ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Left holding out hope for Fitzmas

So the latest news in the Fitzgerald probe is that Viveca Novak appears to have testified (although possibly not in front jury, but it does appear to be under oath).

As you may remember from my last post on the subject, the left was sure that Viveca was being called to testify in order to bury Rove. This despite the fact that it appeared from press reports that it was Luskin that alerted the prosecutor to the conversation. It appeared Luskin was using his conversation with Novak as explanation for why Rove didn't know about the Cooper conversation in his conversations with the FBI and his first grand jury testimony.

Basically something like this:

Luskin: Hey Fitz, you can't indict Rove, he corrected his testimony as soon as he realized he actually had talked to Cooper about plame.

Fitz: Sure I can, he's an evil genius, and the media is expecting me to indict him, haven't you read the papers?... oh wait I mean, sure I can, he "remembered" his conversation only after I called Cooper to testify.

Luskin: He remembered his conversation because we found the email detailing the conversation. And we only found the email after we did another search.

Fitz: And why did you do the other search?

Luskin: Well because I had a conversation with V. Novak where she mentioned that Cooper remembered a conversation, so we did the due diligence to do another email search.

Fitz: Oh.

Luskin: You can talk to her, she'll verify that she told me that.

Fitz: Um, ok. Your dark master will skate this time.
Rove, testified in February 2004 that he didnt' recall the Cooper conversation. He testified in October 2004 that he now remembered parts of it based on an email he sent to Stephen Hadley (Deputy National Security Advisor) recounting his conversation with Cooper. That email had been discovered after another document search in the summer of 2004.

From the WaPo article:
According to sources familiar with Rove's status, Luskin persuaded Fitzgerald in late October to postpone indicting Rove by alerting Fitzgerald to Luskin's previous conversation with Novak, among other things. Luskin argued that these private discussions helped show Rove did not intentionally conceal his conversation with Cooper from investigators. Rove has argued he forgot about the chat he had with Cooper on the phone in the summer of 2003.
The WaPo then adds this piece that has sugarplums dancing in the head of the left:
Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke.
Whoopdee doo. Conflict in a material way? Or conflict like Rove and Coopers conversation in that Rove says they talked about welfare reform, but Cooper says they didn't.

So what did Novak testify? We'll know for sure when she pens an article for Time for Monday's edition, but until then we can rely on this tidbit:

A source familiar with Novak's account said she believes the conversation took place in March or May, and definitely took place after February 2004, when Rove first testified before the grand jury.

This would make it appear that my theory of the conversation between Luskin and Fitz is the accurate one. That the V. Novak conversation sometime in March or May caused Luskin to get another document search where they turned up the email that refreshed Rove's memory.

The WaPo has another source though that says something different:

But one person close to the case said the conversation took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance in February. This person said the conversation was not the event that led Rove to change his testimony.
Well who is this source? Armando at Daily Kos thinks its Luskin:
The "one person close to the case" must be Luskin, and the reporter leaves the account confusing, one assumes, in order to try and protect Luskin anonymity as a source.
Huh? It could just as easily be David Corn (personal friend of Viveca Novak), based on the paragraph. Or one of the prosecutors. Armando goes into a theory:
But would it not be strange that Luskin would be arguing for the earlier date? I think not. And here's why. Luskin is stating that the Novak conversation is NOT why Rove "clarified" his testimony. Luskin will argue that the Novak conversations only were the catalyst for a review of Rove's e-mails on the subject but that this review was low priority. Or so it seems to me.
This makes no sense, because if thats the case, why would it matter when the conversation took place? It then becomes only a matter of when did the email turn up, and we know that didn't turn up until after his February GJ appearance.

Armando has a defense for this:
But what of the story that the conversation occurred BEFORE that? How can that help Rove? I think it would work like this - why would Rove lie in his February 2004 grand jury appearance if he had been tipped off before? He just didn't recall and when he had no e-mails or memos or call logs on it he just went with his memory. Nothing evil there. In essence, Rove is arguing that he is not that stupid.
So Rove knowing about the conversation (but not from his own notes) during his first GJ somehow helps him? And now that that Viveca says its March or May it hurts him? Still doesn't make sense. And based on what we know Luskin told something to Fitz to delay an indictment. Does Armando's theory fit something that would have caused Fitz to pause?

But somehow to the left it doesn't matter. Rove is guilty, ergo any testimony further implicates him no matter what it says. And if the testimony appears to be exculpatory, well.... well.... it's not exculpatory if you know all the facts!

It's becoming increasingly evident though, that Fitz started his whole investigation with the predicate that there was a conspiracy in the WH, and set about to prove that. When that didn't come to fruition, he didn't just pack up and go home, instead he had to look for something else to charge people in the White House. He bought the MSM narrative from the beginning.

For a balanced discussion of the Plame fiasco, as always, you should check Tom Maguire at Just One Minute. For a lefty view (although not as deranged as Dkos) try out firedoglake.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Friday, December 09, 2005

Butcher of Ramadi - Turned in by Locals

Interesting News about a recent capture:

Citizens Turn Over 'Butcher of Ramadi' to Iraqi, U.S. Troops
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2005 – The terrorist known as "the Butcher of Ramadi" was detained today, turned in by local citizens in the provincial capital of Iraq's Anbar province, U.S. military officials in Iraq reported.

Amir Khalaf Fanus -- listed third on a "high-value individuals" list of terrorists wanted by the 28th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team -- was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping. Ramadi citizens brought him to an Iraqi and U.S. forces military base in Ramadi, where he was taken into custody.

Fanus was well known for his crimes against the local populace. He is the highest-ranking al Qaeda in Iraq member to be turned in to Iraqi and U.S. officials by local citizens.

His capture is another indication that the local citizens tire of the terrorists' presence within their community, Multinational Force Iraq officials said, adding that Iraqi and U.S. forces have witnessed increasing signs of citizens fighting the terrorists in Ramadi as the Dec. 15 national elections draw near.
Officials said 1,200 more Iraqi soldiers recently have been posted in Ramadi. About

1,100 Iraqi special police commandos and a mechanized Iraqi army company completed their planned movement into the city. This plan has Iraqi security forces assuming more of the security responsibilities from the U.S. forces, officials said. As in other locations, as security improves, Iraqi police also will be introduced gradually.

Yes, yes... it's from the Dept of Defense, so we all know it's a bunch of bull$h!t. And let's hope and pray that this guy doesn't get tortured... because a little rough shirt-grabbing would be terrible

But, as Clifford May points out at NRO's Corner:
The key phrase here may be “turned in by local citizens.” I was talking by phone with an Army major in Iraq this week. He said the most encouraging metric of all may be the number of tips about terrorists now being provided by Iraqis – it’s way up, it’s in the thousands.

When the military has intelligence, when they have targets, they know what to do.

No doubt this news will be met by scorn from the Kossacks & DUers, claiming that this guy really isn't as big a catch as the DOD or the Iraqis claim. Who am I kidding? The DUers and Kossacks won't even know about this story until the NYTimes and NBC's Today Show pick it up (if they ever do).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

The Apocalypse is Nigh

H/T to Cafe Hayek

From Today's New York Times
:

Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese
By DAVID BARBOZA

FUZHOU, China - One of China's newest factories operates here in the basement of an old warehouse. Posters of World of Warcraft and Magic Land hang above a corps of young people glued to their computer screens, pounding away at their keyboards in the latest hustle for money.

The people working at this clandestine locale are "gold farmers." Every day, in 12-hour shifts, they "play" computer games by killing onscreen monsters and winning battles, harvesting artificial gold coins and other virtual goods as rewards that, as it turns out, can be transformed into real cash.

That is because, from Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them.
[...]
This virtual economy is blurring the line between fantasy and reality. A few years ago, online subscribers started competing with other players from around the world. And before long, many casual gamers started asking other people to baby-sit for their accounts, or play while they were away.

That has spawned the creation of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of online gaming factories here in China. By some estimates, there are well over 100,000 young people working in China as full-time gamers, toiling away in dark Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes.

Most of the players here actually make less than a quarter an hour, but they often get room, board and free computer game play in these "virtual sweatshops."

"It's unimaginable how big this is," says Chen Yu, 27, who employs 20 full-time gamers here in Fuzhou. "They say that in some of these popular games, 40 or 50 percent of the players are actually Chinese farmers."

For many online gamers, the point is no longer simply to play. Instead they hunt for the fanciest sword or the most potent charm, or seek a shortcut to the thrill of sparring at the highest level. And all of that is available - for a price.

and of course, there's always someone seeking to control a market...

But gold farming is controversial. Many hard-core gamers say the factories are distorting the games. What is more, the big gaming companies say the factories are violating the terms of use of the games, which forbid players to sell their virtual goods for real money. They have vowed to crack down on those suspected of being small businesses rather than individual gamers.

"We know that such business exists, and we are against it," says Guolong Jin, a spokesman for N-Sina, a Chinese joint venture with NC Soft, the Korean creator of Lineage, one of the most popular online games. "Playing games should be fun and entertaining. It's not a way to trade and make money."

DAMNIT!!! YOU WILL HAVE FUN PLAYING THIS GAME!! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE MONEY AS WELL!!!
Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Vivendi Universal and the creator of World of Warcraft, one of the world's most popular games with more than 4.5 million online subscribers, has also called the trading illegal.

But little has been done to halt the mushrooming black market in virtual goods, many available for sale on eBay, Yahoo and other online sites.

On eBay, for example, 100 grams of World of Warcraft gold is available for $9.99 or two ├╝ber characters from EverQuest for $35.50. It costs $269 to be transported to Level 60 in Warcraft, and it typically takes 15 days to get the account back at the higher level.

Now, when I first read this, I had two thoughts:
  1. Wow... isn't it amazing where and how markets will develop?
  2. We are truly witnessin the collapse of Western civilization and the American experience when we are too #@$@% lazy to play video games!!!!

I think this was mentioned in the Book of Revelations?
Remember therefore how thou hast outsourced thy freetime to cheap labor in the East. Hold fast and repent, for thou knowest not how thy should takest measure of thine idle time. Do not pay the peoples to the East to conquer thine ogres for thou. Steel thyself and conquer the beasts with thine own sword

(sorry... couldn't resist.)

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Flipping & Flopping


True to form, Kerry has flip-flopped on his position regarding the Iraq War. And while his changing position from the Iraq War Resolution vote to today has been well documented, it appears that Kerry has flip-flopped from his position during the presidential election of 2004. Rick Richman writes about two speeches by Kerry to the same audience - with totally opposite positions:

As part of the run-up to the 2006 election, which has already begun, John Kerry appeared yesterday before the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the Associated Press account of his appearance, he called for a massive American troop withdrawal by the end of next year:
The United States needs to reduce its forces in Iraq by "at least 100,000" by the end of 2006, sending a message to the Middle East that Americans are not interested in maintaining a permanent military presence in that country, Sen. John Kerry said Thursday.

Adopting what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy would be a disaster and disgraceful betrayal of principle, but you need not take it from me. You just need to read John Kerry’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations the last time he spoke there.

The prior speech was on December 3, 2003 -- at a critical moment in Kerry’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. On that occasion, he told the Council that:
Those of us who seek the Democratic presidential nomination owe the American people more than just anger, more than just criticisms of the Bush policy, or even piecemeal solutions. We need to convince America that we Democrats are responsible stewards of our national security and of America's role in the world, and that we can follow in the great tradition of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.
[...]
I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election, the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy. Their sudden embrace of accelerated Iraqification and American troop withdrawal dates, without adequate stability, is an invitation to failure. The hard work of rebuilding Iraq must not be dictated by the schedule of the next American election.

I have called for the administration to transfer sovereignty, and they must transfer it to the Iraqi people as quickly as circumstances permit. But it would be a disaster and a disgraceful betrayal of principle to speed up the process simply to lay the groundwork for a politically expedient withdrawal of American troops. That could risk the hijacking of Iraq by terrorist groups and former Ba'athists. Security and political stability cannot be divorced. Security must come first . . .

Yesterday, Kerry endorsed the policy he purported two years ago to fear.

This is why Dean's anti-war stance is terrible for the Democratic party. The public already sees the Dems as being weak on defense, which dates back to the Carter years at least. Dean only solidifies that, which is problematic in its own right. But the other factor that really is cause for concern amongst "red staters" is that the Dems will act as if they're strong on defense up to point at which things get difficult. And Kerry is the personification of that phenomenon. He authorizes the war, pushes to keep the troops in and describes the calamity that would follow a premature US withdrawal, and then pushes for that very thing.

Say what you will about W, the man does not give in to the shifting political winds... He certainly is steadfast in his determination to transform the Middle East.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rally 'Round the (White) Flag

It seems that the Dems have (as always) overreached in their rhetoric. You just knew this was coming:

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned from a top GOP operative that the Republican National Committee will provide state parties with a web video prior to release tomorrow afternoon that shows a white flag waving over images of Democrat leaders making anti-war remarks.

The ad is in response to the controversial comments Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry made earlier in the week.

A Democratic strategist who had the web ad described to her said, “This is way over the top but we have no one to blame but Dean, Kerry and others who continue to pander to the anti-war activists within our party.”

The web video advances the Republican contention that the Democrats only have a “retreat and defeat” message on the war in Iraq.

For all of the "grassroots support" that Dean got in 2004 (and by grassroots, I mean paid support from Mark Moulitsioasdias), he consistently showed that he had no clue what he was doing politically. The Dems ultimately decided to hand over the reigns of their party to an amateur who represented just a small percentage of the Democratic base in 2004 and alienated Democratic Primary voters... Now all the GOP has to do when it's down is wait for Dean to open his mouth, let him attack, attack, attack and then counter with his own words.

What a trainwreck for the Dems... See Peat Bog for more

(H/T to Say Anything)

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

"No Couch Potato Left Behind"

George Will's column today is a must read.

Your compassionate Congress has just passed a new entitlement to (are you ready for this?) help you pay for digital TV conversion. Yes, that's right folks, Uncle Sugar is going to use YOUR money to subsidize folks converting to digital television. Is that not just wonderful?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Signs That You're an Idiot

Quote:


[Tookie] Williams' anti-gang message is heeded by "gang bangers" because he "has walked the walk," said [Snoop] Dogg, who referred to Williams as the "Martin Luther King" of youth of color in tough Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave... There is absolutely no way that Dr. King would appreciate this comparison. It's sad that Snoop is slanderig Dr. King by making such a reference.

Oh, and my take on the subject? Tookie should die. I haven't weighed in on the subject yet for two reasons:
  1. Kind of inappropriate to cheer for a guy's death
  2. I didn't think there'd even be the remotest possibility that the founder of the CRIPS (!!!!!) would receive such sympathy
I love this column in the New York Daily News by Stanley Crouch:
Stop blurring the lines
between maniac & martyr

Tonight in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to have a closed meeting with those trying to get Stanley (Tookie) Williams clemency and those in law enforcement who want Williams to meet his end on Tuesday.

Williams, who was sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering four people in 1979, has the dubious honor of being one of the founders of the vicious street gang, the Crips.

Still, Williams is being held up as an example of redemption because he has supposedly turned his life around. He has written children's books that speak out against gang violence. But the actor and writer Joseph Phillips discovered that the highest selling children's book written by Williams has sold only 330 copies. Not exactly a universal audience. The murderer has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times. But almost anyone can nominate you. That does not prove universal acknowledgment of importance.

What does all of this mean? Little. When we see the NAACP, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover and that paragon of public morality, Snoop Dogg, calling for Williams to receive clemency, one is sure that they have bought into the big con that has as its foundation the interconnectedness of the death penalty and race. The two elements have become so interwoven that some assume that if a black man is on Death Row it has something to do with bias and an unrepresentative jury pool. One of the men crying for Williams to get clemency cites the fact that he was tried by an all-white jury, none of whom were his peers. Does that mean that Williams should have had a jury of ruthless gang leaders? Williams, like all criminals, is a lawbreaker first and has an ethnic identity second.

The hard fact is that since 1980, street gangs have killed 10,000 people in Los Angeles, which is three times the number of black people lynched throughout the United States between 1877 and 1900, the highest tide of racial murder in the history of the nation.

Our commitment to redemption is fundamental to our civilization. But since the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, we have seen the same games run on the black community by the identical kinds of political hustlers who almost never met a criminal or a murderer who was not the real victim of society and should be forgiven all crimes, which, as in the Williams case, shouldn't even be discussed. Look to the bright side. Give the brother a break.

I wouldn't touch that kind of thinking with a garbage man's glove. Yesterday was the anniversary of Colin Ferguson's rampage on the Long Island Rail Road. Maybe he should come out of his mental fog and start writing children's books. Ferguson might join Williams in a nomination for the Nobel Prize and watch the chumps line up in support of clemency for his bloody acts. Who knows? Hope springs eternal.

I couldn't have said it any better...

Let's all hope that Tookie receives the justice he so richly deserves. May God have mercy on his soul (and don't forget that that is God's role, not ours).

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Freedom's Thunder

This video has been on my personal blog, but it probably belongs here too.

In September I went to the Salinas International Airshow where the Air Force Thunderbirds performed. If these guys don't give you goose bumps and get the juices flowing, you must be dead. What a great show.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereuJohn

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

General McClellan, if you are not going to use the Army, would you mind if I borrowed it? - A. Lincoln and War

This post is inspired by the Weekly Standard article by Ed Morrisey

That famous quote in the title of this post, uttered when General George McClellan failed to follow up on his victory over Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam, probably more than any other, characterized Abraham Lincoln's attitude towards war. War was not to be trifled with. War was not something for which one sought public admiration. War was not something one dithered over. War was to be won.

When Lincoln appointed Joseph Hooker to command The Army of the Potomac, Lincoln said in a letter to the general that he was doing so not because of the things Hooker had previously said and done, but despite those things the general had said and done. Lincoln was willing to try anything, even appoint an insubordinate general to command the Union's largest, and most ineffective, army. Hooker had a reputation as a fighter, Fighting Joe Hooker. Lincoln was willing to give him a chance. (Today we mostly remember Hooker for the ladies who followed his army and live on in the name "Hookers" and less so for his calamatous defeat in the Virginia Wilderness.)

It took Lincoln quite some time to find the right combination of leadership that led to eventual victory. It came in the form of men like the alcoholic Grant, the dispeptic and depressive Sherman, the mad Irishman Sherridan, the gallant Reynolds, the hero of Round Top, Chamberlain, the taciturn Southerner who remained loyal, Thomas, and many others. It was men like my distant relative James Wilson engineer and later cavalry leader and fighting men like my great grandfather Johnson, a simple enlisted man, wounded at Antietam (ironically under the command of McClellan). It was they who turned the corner for the Union.

Lincoln reposed his trust, once gained, in these fighting men.

But, like Arlo Guthrie said in Alice's Retaurant, that's not what I came to talk with you about.

All the while Lincoln had to deal with the sniping he received from behind from the Copperheads, the "peace Democrats" of the North.

And that is what I came to talk with you about.

How would Lincoln deal with John Kerry (American troops are terrorizing Iraqi women and children), Howard Dean (this war can not be won), Nancy Pelosi and Murtha (we should immediately pull out), and guys who always have better ideas about how to do, or not do, things and how whatever you are doing is the wrong thing?

Lincoln let success on the battlefield speak for him.

Sherman famously said before setting out on the march to Savannah, "Make 'em howl." And make 'em howl he did. The "Great Lamp Lighter," leaving a trail of ashes and "Sherman's Hairpins" (rail road rails wrapped around telegraph posts), made a statement the enemy could not ignore. They were crushed. The war was over shortly thereafter.

What would the ever-so-sensitive Mr. Kerry have to say about Sherman?

It's a good thing there was not a 24/7 news cycle in Lincoln's day.

President Bush has done his best to emulate Lincoln, that is, he has tried to let success on the ground speak for him. He has tried to let the latter day Copperheads sink themselves. For months the president tried this approach relying on two hugely successful elections in Iraq, the comparatively modest military fatalities, just over 2000 (we lost about 4000 on D-Day alone, and 3000 on 9/11 and never mind Civil War era casualties such as Fredricksburg where there were 14,000 killed and wounded on the Union side in one day or Gettysburg where there were 25,000 killed on both sides in three days of fighting).

Like Lincoln, he has placed his trust in his ground commanders and left it to them to do the fighting with a mimumum of micro-management from across "The Pond." That trust seems well placed. These leaders appear to be both capable and aggressive.

But it has not been enough to satisfy our own Copperheads and their allies in the mainstream media.

Perhaps Bush should channel The Great Emacipator.

Now, isn't that odd, we remember him as The Great Emancipator. That was not his goal, at least not directly or initially. But it is as The Great Emancipator he is lovingly remembered. In sticking to his goal, the preservation of The Union, Lincoln achieved that preservation and a great deal more. And perhaps that too will be our legacy when we have secured Iraq's freedom and progress into the 21st century.

The election of 1864 was by no means a sure thing for Lincoln. The Democrats were headed by no less a personage than George McClellan, the deposed and failed leader of the Army of the Potmac. McClellan was beloved by the troops. But overwhelmingly the troops supported Lincoln despite the horrendous casualties they were sustaining. And like Bush, Lincoln carried the election.

Yet the media and the Copperheads keep up their attacks, undermining the war effort, and sniping at the president and his aides, and most deplorably of all, slandering our fighting men and women.

Bush has responded. I think old Abe would be pleased with this president. I think he would say, "Well done, George, now let's finish the job at hand, and to hell with these Copperhead fellows."


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Secret mission report

FROM: ARC: Brian
TO: Co-conspirators
Crypt-method: Kilo-Romeo-Xray-5-0
Subject: Operation "Something to Be"

Begin Decrypt
******************************

I've successfully made it back to conspirator HQ. Let me say that it was very dicey at various parts of the mission. Let me also say that Penelope has a zeal for her work like none other. She was not fazed at all. When I was sweating bullets, and I fealt that at any moment I was going to be crushed, never to be heard from again, I would look over at Penelope and she would have a smile on her face! A smile! As if she was oblivious to the danger all around. She is a true operator.

Anyway, back to the mission. Penelope told me that she would fill me in on the details during the trip. The drive was some 4 hours westward along I-70 to the largest city in Missouri. During the trip she detailed the mission, as well as provided background info. The mission was to survey an event attended by some sort of cult like group. She warned me that they could be semi-religious in their zeal. We arrived somewhat early, secured a safehouse at a hotel downtown, and then went reconnoitering.

The event was to be held in what appeared to be a somewhat rundown theater nearby. During our reconnoitering, I was astonished to discover lines of people already waiting outside the venue. This despite the temperature below freezing. Penelope mentioned that the people at the front of the line had likely been there since the night before, or at least early that morning. I was flabbergasted. Such dedication to be just 15 spots further up in the line.

I was able to park the car in a secluded spot, close to the venue, yet easy to make a getaway if required. I inquired as to whether weapons were recommended, and if so, what sort of caliber would be appropriate. When Penelope stated that we would have to complete the mission without so much as a set of tweezers, I almost made my escape immediately. Something about her cool demeanor though, made me pause, and reluctantly go along.

I followed Penelope as she deftly made her way to the line. She immediately was able to strike a rapport with the zealots already in line. She confirmed we were in the "special" line reserved for something called the "fan club". I nervously kept my scan going. Pacing up and down the sidewalk. I was to have to keep this up for several hours.

During that time I would catch glimmers of conversation such as, "Did you see the show at Milwaukee?," and "I was at Memphis and they let the fan club members in 10 minutes before. You need to make sure you have your wristband, though." I immediately began to worry. Did we have the magical wristband? Was all lost? Not to worry though, as Penelope had it all in hand. She disappeared into the crowd leaving me alone. After nodding, and doing my best to make small talk to such questions as "So how many have you been to?" Penelope reappeared with two of the coveted wristbands and what appeared to be tickets for admission.

Later, I took inventory of the people around me. I quickly realized that I was one of the few men in the area. And of the men not in line they appeared to have some sort of official duty, security, or laborers of some sort. This crowd had a definite high estrogen quotient.

Shortly after dark, there was a feeling of anxiety among the crowd. It seemed that something must be happening soon. People were checking their watches, peering into windows and shuffling their feet with renewed interest in the freezing cold. With that the door flung open. we were finally admitted into the inner sanctum. As soon as the outer doors opened the masses around me surged forward. We had to present our wristbands and tickets, but other than that, we were not searched in any manner. I immediately had wish for the familiar weight of some sort of weapon hidden in my clothing, but alas it was too late, we were inside.

Penelope didn't look back as she seemingly navigated the corridors of the place as if she had lived there all her life. I did my best to follow. We came into a large room with a few seats in the back, a large flat area in the center, and a raised dais with people all in black milling about with flashlights and wires. Ah, a stage!

I felt more and more people streaming into the room, and I knew we would quickly be surrounded. I decided that I might be there for a while, so I quickly moved to the side to purchase some liquid courage in case we were to be stuck there for a while. Even though I was only gone for 2 minutes by my watch, there were already scores of additional people around Penelope by the time I got back. I choked back my claustrophobia, and dived into the throng of people. I was able to slither past them to get back to Penelope, liquid courage in hand, to resume my duties.

As people continued to fill past, everybody was looking at the stage. Apprehension filled the room. The people in black milling about had a quiet look of indifference as they attended to their tasks. Occasionally one would step up to the various microphones set up at the periphery of the stage and issue terse and cryptic messages ("check 1,2,3") to the screams of the onlookers. I thought to myself that it must be some sort of hidden message. A call to the faithful.

Then the lights went dark, and a even larger scream erupted from the crowd.

Strange men appeared on stage and picked up musical instruments, and then, a true siren appeared from behind a curtain. She was young, lithe, fit, who walked on her tiptoes like a dancer. Her face looked to be that of an teenager, but the body was that of a playboy bunny. Her eyes glittered as they glided over the crowd and she began to dance and sing. I felt the energy of her washing over me and being drawn into her siren song. A quick glare from Penelope made me realize the error of my ways, and I quickly went back to the mission at hand. The crowd around me seemed interested in the woman, occasionally shouting instructions to her, such as , "Breathe!," but they seemed to have their mind on something else.

After 40 minutes or so she had finished her efforts, and the men in black reappeared. The group rearranged the various boxes, instruments, microphones, etc on the stage. I heard snippets of conversations among the women (and a few men) around me. Things like, "I post under 'Got_RT_Love'" and, "'I wanted to watch it, but my husband erased the DVR I had of it, I could have killed him'." It was a strange language and all the more cryptic by their zeal as they spoke in hurried tones. I heard mention of something like "Sexy Rob shots," but I'm unsure I heard it right. 30 short minutes later the lights went off again and the place erupted in a cacophony of noise. Middle aged women around me were screaming as if they were pre-teens.

And then he appeared. He cavorted around the stage talking with the various musicians with him. Every time he had his back to the crowd it would erupt in screams, as if they wanted him to face them and deliver his message to them personally. Either that or they liked the way he shook his ass.

The crowd seemed especially lively any time he uttered a curse word, with the screams erupting as if on cue with just the first syllable of the F-word. He attempted to exhort to the crowd that he was a mere mortal, but judging from the faces of the group around me, they weren't buying it. They hung on every word, every syllable, every gyration of his hips.

For 2 hours the place swayed and jumped and moved. I feared for Penelope at various times during the night as her face had become a glassy stare. I figured she was going into a trance in order to not become overcome by the psychic energy this messianic figure was obviously delivering to the crowd.

I blacked out at some point, the pain in my legs from standing in one place too long. When I awoke, I was back at the hotel we were using as a safehouse. Unfortunately, there was some sort of teenage convention going on nearby and the place was overrun with what appeared to be agents in pink frilly dresses and diamond tiara's. I quickly scanned each figure up and down to try and determine if any of them were armed. I wasn't sure if this group was somehow involved with the previous group, but I wasn't going to take any chances. Penelope glared at me with a look that she was having none of it, and quickly grabbed me and squeezed us onto an elevator.

In the morning, I drove back to St. Louis at breakneck speed, sure that we were being followed. I stopped for fuel and a beverage, and when I returned Penelope was no longer in the car. I searched all over for her, but there was no evidence of her presence. She had simply vanished. I surely didn't dally in a vain search though. Better to get back to HQ to issue this report.

I think about her now, is she trapped with the pink frillies? Do they have her tied down while they fit her with some diamond crown torture device? Or in the RT cult group in a music inducded coma at some undisclosed location? One thing I am sure of, she will come out ok. Penelope can hold her own with the best of them.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Iraq is Not a Fight I Would Have Picked, but...

This is a post that will likely be free of links, unless some occur to me later, because it is coming from my heart and mind.

Iraq is definitely not a fight I would have picked. I thought it was a dreadful error from the gitgo. The cost/benefit did not look good to me. I also thought it was of questionable morality to go around the world overthrowing governments without some better reason that they were muderous tyrants (there's an abundance of folks like that, so why Sadam?). Further, I did not care for the justifications given. I think there was a sense in the administration the the real reasons to do what we did would not work with the general public, so they went looking for reasons that they thought would work.

What do I think was the real reason?

Like certain observers, I think we did it because after 9/11/01 we had to start to change the world, and specifically the MidEast, so that nothing like that would happen again. We meant to bring democracy and prosperity to a part of the world that had not known such things in its entire history. Citizens of prosperous and democratic countries do not fly planes into skyscrapers.

At least that is what I think happened.

But rather than be candid with the public, the administration chose the Alice in Wonderland approach of WMDs, threats to America, women's sufferage and a host of other justifications that they thought would bring public support to the effort. Most of those were pretty good reasons but not the real reasons. And now everyone kind of senses that and the president has lost the support he sought with these peripheral rationales.

Perhaps none of this would have surfaced had the war and occupation gone quickly and smoothly. That is not how it has worked out. It has been a long hard slog that shows no signs of ending in the foreseeable future.

And so the "surrender lobby" has been handed the cudgel with which they have been beating up the administration, and not entirely without justification.

The president did not "lie." But he most assuredly gave into the odious Clintonian tactic of spinning. He ventured into the Kerry-like world of nuance. Where the reasons for war were straightforward, if difficult to sell to the American public, he chose to blow smoke.

Maybe they were correct in choosing that path. Maybe if the real reasons for war were expressed, then the goals they sought to achieve (changing the very nature of the MidEast) would never be achieved. Maybe they did what they thought they had to do. Maybe the ends justified the means.

Well, how has that worked out for us?

It would be helpful if the administration developed a clear public rationale for what we are doing. It is not too late. Tell the absolute truth now. It has the advantage of not only being truthful, but the subject of pre-war justifications will become moot. We are there to change the nature of a part of the world because to leave it as is courts world catastrophe.

Lincoln fought the Civil War not to end slavery but to preserve The Union. He felt there was no alternative to total victory. He resisted the urge to pursue secondary issues, such as slavery, because the primary reason was so compelling. If the Union were not preserved, slavery in the South might never have ended. Lincoln had a laser like focus. (About Lincoln, I will have more to say in the future.)

I am coming to believe that indeed the MidEast does have to be changed. I am coming to believe, assuming I have the administration's real rationale right, that we have to finish the job we have started. For that matter, having started it, I do not think we have any choice other than to finish it. To not do so could plunge us into decades of bloody conflict with the very ideology that brought us that atrocity on that bright sunny day in September 2001.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Oh Captain, My Captain

Captain Ed has this great article in the Daily Standard. I believe one of our conspirators out in California has used the term Copperheads extensively over the past year to describe the Democratic Party of the 21st century... it seems that some were listening.

Rally Round the (White) Flag, Boys!
Democrats finally find an Iraq policy they can get behind.
by Edward Morrissey
12/07/2005 12:00:00 AM

THE GOOD NEWS for the Democrats is that their leadership has settled on an electoral strategy for 2006. The bad news is that they have cribbed their game plan from one of the most disastrous campaigns in their history. The Democratic leadership has decided to elevate surrender to a party platform for the upcoming elections, with their national chairman, House leader, and last presidential nominee all running up the white flag as the Democratic war banner.

When was the last time that an entire political party stood for backpedaling the way the Democrats have in the past two weeks? Since Rep. John Murtha made his supposedly stunning announcement that he wanted an immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, the Democrats have embraced surrender.

Not even during the Vietnam War did a major American party position itself to support abject retreat as a wartime political platform. For that, one has to go back to the Civil War, when the Democrats demanded a negotiated peace with the Confederate States of America and a withdrawal from the South. Celebrating the popularity of former General George McClellan, who had come from the battlefield to represent a party whose platform demanded a negotiated settlement (which McClellan later disavowed), the Confederates assumed that the war could be over within days of McClellan's presumed victory over the controversial and hated Abraham Lincoln. Even some Republicans began to question whether Lincoln should stand for reelection--until Sherman took Atlanta and exposed McClellan as a defeatist

and an incompetent of the first order.

Murtha's demand for a pullout gave the party's leadership a chance to openly embrace defeatism, much as McClellan did for Northern Democrats in 1864, using McClellan's field experience for the credibility to argue that the American Army could not hope to defeat the enemy it faced.

AFTER THE MURTHA COMMENTS, the GOP challenged the Democrats to go on record with a Congressional vote for retreat. Almost the entire Democratic caucus cut and ran from their embrace of the cut-and-run strategy--the House voted against the non-binding resolution for immediate withdrawal 403 to 3. The height of Democratic pusillanimity came when GOP Rep. Sam Johnson, a former Vietnam POW, asked for three extra minutes to complete his remarks. Several Democrats voiced objection. The speaker demanded that the members objecting identify themselves--and none would even stand for their own objection.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. John Kerry insisted that no Democrat had demanded a precipitous withdrawal or a timetable for retreat--and then demanded that the White House provide a timetable with dates for "transition of authority." (In other words, after deciding at the end of last year's election that the United States needed more troops in Iraq, he now demands a withdrawal after he demanded an escalation.)

At nearly the same time, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held her own news conference demanding an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq. Her second in command, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, shot back that he wanted no withdrawal and instead wanted the nation to focus on victory. Meanwhile, Senator Joe Lieberman returned from his fourth trip to Iraq and wrote that Bush has a plan in place for winning the war--and that it's was working. Democratic leadership respectfully disagreed with Lieberman's assessment--and then changed course and suggested that Lieberman replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

Add to Lieberman the much beloved Wesley Clark who penned this Op-Ed in the NYTimes on Tuesday. Sure, he makes some bonehead comments, but he's not for the cut & run strategy that Pelosi, Murtha, and Kerry (?) are for.
We need to keep our troops in Iraq, but we need to modify the strategy far more drastically than anything President Bush called for last week.

On the military side, American and Iraqi forces must take greater control of the country's borders, not only on the Syrian side but also in the east, on the Iranian side. The current strategy of clearing areas near Syria of insurgents and then posting Iraqi troops, backed up by mobile American units, has had success. But it needs to be expanded, especially in the heavily Shiite regions in the southeast, where there has been continuing cross-border traffic from Iran and where the loyalties of the Iraqi troops will be especially tested.

We need to deploy three or four American brigades, some 20,000 troops, with adequate aerial reconnaissance, to provide training, supervision and backup along Iraq's several thousand miles of vulnerable border. And even then, the borders won't be "sealed"; they'll just be more challenging to penetrate.

We must also continue military efforts against insurgent strongholds and bases in the Sunni areas, in conjunction with Iraqi forces. Over the next year or so, this will probably require four to six brigade combat teams, plus an operational reserve, maybe 30,000 troops.

Sensible...

I wonder how all the DUers & Kossacks that adore Clark feel about this position? Apparently, it was met with a silence that was even surprising for this DUer...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Market Forces in Healthcare

This Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal regarding Healthcare Savings Accounts (and how to improve them) is great.

HSAs allow people to purchase a relatively inexpensive, high-deductible insurance and deposit money into a tax-free account. Thus, they combine real insurance (i.e., coverage for high and unpredictable costs) with contributions to a savings account that can be used to pay for smaller health expenses and rolled over from year to year. HSAs are a significant departure from the last four decades of health reform, which have been dominated by paternalist programs like Medicare, Medicaid and managed care. HSAs seek to give Americans more control of their own health care. Of course, insurance executives and employers are hardly known for their eagerness to embrace change, especially change this sweeping. Yet, despite its youth, the HSA enjoys a significant birthday:
  • In March 2005, America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, released a survey of its membership showing that enrollment in HSAs had doubled over the previous six months, and exceeded a million Americans. About half are in the individual insurance market.
  • In a survey, Blue Cross found high levels of satisfaction among HSA holders: 65% would recommend the plan to a friend.
  • More and more insurance companies offer the plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield promises HSA products in 49 states by 2006. Even Kaiser Permanente -- the company that invented managed care -- now markets HSAs.
  • Large employers are increasingly looking at the option. A Mercer study found that 5% of employers with over 500 employees and 22% of companies with over 20,000 employees were offering these consumer-driven plans in 2005. Next year, 11% of all employers will offer such plans, including Wal-Mart.
But HSAs are quietly gaining popularity. Perhaps most importantly, they are changing the way Americans think about their health care; empowered with health dollars, people are becoming more cost conscious. As a result, many insurance companies aren't just selling HSAs -- they're offering companion services, like information Web sites. At the Cigna site, members can estimate annual costs, compare drug prices and access comparisons of hospitals (showing quality ratings for certain procedures, as well as cost and length of stay). Others offer "health coaches," so that a health professional can help patients navigate health care's choppy waters.
[...]
A remedy is readily available: Congress should pass Rep. John Shadegg's Health Care Choice Act, which would allow out-of-state purchase of health insurance. Modeled after interstate banking laws, this legislation would create a national market for health insurance. Critics suggest that consumers would be stripped of basic protection since local regulations could be circumvented. But that simply isn't the case. Nothing would stop a New Yorker from buying a New York policy; there simply would be the option of going out-of-state as well. Governments can also take a leadership role in popularizing HSAs by making them available to public employees. Despite the dire financial condition of most public plans, only the federal government and Arkansas offer HSAs. Imagine the impact on the marketplace if hundreds of thousands of state employees had them.

It was 2 years ago that HSAs were introduced and they may be the last best hope to fend off the forces of socialism when it comes to healthcare. Why is that?

Ask your average healthcare customer how much their doctor charges for a visit. 95% of the time, the answer you'll get will be the copay or the fee that the individual pays, not the actual charge. This is a classic example of the costs of a good or service being hidden from the actual consumer of that good or service - which usually results in overconsumption. When someone does not understand the true cost of a service and think that someone else is paying for it (whether that someone else is the insurance company or the government), the person will inevitably use that service more than if they realized the true costs.

HSAs attempt to fix this problem by making it obvious how much healthcare actually costs. Employers and employees contribute to a HSA each month (in many cases employers make a one-time depoosit to establish the fund each year). These contributions are tax free, thanks to the 2003 law. As healthcare services are used, funds from the HSA are used to pay for those services (and thus, the actual costs of the services become quite apparent to the consumer). As patients begin to realize the costs of healthcare, they will likely discuss the charges with their doctor or seek out less expensive physicians - introducing market forces which are not at work today. (No one talks to their doctor about the fee they're paying when they make the appointment for a visit, do they?) Most importantly, the funds that are used for healthcare costs are taxfree and if a person does not use the entire amount in their HSA within a year, it rolls over to the next year.

While HSAs might not be a great idea for those that consume a large amount of healthcare services, the whole concept is that young (and typically healthy) workers will be investing in the HSAs for future healthcare costs and only using their HSAs for preventive care. Many ask, but what if something serious happened? Well, that's the beauty of the HSA. It's paired with a high deductible insurance policy. If you get in a car accident or required extended hospital stays, once your HSA is depleted and you've paid the deductible, you receive 100% coverage from the insurance policy. The other, often unmentioned, benefit from HSAs is that they're portable and thus health insurance does not become a factor when deciding to make a career change.

Now, some CEOs are blaming healthcare costs for their poor business strategies. It's important to note that the Left seizes on these claims to push their socialist agenda (and force all of us, especially the poor, into long lines like those experienced in Canada). Let's trust the market on healthcare - if for no other reason than the market is us, all of us.

;-)

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Defeaticrats

This is a MUST READ Mark Steyn:

[...]
[Senator Joe Lieberman's] big piece on Iraq was headlined "Our Troops Must Stay."

And who wants to hear that? Not the media and certainly not Lieberman's colleagues in the Defeaticrat Party. It must be awful lonely being Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party these days. Every time he switches on the news there's John Kerry sonorously droning out his latest pretzel of a position: Insofar as I understand it, he's not calling for a firm 100 percent fixed date of withdrawal -- like, say, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; meet at Baghdad bus station with two pieces of carry-on. Don't worry, it's not like flying coach on TWA, you'd be able to change the date without paying a surcharge. But Kerry drones that we need to "set benchmarks" for the "transfer of authority." Actually, the administration's been doing that for two years -- setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren't in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.

These sad hollow men may yet get their way -- which is to say they may succeed in persuading the American people that a remarkable victory in the Middle East is in fact a humiliating defeat. It would be an incredible achievement. Peter Worthington, the Canadian columnist and veteran of World War II and Korea, likes to say that there's no such thing as an unpopular won war. The Democrat-media alliance are determined to make Iraq an exception to that rule. In a week's time, Iraqis will participate in the most open political contest in the history of the Middle East. They're building the freest society in the region, and the only truly federal system. In three-quarters of the country, life has never been better.
[...]
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who's spent years as a beleaguered democracy advocate in Egypt, told the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland the other day that, although he'd opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, he had to admit it had "unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon's 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives."

The Egyptians get it, so do the Iraqis, the Lebanese, the Jordanians and the Syrians. The choice is never between a risky action and the status quo -- i.e., leaving Saddam in power, U.N. sanctions, U.S. forces sitting on his borders. The stability fetishists in the State Department and the European Union fail to understand that there is no status quo: things are always moving in some direction and, if you leave a dictator and his psychotic sons in business, and his Oil-for-Food scam up and running, and his nuclear R&D teams in places, chances are they're moving in his direction. [...]

Read it in full. As Chimpy McHitlerBush's strategery of liberty in the Middle East moves forward, the Left will look awful silly. I'm sorry, but I don't think I'd want to be part of a political party that would be ticked when the Iraqis vote for a new government in December. Or have to resort to a "yeah, but" every time someone mentions some good news from the War on Terror.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

And Now for Something Completely Different


Mr. Mackey says "Drugs are bad..." but don't tell that to the Canadians.

No doubt this will be an issue in 2006 and the 2008 elections... Given the "ideas" of the Democratic Party, there's no doubt that they'll champion the "progressive" nature of the Canadian policy and wonder why we can't implement something similar here in the US.

Excerpted in full... and no, this isn't from The Onion:

Dec 06 8:12 AM US/Eastern

Health authorities in Canada's westernmost province want to make the country's first test facility for heroin injection permanent and are considering opening additional clinics to meet the huge demand. The Vancouver facility was set up in 2003, against US opposition, as a three-year experiment exempt from Canadian drug laws.

Since then the clinic, North America's only such operation, has run at capacity, with some 800 heroin injections daily.

"It's all-round positive, with no downsides," said Perry Kendall, British Columbia province's chief medical officer.
Well, that's good to know... heroin injections in a supervised facility have no downsides! Well, sounds like a prescription for an expansion of the program!
Kendall said the clinic achieved its goal to cut overdose deaths and rates of hepatitis and HIV infection. Although its exemption from drug laws will not expire until September 2006, this month he applied to Health Canada to make the facility permanent.

With a federal election currently underway in Canada, a decision will likely take months.

The clinic looks like an innocuous storefront in Vancouvers squalid Downtown Eastside district, Canada's most impoverished neighbourhood with more than 5,000 heroin addicts concentrated in a 10-block area.
5,000 heroin addicts within 10 blocks. Sounds pleasant. keep that number in mind... five thousand. And just to prove the point, here's one of the clinic's "customers"!


Addicts bring in drugs purchased illegally on the street, and self-inject them under medical supervision. There are onsite emergency services in case of overdose and staff nurses and counselors to provide health care and referrals to rehabilitation facilities.

Worldwide, about 50 similar clinics operate routinely, mostly in Europe.
I'm sure no one reading this blog is suprised that Europe is way ahead of Canada on this one...
As in Europe, Canadian public opinion has changed to view drug addiction as a health issue instead of a purely criminal matter.
Well, that's great... because, you know.... Drugs are bad (in a Mr. Mackey voice). But to criminalize a harmless drug like heroin, well... that's just cruel.
But drug issues here are affected by the proximity to the United States with its official war on drugs.
Those F@#$ING YANKEES!!!! Always ruining a good time!
The Vancouver clinic is a stone's throw from the border with Washington state, and since it opened the White House has criticized it as an "inhumane" medical experiment.

The United States also opposes a new experiment in Vancouver to give addicts free prescription heroin in hopes of reducing property crimes to feed their habit.

Hmmmm... free heroin to reduce property crimes. Not just legalizing it and taxing it, but actually becoming their dealer without all of that funny Canadian money
Ironically, the success of Vancouvers supervised heroin use site led to another controversy this month, as Vancouver police launched a crackdown on public drug use.

For years police have turned a blind eye in some areas to thousands of addicts shooting up on sidewalks, streets and in public buildings such as libraries, and leaving behind used syringes.

Police now say because addicts can use the supervised facility, they will be stopped from injecting in public.
Ironic... yes...
"The police recognize drug addiction as a health issue... but police must step in when the addicts' activities interfere with other people's lives," police said in a statement.

"Children should be able to use (park playground) swings and not have to worry about pricking themselves with needles buried in the sand," said police Inspector Bob Rolls.

I thought there were no downsides?
Advocates for drug users protested that the police crackdown is cruel because the clinic can only serve a minority of drug users.

"It's just a really destructive thing," said Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

She notes that the supervised site can handle just 800 of 15,000 heroin injections daily, and staff are prohibited from physically injecting addicts or letting other addicts inject incapacitated users.

Remember the number of addicts in the 10 block neighborhood of Vancouver? 5,000... And they require 15000 heroin injectios daily... No, nothing destructive going on here. Just some healthcare services.
There's also no place for addicts who smoke cocaine, said Livingston.
The Horror.... The Horror....
Livingston called for a relaxation in clinic rules and the establishment of at least four more clinics in Vancouver.

Kendall agreed that the fact the police crackdown is causing an overflow at the injection site "may make an argument for opening up more sites."
Somehow, when you start to enforce the laws, people obey... and this clinic is providing a nice and comfortable environment (at the taxpayers expense, of course) for these addicts to destroy themselves.

Now, the libertarian in me says, "legalize drugs and give the death penalty to anyone under the influence that injures or kills another human being"... and the libertarian in me also says, "What in the @$#^% are the Canadian taxpayers doing subsidizing drug use and the personal destruction of their fellow citizens?"

Fortunately, the conservative in me then gives the libertarian in me a swift kick in the nose and says, "enforce the @#@%ing laws until they figure it out!"

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

The Polls

Well, it seems that there's a war going on amongst pollsters... Rassmussen has this Consumer Confidence Index which shows that it's hit the highest levels in 9 months. It seems that the public is catching on, despite all of the press to the contrary.

Tuesday December 06, 2005--The Rasmussen Consumer Index matched its highest level in nine months on Tuesday, gaining another point to 117.7. The Index, which measures the economic confidence of American consumers, has shown confidence increasing since Labor Day.

Thirty-two percent (32%) of Americans say the U.S. economy is getting better. That's up from 25% a month ago and 20% three months ago. In fact, it's the most optimistic assessment since March 9.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans say the economy is getting worse. The last time that figure fell below the 50% mark was March 9.
[...]
The Rasmussen Consumer Index reached its highest level ever at 127.0 on January 6, 2004. The all-time low was reached March 11, 2003 at 83.2.

The Rasmussen Investor Index reached its highest level ever at 150.9 on January 7, 2004. The lowest level ever measured was 91.1 on March 13, 2003.

The baseline for the Rasmussen Consumer Index was established at 100.0 in October 2001. The current level of 117.7 means that overall levels of economic confidence are slightly higher than the confidence level in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Imagine what it would be without the doom & gloom from the MSM... I'm frankly amazed that people are only slightly more optimistic about the economy than they were after Oct 2001 - weeks after 9/11. Just amazing.

Other polls due out today from Rassmussen? (DUers & Kossacks, please shield your eyes to keep them from bleeding...)
Bush Job Approval at 46%
Coming Later Today...

Well, is Safire right??? Is the narrative changing?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

The Economy - Time to Recognize

BizzyBlog has this excellent post on the fact that 43% of Americans still think that the US is in a recession - despite all of the evidence to the contrary. (This is along the lines of my post from last Friday....

“Grouches” like BizzyBlog, Larry Kudlow, Neil Cavuto, and Investors Business Daily are not the only ones lamenting the awful coverage of the consistently growing economy.

In an OpinionJournal.com column, Brian Wesbury, chief investment strategist with Claymore Advisors LLC, joins the chorus of the frustrated (requires free registration), and, at the end, reminds us why the economy in reality has done well in the past few years (bolds are mine; links to the page supporting the 36% and 43% “we’re in a recession” figures added by BizzyBlog):

During a quarter century of analyzing and forecasting the economy, I have never seen anything like this. No matter what happens, no matter what data are released, no matter which way markets move, a pall of pessimism hangs over the economy.

It is amazing. Everything is negative. When bond yields rise, it is considered bad for the housing market and the consumer. But if bond yields fall and the yield curve narrows toward inversion, that is bad too, because an inverted yield curve could signal a recession.

If housing data weaken, as they did on Monday when existing home sales fell, well that is a sign of a bursting housing bubble. If housing data strengthen, as they did on Tuesday when new home sales rose, that is negative because the Fed may raise rates further. If foreigners buy our bonds, we are not saving for ourselves. If foreigners do not buy our bonds, interest rates could rise. If wages go up, inflation is coming. If wages go down, the economy is in trouble.

This onslaught of negative thinking is clearly having an impact. During the 2004 presidential campaign, when attacks on the economy were in full force, 36% of Americans thought we were in recession. One year later, even though unemployment has fallen from 5.5% to 5%, and real GDP has expanded by 3.7%, the number who think a recession is underway has climbed to 43% (page down halfway at link for both stats–Ed.).

….. Sharp declines in consumer confidence and rising oil prices were supposed to hurt retail sales; but holiday shopping is strong. Many fear that China is stealing our jobs, but new reports suggest that U.S. manufacturers are so strong that a shortage of skilled production workers has developed. And since the Fed started hiking interest rates 16 months ago, 3.5 million new jobs and $750 billion in additional personal income have been created. Stocks are also up, which according to pundits was unlikely as long as the Fed was hiking rates.

….. One key reason the U.S. economy has outperformed other industrialized nations, and exceeded its long-run average growth rate during the past two years, is the tax cut of 2003. By reducing taxes on investment, the U.S. boosted growth, which in turn created new jobs that replace those that are lost as the old economy dies. Ireland is also a beautiful example of the power of tax cuts to boost growth and lift living standards.
[...]
Other key findings in the American Research Group data (based on “1,100 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of all adults age 18 and older living in telephone households in the continental United States”) show just how much the views of those surveyed differ from reality:
  • After 10 quarters of 3%-plus GDP growth with low inflation and 5% unemployment, “A total of 35% of Americans rate the national economy as excellent, very good, or good and 63% rate it as bad, very bad, or terrible.”
  • In the near-total absence of data that would indicate that there is trouble ahead, “A total of 13% of Americans say that the national economy is getting better, 36% say it is staying the same, and 50% say the national economy is getting worse.”
  • This one’s more judgmental, but with no compelling evidence of economic storms on the one-year horizon, “A total of 17% of Americans say they believe the national economy will be better a year from now, 20% say it will be the same, 61% say it will be worse, and 2% are undecided.”
Read the whole post for Bizzy's take.

Of course, if someone isn't presented the evidence and instead is spoonfed doom & gloom on a daily basis, you can't fault them for their misperceptions... However, those that are aware of the economic data, such as...ohhh, the editors of the NYTimes, the DUers and the Kossacks, and many in the MSM - well, we can blame them and call them liars! (BTW, is there any point in making a distinction between the DUers/Kossacks and the MSM these days? Sure, the MSM is a little slicker and a little more toned down, but the message is the same...)

And imagine what our economic performance would be if people had an optimistic view of their economic future! Because a large part of economics is people's aversion or acceptance of risk and their perception of the future (and more specifically future returns). Someone inclined to believe that things are going poorly is unlikely to spend their earnings...

Oh... and here's a little tip for the readers. This is a sure way to make some dough. If the MSM and company continue to downplay the performance of the economy, it's time to start investing heavily and then clean up once they realize the economy is going gangbusters - which I predict will occur on January 21st, 2009. As Carl Futia has pointed out, the New York Times is an invaluable investment sheet - just do the opposite of what it's reporting. No doubt Warrent Buffet wishes he would've been a contrarian like Carl when they Times predicted that the bottom would fall out of the US dollar...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Big Four in the 21st Century

Read this essay at the American Enterpirse Institute for a glimpse on the direction of our foreign policy in this century.

The Big Four Alliance - The New Bush Strategy
By Thomas Donnelly
Posted: Friday, December 2, 2005

Over the past six months, the Bush administration has upgraded its budding “strategic partnerships” with India and Japan. Along with the steady "special relationship” with Great Britain, what is beginning to emerge is a global coalition system--it is too soon to call it a true alliance--for the post-Cold War world. Much work remains to be done to translate the expressions of similar political interests and values into usable military strength. Still, the prospects for expanding the number of genuine “stakeholders” in the Pax Americana are quite bright.

It used to be the fashion to pillory the Bush administration for its unilateralism. The worst offense was not removing Saddam Hussein from power, but “going it alone” (never mind the British and the other members of the coalition). And even in Afghanistan, the snub of NATO’s offer to slow the operation down to a Kosovo-like pace was thought to cloud the justice of the war.

Now, the editorialists of the New York Times have discovered:
[T]he Bush administration has been going out of its way to build up its military ties with countries surrounding China. India and Japan are the two most troubling examples. Washington has pressed ahead with an ill-advised initiative to share civilian nuclear technology with India, despite that country’s refusal to abide by the restrictions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And it has actively encouraged an already worrisomely nationalist Japanese government to shed postwar restraints on its military and embrace more ambitious regional security goals. Washington has also taken steps to strengthen military cooperation with Vietnam and Indonesia. Mr. Bush’s stopover in Mongolia [was] likewise . . . aimed at cementing a new security partnership.[1]

The reactionary Left is shocked, but there has been an even larger pattern of alliance-building that has been going on out of sight of the newsrooms of the mainstream media. Indeed, far from maintaining a unilateralist approach to American security, the Bush administration has been cementing a globe-spanning structure of strategic partnerships that has the potential not only to “contain” China, but also to sustain and enhance the liberal international order of the post-Soviet era.

You might call this emerging set of alliances the “four-by-four” strategy. It is built around four great powers--the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and India--who share four basic strategic principles--that the dangers of radicalism, failing despotic governments, and nuclear proliferation in the greater Middle East are too great to ignore; that the growing military strength and political ambitions of Beijing’s autocrats make it far from certain that China’s “rise” will be a peaceful one; that the spread of representative forms of government will increase the prospects for a durable peace; and that military force remains a useful and legitimate tool of national statecraft.
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Read the whole thing...

Frankly, I think that even the haughty, French-looking Kerry (who by the way served in Vietnam) would find it difficult to alter the alignment from the Anglosphere to a closer alliance with the French... It's just inevitable that the US, the Brits, the Indians, and the Japanese will strengthen their relationships and interdependence. However, it might have taken longer (resulting in perhaps more pain in the long term).

And it's especially interesting that Angie Merkel seems to recognize that "the West" is moving beyond old (and useless) structures...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler