tragedy. It's doesn't mean they're terrible, selfish men, as I'm sure the Left will infer. On the contrary, I'm sure all of their thoughts and prayers are with the kids of Blacksburg, just as all of ours are. But the fact is that the Big Six in the presidential race are huge, public figures who are required, for better or worse, to have a public position on every issue, ever. Today is certainly no exception.

Political web operatives on the Left understand that websites move with the news, and are sometimes the fastest way to move those messages. Today, the Dem candidates' sites reflect that and the Republicans' do not.

I think that Mary Katherine Ham has a valid point here and it is in fact true; the left feels...more and's a key part of the essence of what liberalism is. At the risk of sounding too much like a dittohead, it is what they do.

It's nice as far as it goes and in the immediate aftermath of such a horrid event it is not without meaning or comfort. Sadly however, it doesn't do anything about the problem.

This kind of feel-good rhetoric is what made my hair stand up on end upon first hearing a presidential candidate tell me he felt my pain in 1992. I don't need the government or the people that form it to "feel my pain."

I need them to govern. I need them to create and implement sound policy and to protect me from reasonable threats at the federal, state and local levels.

It is wonderfully compassionate to read of Senators Edwards', Clinton's and Obama's undoubtedly real concern for the lives touched by the tragedy at Virginia Tech but it accomplishes nothing but to tell me what I already knew: they are human beings just like me.

They've been Dawdling

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan on FNS this week:

LEVIN: Well, no, I'm going to respond first to Senator Graham.

You know, he talks about pouring the pressure on. The pressure which is being poured on is military pressure. There is no military solution there. There is only a political solution.

We've got to pour the pressure on the Iraqi political leaders to reach a political settlement. They made commitments that they would reach political settlements on oil revenues, on power sharing and on other things by last December.

The president, over and over and over again — our president — has said, "We are going to hold them to their political commitments." Is the president serious about holding them to their political commitments? Did he mean what he said?

They've been dawdling over there in Iraq politically for four years. This insurgency, which has now taken place in spades in Baghdad, is something which is fairly recent.

They had plenty of time to reach a political settlement. They committed to do it. The Iraq study group said they must do it. If they don't, there should be consequences.

All we've gotten from this administration is hollow rhetoric about the Iraqi leaders need to meet their commitments. But there's no teeth behind the hollow rhetoric of this administration.

I normally like Chris Wallace's interviews but this week was left dumbfounded when he couldn't be bothered to ask Senator Levin the obvious follow-up question to this diminution of Iraqi political efforts.

Namely, why and how then is it that things routinely bottleneck in the US Senate...for years.

Jimmy Carter's Bad Year

You'd think that given the state of Iraq and the trajectory of that fight over the last three years, folks like me who were strong supporters of the rationale and the plan from the get-go might have an overwhelming sense of contrition in discussions about the war. And you'd be right.

It's difficult at this point to offer much in defense of the way the war has been fought since the insurgency began in earnest and most especially after the dismal year of 2006. Generally speaking, I've been much more low-key in my expectations and my arguments in favor of continuing the fight (at least to my mind) are tempered with the understanding of all the previous misunderstanding and misreadings of whats gone on before.

On the other side you will occasionally find critics who can't contain their glee at events having proved their arguments correct about how we've screwed the pooch in Iraq. Mostly however, you need to look for it and you'll find the most offensive offerings in very little-well known outposts scattered across the Ethernet.

Occasionally though it seems we find those in the ranks of the professional nay-sayers who seem a bit too eager to pat their own backs. That was my sense of this from professional critic and former National Security Adviser to the 20th Century's worst President, Jimmy Carter...the one and only Zbigniew Brzezinski.

In a piece dated just Friday at the Christian Science Monitor, Brzezinski offers a "plan" for getting out and a critique of the last 20 years worth of Presidential administrations:

Brzezinski lays out a two-point plan for the US: First, he says, go to the Iraqi leaders and say: Let's sit down and discuss a jointly defined date for departure.

"And when I say Iraqi leaders, I don't mean just the guys in the Green Zone. I mean a lot of the guys outside of the Green Zone," the guys with militias, Brzezinski says. "A lot of the guys in the Green Zone – not all, but a lot of them – will pack their bags and leave when we leave."

Next, he says, he would suggest a US departure in about a year, and see which Iraqi leaders are prepared to go along with that. "My guess is it will be the guys who are not in the Green Zone, but who have the militias," he says.

Brzezinski would, at the same time "and more overtly," set in motion a process of "really consulting" all of Iraq's neighbors, plus possibly Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt, about arrangements for security in Iraq after the US leaves.

"All of these countries have a stake in Iraq not blowing up," he says. "And the fact of the matter is, if you go around Iraq and look at each country systematically, whether it's Iran or Turkey or Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia, each one is seriously threatened if Iraq blows up."

Some of that is already being done by those countries on their own in an effort to promote regional stability, he notes. But he sees a US-led effort to engage these countries in a collective effort as helping a great deal to absorb the "shock effects" of a US departure.

There is truth to the statements about a shared-interest in seeing Iraq stabilize. My problem here is the same problem I had with the Iraq Study Group's near-naive notion that the major players in the region will work to predominantly US interests in stabilizing Iraq rather than their own. Brzezinski's generalizations do little to assuage that nagging at the back of my mind that such an approach will only lead to something we don't want and don't need---Iranian hegemony in the ME.

In a moment of John Kerry-ish naivete, Mr. Brzezinski then writes-off the potential for even greater bloodshed than what the country currently endures: "My final point is, yes, there will be some escalation in the violence when we leave," he says. But "I don't subscribe to the view that it's automatically doomed to become an explosion."

I too easily hear echoes of John Kerry's declaration to Congress that it would be but a few thousand dead in Vietnam after a US withdrawal. John Burns, long-time NY Times foreign correspondent is one of many who disagree strongly. He makes an eloquent case as to why here; you can make up your own mind about it's correctness.

Brzezinski's assumptions for me represent the worst of the realist's approach. As long as it isn't Americans being blown up, not to worry.

As is usually the case in such pieces though, the best comes last. In discussing Mr. Brzezinski's newly published "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower," author Linda Feldmann notes that the former Carter Administration official issues grades for the three post-Cold-War Presidents:

He gives the first President Bush a "B," President Clinton a "C," and the current President Bush an "F."

And how about the president he served from 1977 to 1981? In the foreign-policy arena, Brzezinski said, Mr. Carter had three good years and one bad one, marked by the Iran hostage crisis. But he did not assign a letter grade.

At which point I can no longer show contrition to one of many who were in fact correct on Iraq. The self-congratulatory pats on the back for being right give way to utter absurdity and I can't and won't look past it.

Jimmy Carter and his administration were abject foreign policy failures. Perhaps Mr. Brzezinski has forgotten over time how his boss' position vis-a-vis Iran in the late 70's helped create the very state that now presents the greatest danger to the ME and to American interests--perhaps not just in the region but at-large as well.

I can let slide the snide sub-texts of self-congratulatory discussions of Iraq. But never should any let slide something so blatantly ridiculous as Jimmy Carter's Bad Year.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Moron Museum of National History

Bill Whittle obliterates Rosie O'Donnell's recent nonsense. All in the context of discussing conspiracy theory at-large. And I laugh:

Recently, Rosie O’Donnell said on national television that she believes 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government.

Well, that’s why we went through the steps above. If you believe that the government lied about the moon landing, you can believe they lied about killing JFK. If they lied about JFK, then they can lie about chemtrails. And if they are willing to poison the entire population with aerial spraying, what are a few thousand people in four airliners and a couple of buildings?

Rosie O’ Donnell making such a claim on a major network is a national disgrace. The fact that much of the audience cheered and applauded is nothing less than a national catastrophe.

To her, and to her audience, it is taken as granted that the government is capable of such things. As if “the government” was operated by cyborgs grown in Haliburton vats, rather than by well-meaning and patriotic people that love this country.

"This is the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel," she said. This is a statement of such pristine and perfect idiocy that it surely must be emblazoned in stone across the entrance to the Physics Imbecile wing of the Moron Museum of Natural History. But mastery of physics and engineering requires some intelligence, some perseverance and some discipline: none of which are in evidence in this buffoon. Everything is a conspiracy to a mind this far gone. The 15 British sailors kidnapped at sea? All a plan by our evil (but incompetent!) government to get the next war it so desperately needs. “Gulf of Tonkin! Google It, people!” she said on national TV.

And I will, Rosie. I promise. As soon as I finish googling MAD COW DISEASE.

I will make the point yet again because I believe it is the crux of the issue: what kind of moral universe do you have to inhabit to be able to believe that your own people – airline personnel, demolition experts, police and security forces, faked witnesses and all the rest – are capable of such a thing? How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell? What psychoses must a mind be riddled with in order to negate what was perfectly obvious and instead believe a theory of such monumental fantasy? How much pure constant hatred does that take?

What, in short, is the miserable black hole of self-loathing that drives a person like Rosie O’Donnell and millions like her?

Mindless in Moronica

Did you know? I didn't know, but Tigerhawk knows:

I haven't seen this widely reported but the Democrats are working to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. If I recall correctly, this was a plank in the platform of the ill fated Kucinich Presidential campaign of 2004. With the Democrats now in control of the legislature, they are moving ahead.

It appears the proposal would establish a cabinet level position with broad new powers and responsibilities, and the details of this proposal describe Utopia through the progressive lens. I began looking for choice bits to post as highlights, but it was so hard to choose I had to reproduce in total.

For those looking for a distillation, imagine a governmental agency responsible for advising on non-confrontational foreign policy options, establishing and enforcing new gun control measures, designing school curriculum, establishing and enforcing new legislation governing "hate crimes" and violence against animals, and my favorite, establishing a "Peace Academy," a four-year institution of higher learning modeled on our service academies.

In any sane world it would be just another laughable bit of posturing from the most idealistic of idealists on the fringe. But these days, I'm not so sure such a thing couldn't actually pass through Congress.

On the face of it of course you've got to think that the current WH resident would veto anything which included this kind of nonsense. But again, just not so sure anymore...

Quite the Deal

Andy McCarthy pretty much nails it on the head. That recent deal with North Korea...worthless.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"Scratch that one off the list"

We've had a serious bout with windy weather here on the coast this week. A colleague in Chicago laughed at me when I told her that on Tuesday but anyone fool enough to live in the Windy City can't be trusted to think straight on matters of weather.

Winds have gusted all week, the kind that move your car from one side of the road to the other. Or tear a roof off a mobile home. Or knock trees down right on top of you:

A San Diego high school girl on a trip to check out college campuses was injured Thursday when winds toppled a tree near UCSB's Campus Point, county fire officials said.

The unidentified student, 17 or 18 years old, according to university officials, was trapped under the 30-to-40-foot cypress tree, said Capt. Eli Iskow of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

She was transported by ambulance to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital where she was treated and released, a hospital spokesperson said.

Her father and her boyfriend were also hit by the tree but not trapped, and not seriously injured, officials said.

The story leaves us in suspense for it does not give any additional details other than to say she was released. I'm guessing though that UCSB didn't make the cut.

Race Hucksters 2, Common Sense 0

I'm not an Imus fan, now nor ever. I would not defend his or any similar remarks on radio or TV. They were stupid and unnecessary.

The only thing more insidious than Imus' latent racism that seems to pop out now and again is the response from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. They've won the fight on this, for the moment anyway.

Jason Whitlock in Kansas City sees it for what it is (HT JustOneMinute):

Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.
You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.


In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?

I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.

No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Question for the Ages

Why do they make you pay to read Paul Krugman?

Is being Lost still fun?

J-Pod could not disagree more:

Trust me. Lost can't "unjump the shark." It's over, and viewers have figured it out, which is why it's lost 40 percent of its audience over the course of this year. The show's central gimmick has been to lay out a mystery, leave it unresolved, then go on to layer a new one on top of an old one. There are, I think, at least 20 pieces of plot that have been left out there to rot. For you fans, they include: What happened to Michael and Walt? How did Eko's plane from Africa end up on the island? Why did the Smoke Monster kill Eko? And on and on and on. You just can't do this to an audience. It's a giant con game, and eventually the people you're trying to con get wise and turn on you with savage anger.

I must disagree. Yes, we have been floating along that river of discontent since the middle of last year as well. Something has changed though.

What was so exceptional about this episode was a very simple, basic thing: it was fun! And because it was fun, it was entertaining in spite of the Twilight Zone-ish knock-off plot.

Last week was likewise fun. Is it plausible that Hurley could out-con Sawyer? Of course, but it was entertaining watching him do it anyway.

All this consternation was a result of this post earlier in the A.M. that pointed to this discussion of tonight's episode:

What’s good?

* The great Elizabeth Mitchell.
* The great Nestor “Batmanuel” Carbonell.
* The many exciting reveals.
* “Well, we’ll do our best.”
* “I think your research is really gonna have a major impact on us.”
* “Why were you fine with those things?”
* Benjamin Linus, who appears on the dock from nowhere.
* James Ford, finally behaving like a human being.
* Hurley’s sit-down with Juliet generally and “We buried him over there” in particular.
* “She’ll be dead before then.”
* “Because I did it to her.”
* The scene in Ben’s kitchen.
* The return of the 815.
* The return of Mikhail.
* “Do you trust me?”
* “I know why you want me to go there.”
* “Downtown.”
* Much more.

I guess what it's boiling down to for me is that for the first time since Season 1, I'm finding myself wanting to watch again. Even if it's simple, implausible entertainment-television. That's not so bad.

If it can't be ground-breaking, meaningful TV, I'll settle for fun.

Foregone Conclusion

The state of North Carolina is dropping all charges in the Duke rape-case today. 'Bout Damn Time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An open Invitation

Moqtada Al-Sadr has called on his Mahdi army to oust the US from it's occupation of Iraq:

Calling America "the great evil", the radical Shia cleric has accused the White House of dividing Iraq by stoking violence and ordered his militiamen to redouble their efforts to oust US forces. But he stopped short of calling on his followers to attack US troops, instead ordering them to join mass demonstrations to end the occupation.

Well, he's not quite the fool that I initially took him for when I first caught that headline. That being said, I think if we're smart we use that statement as an open invitation to put the Mahdi army out of business.

If you get my drift...

The Tax Man

Over the last several years continuing to use our tax man has become too expensive. Not in tax preparation but in the mistakes made, things not filed and in [gulp] back-taxes.

So this year we went where none in our clan have gone before, plunking down hard-earned cash for some Tax prep software which instantly transformed me into the Tax man. That, aside from a nicely quiet Easter celebration, was the weekend.

Finished it all last night and if it's to be believed, the software programmers did something the accountant never could; produce a substantial Federal and State return. Of course, being taxed on sales commissions helps. As does seeing your itemized deductions grow substantially over last year courtesy of the Home Mortgage Interest on a ridiculous loan.

We'll see what the IRS has to say about it all a little later.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cheap Political Stunt

Republicans in both houses of Congress have begun--tentatively to be sure--to call out Nancy Pelosi's leadership:

Republican leaders in both houses of Congress Monday urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call the House back immediately to finalize emergency legislation to fund the war on terrorism." A Pelosi spokesman called the letter "a cheap political stunt."

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio joined other Republicans in signing a letter to Pelosi. The Iraq supplemental spending bill "has been pending since February 5, but your leadership team chose to leave town for more than two weeks rather than completing this bill," it said.

While noting that the Senate "appointed conferees on March 29, moments after passing its version of the bill," the GOP lawmakers said they were "especially troubled" by the fact that the House never named its own conferees despite passing its bill a week earlier.

In other words, Nancy doesn't seem in too much of a hurry. Her team didn't take kindly to the Republican characterization:

Back in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly was not impressed with the letter.

"Coming from the Republicans, who ran the 'do-nothing' Congress, this letter is a cheap political stunt," Daly said in an e-mail message to Cybercast News Service.

Ouch. At first blush that sounds like it'll leave a mark. However, upon further review it's not so clearly a winning message.

Whatever do I mean, you wonder? Well, since we're on the subject of cheap political stunts...

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