Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carla Bruni Sings

For the benefit of those who wouldn't be caught dead reading Ace:


Monday, September 28, 2009

Defense Roundup

Obama's dithering on Afghanistan is simultaneously a potential national security tragedy and the potential long-term undoing of any Democratic party credibiility on national security issues for maybe a decade or so. The war in Afghanistan may not poll well right now, but Obama's handling of it will poll much, much worse in the event of either a pull-out or --perhaps worse yet-- a limited engagement even more reminiscent of Vietnam than is presently the case.

(1) Obama has apparently only spoken with General McChrystal once since taking office. Good job, Barry.

(2) I've been holding back on criticism of Secretary Gates, but I frankly do not believe him when he said this to George Stephanopoulos (bold added):

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, as you said, you hope to have this done in a few weeks and you want to avoid failure, as well. But the president has not made any -- any decision at all on resources?

Has he -- has he ruled it out?

GATES: No, I haven't even given him General McChrystal's request for resources. I have the -- I -- I'm receiving the -- the report. I'm going to sit on it until I think -- or the president thinks -- it's appropriate to bring that into the discussion of the national security principles.

Really? That's not part of the conversation already? If I believed Gates I'd ask what the hold-up was, but I don't.

This malarkey about tactics vs strategy is just as ridiculous as the last time we had a tactics-vs-strategy debate. COIN is the only way to go.

My current assessment of Secretary Gates is that he's a very politically attuned creature who will say and do what he thinks he needs to in order to avoid what he perceives as worst case scenarios for the military. I think we have seen this in the arguments about missile defense (there is still a scaled-back program) and on defense appropriations generally. I think he genuinely has the military's best interest at heart, but will make any compromise necessary to further it. He's a man who will take what he can get and be happy with it. (In retrospect, this assessment was probably equally true of Gates under Bush.)

(3) It's a good thing the military is no longer being politicized... oh wait... "Obama told Petraeus and McChrystal to "scrub" assessments". My bad.

(4) We will take care of our veterans... unless they happen to be WWII era Alaska Territorial Guard. Screw them. Those 26 guys were really breaking the bank...

(5) Oh, and about that scaled back missile defense. Bad move.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Misappropriating Reagan

Reagan's most pie-in-the-sky idea was getting rid of all nuclear weapons. Sounds great. Not particularly realistic, but in a world of bi-polar power, it was at least conceivable.

Obama approvingly quoted Reagan in a recent speech to the UN:
"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop until all -- we must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth."

Well, we live in a different world now. It is most certainly possible to win a nuclear war against virtually any nation on the planet, just not Russia, and probably not a good idea to pick a fight with China. Disarmament only works when other parties reciprocate. I don't see North Korea (or China, for that matter) disarming, nor Iran stopping its nuclear program.

The structure of the nuclear game has changed, and not all of the players are rational actors. Quoting Reagan in this context is naive and dishonest.

ABC pulling a "Kings" with "Defying Gravity"?

With only four episodes remaining in the first season, ABC has unexpectedly and inexplicably stopped airing the show. While there is some glimmer hope that they will air the last four episodes at some point in the future (like NBC did with "Kings"), the writing appears to be on the wall.

Another excellent show falls to inept marketing.

At least when I watch the schlock on SyFy I know they're going to finish the season. If SyFy can finish a season of the horrendous "Flash Gordon", ABC can finish the season of the much more captivating "Defying Gravity". Why do the major nets even bother exploring this stuff if they aren't going to get behind it?

Give me liberty a full season or give me death some crappy reality show!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quote of the Day: Carter

Newt on our Honduras policy:
"... This is waging war against Democracy. I mean, this is worse than anything I can remember Carter doing."


White House searching CRS Honduras Report

[UPDATED -- State Department also searching on Gutierrez. See below]

Norma C. Gutierrez may wish to brush up her resume, as somebody in the White House noticed the Congressional Research Service report and is searching for the string, "crs norma c. gutierrez".

White House search hit

Ms. Gutierrez wrote the following, which was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal piece:
"Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system."


Given that I don't even seem to appear in the first hundred google hits for that string, the Executive Office of the President seems to be digging quite deeply on this.

Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for this tragically mistaken policy. Obama needs to man up and fire some people at State. Possibly the Secretary.

If instead we find that Ms. Gutierrez suddenly finds herself out of a job, we will know who to blame.


***** Update *****
Department of State is also suddenly curious about Ms. Gutierrez:

State Dept hit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Intertubes Round-up

Stories I've been following...

(1)
WSJ: The Congressional Research Service confirms what a lot of us have believed for some time:
Now a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts. "Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system," writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.

Our Honduran policy is by far the most mysterious policy the Obama administration had taken, foreign or domestic. There is no rational reason to behave the way they are behaving. There are no foreign policy goals to be achieved by taking this path. It defines idiocy.

(2) Are unpaid internships illegal? Short answer, it appears so.

(3) As Gibbs said, there's no quid pro quo with the missile defense deal. Indeed. The technical merits of the missile defense change are debatable, but you'd think Obama could at least have chosen a day other than the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland to screw the Poles and the Czechs. That's "Smart Power" for you.

(4) Separate but equal?

(5) Pethokoukis asks, "Did Romney flip-flop on TARP?" -- Looks that way to me. (Just for the record, I was for a bank bailout. It probably could have been done better initially, and managed better subsequently, but letting the global banking system collapse was not a real option from where I sit.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

TIME's drive-by on Beck

Let me preface this by saying I'm not exactly a big Glenn Beck fan. I used to watch him some on Headline News, but since he's gone over to Fox I don't care for his new style.

That said, TIME magazine's cover story, "Mad Man", explores Beck in a typical "drive-by media" fashion. ("Drive-by media" being a useful Limbaugh-ism)

Take this for example:
Some days "they" are the network of leftist community organizers known as ACORN — and his indictment of the group is looking stronger every day. But he also spins yarns of less substance. He tells his viewers that Obama's volunteerism efforts are really an attempt to create a "civilian national-security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military."


Gee, I wonder where Beck got that from?



TIME could at least do its homework. Take-downs are much more effective that way. It's not like Beck pulled it out of thin air, and it took me all of 60 seconds to find that on YouTube.

Then there's this:
Both left- and right-wing not-for-profit groups operate as self-anointed media watchdogs, and one of the largest of these — the liberal group Media Matters for America — has a multimillion-dollar budget. Staff members monitor Beck's every public utterance, poised to cherry-pick the most inflammatory sentences. (Conservative outfits do the same for the likes of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.) These nuggets are used in turn to rev up donations to political parties and drive ratings for the endless rounds of talking-head shows.


Yes, but I have yet to see TIME magazine do a cover story, "Mad Man: Is Keith Olbermann Bad for America?" Of course, Olby doesn't draw the same numbers Beck does.

More:
A liberal group called Color of Change has organized an advertiser boycott of Beck's TV show — great publicity for the group and a boon to Beck's ratings.

No mention that recent Beck subject and now-ex-czar Van Jones was a co-founder of Color of Change.

No need to wonder why people distrust the drive-by media.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quote of the Day : Promise

Charles Krauthammer, quoting Greg Mankiw:
"Translation: I promise to fix the problem. And if I do not fix the problem now, I will fix it later, or some future president will, after I am long gone. I promise he will. Absolutely, positively, I am committed to that future president fixing the problem. You can count on it. Would I lie to you?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's bad when Frum lays into Obama

David Frum managed to stop making inane complaints about Republicans being too conservative long enough to notice that Obama is screwing up his foreign policy Big Time, pretty much all over the globe.

When Frum, known as a moderate squish, is this harsh on Obama, it's pretty bad.

It's not a faultless column -- it is Frum after all. He once again perpetuates the myth of brainy Obama being too smart to believe his own rhetoric: "It remains hard to believe that the sophisticated Obama can have much personal sympathy for trade protection."

Gee, I dunno. With a very small number of exceptions like prisoner rendition and indefinite detention, Obama's pretty much done exactly what he said he was going to do on all fronts. Posed as "trade protection", a few neurons in Barack's brahman brain might object, but rephrase it as environmental protection or human rights protection and it'll all go out the window.

But for Frum, this is pretty good.

Quote of the Day: Macho Man

Bryan Curtis' story on Linda McMahon's Senate candidacy in the Daily Beast:
Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, and “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart could not be reached at press time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In The Year 2000: Embarrassing YouTube Vids

Far into the future, in the year 2000...


Photobucket


... instead of showing embarrassing childhood photographs to their sons' girlfriends, parents will show embarrassing YouTube videos:

Quote of the Day: Friedman on bailouts

Kevin D. Williamson in the September 21 National Review ("Blame Milton Friedman"):
Those who endorsed National Review’s line on TARP may be pleased to know that I have been rethinking my position. There are those conservatives who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” There are those who ask, “What would Ronald Reagan do?” There are even a few who ask, “What would Russell Kirk do, other than pour himself a scotch and shake his head sadly before writing another 1,000 pages?” I ask myself, “What would Milton Friedman do?”

Milton Friedman would have supported a bank bailout.

Or it seems he would have, given that a bank bailout is more or less what he prescribed for the last great financial crisis, the one leading up to the Great Depression, which he dwells upon at some length in his Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960.

I love reading Williamson in NR and on Bloomberg. This has been my positional all along, though I've been wavering lately having seen where it has led.

More on the Fed:
Along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other institutions of that kidney, the Fed’s existence is an implicit judgment that bankruptcy law and normal market processes are insufficient in the case of banks. That may be a faulty judgment, but it is a very longstanding one, and it is owed some consideration.
Williamson isn't saying he loves TARP, just that it might have been the lesser evil.

Williamson concludes:
Likewise, those who supported the bailout must surely believe that we ought to live in a country in which the damage it is going to do will be minimized, in which it is temporary, and in which we will act with all deliberate speed to undo those federal incursions into the economy — a world in which the ratchet of statism turns both ways. Good luck with that.

Touché.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Racism charges getting old

Frankly, the racism angle is reaching a laughable level of ridiculousness. Are so many people in denial about the genuine outrage against the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate?

There's this from CNN...

CNN

... and there's Maureen Dowd totally losing her shit about Joe Wilson. While I can't say that Wilson's outburst was conduct becoming of a member of Congress, it's hard to say he was exactly wrong when they subsequently meet to change the language of the legislation. How racist of Joe Wilson to speak truth to power! (And as if that were the only fib Obama told that evening, or even the biggest.)

And then there's this classic from a couple of weeks ago where MSNBC purposely edited out the fact that this particular gun-toting protester...



... was in fact black:



I guess that didn't fit the narrative of racist protesters who can't stand being governed by the black man.

Say what you will about "Faux News", there's zero credibility on the other side either.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Software FAIL

Saw an interesting new free stats tool, SOFA, which appears to be mostly a GUI binding for a bunch of other python-language stats tools. Looks like it produces nice tables (better than any other free software I've seen) so I thought I'd give it a go.

Hovering the mouse over the "import data" button shows this message: "Import data e.g. a spreadsheet, csv, or SPSS sav file."

So, I try to import a SAV file...

SOFA FAILs

(Click for full-size screen cap, or just take my word for it.)

The error message reads: "Files with the file name extension '.sav' are not supported"

Go figure.

I tried renaming it to have no file extension, but it gave me a similar error.

Pawlenty standing his ground on Obamacare

This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, potential Presidential candidate Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood his ground against Stockholm Joe Scarborough's attacks on the attacks on Obamacare:



Pawlenty has done what few Republicans have been able to do -- calmly address the concerns behind the "death panel" claims without buying into the language, but without entirely dismissing it either. He took a very loaded question and got his message across without appearing abrasive. In a world of Obama Derangement Syndrome, that's a huge plus.

I'm liking Pawlenty more and more. I'm still unclear as to what Pawlenty's overarching philosophy might be -- the "Sam's Club Republicans" concept needs fleshed out a bit -- but he's performing well so far. I certainly prefer him to Huckabee, and probably to Romney. Whereas Pawlenty may (may) turn out to be squishy in a few areas, Romney has been all over the map. I'll take consistency over rhetoric any day.

On the subject of Obama's address to Congress, when even the Associated Press is doing fact checks and calling the math "iffy", there's a problem. Matt Welch at Reason.com wrote a response that is so good and complete I wish I'd written it myself. (Reason is libertarian, not conservative.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Uninformed

On a basic question of who controlled the levers of power in Congress in 2008, Republicans and Men answered correctly about 2/3 of the time. Democrats and Women were about as good as a coin flip - Independents weren't much better.

[ANES 2008 data]


Universe = people who self-reported that they voted for President in 2008

Question 1:"Do you happen to know which party had the most members in the House of Representatives in Washington BEFORE the election (this/last) month?

Question 2:"Do you happen to know which party had the most members in the U.S. Senate BEFORE the election (this/last)month?"


The results are dismal no matter how you look at it, but on these basic questions Republicans and Men were less poorly informed than Democrats and Women.

By Party IDDems Control HouseGOP Control House\\Dems Control SenateGOP Control Senate
DEM-ID51.7%48.3%\\48.2%51.8%
GOP-ID65.8%34.2%\\69.7%30.3%
IND-ID55.7%44.3%\\48.4%51.6%



By GenderDems Control HouseGOP Control House\\ Dems Control SenateGOP Control Senate
Male 66.3%33.7%\\65.9%34.1%
Female50.2%49.8%\\46.2%53.8%



Though I'm glad Republicans outperformed, this is hardly chest-thumping data. How the hell did the party run a major election without conveying this basic information? This is a colossal failure of GOP campaign management.

Jon Lovitz re: Scientology

Lovitz on Conan:

Sunday, September 06, 2009

In the middle of the night

Good time for a beleaguered administration official to resign? Midnight Saturday on a three-day weekend.

Adios, Van Jones. Too bad you're only the symptom and not the disease.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jonesing

Yeah, Van Jones needs to go.

"Why?", you might ask. "Who's Van Jones?"

Blame the media for your ignorance. It wasn't on the ABC news tonight, probably not the other nets either.

It's only been all over the internet all day. They couldn't have possibly put anything together by 6:30pm...

------------------
Edit - 9/4/09 -
Nexis hits for "Van Jones controversy" on major networks and papers? Zero.

Because what's the big deal about a truther communist free-Mumia type advising the POTUS?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ahead of the Curve

Time to toot my own horn here...

Case #1, Honduras motivations

Me, July 21st:
Maybe they feel they can score a "win". In doing so, they risk further alienation of friendly Latin American nations.

Mary O'Grady in the Wall Street Journal, August 30th:
This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can't bear another loss right now. Most especially it can't afford to be defeated by the government of a puny Central American country that doesn't seem to know its place in the world and dares to defy the imperial orders of Uncle Sam.


Case #2 - Stimulus Payback

Me, August 7th:
Let's cut the "stimulus" in half and pocket the rest of the money for debt reduction. We're gonna need it.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor in USA Today, September 1:
Over $400 billion committed toward 'stimulus' will not be spent this year. Let's redirect that money to reduce the deficit and start to get our financial house in order.


Ok, so I'm not the first person to suggest cutting our losses on the badly implemented stimulus. But I was there weeks ahead of Cantor. And I'm pretty sure I was on the leading edge with that Honduran "win" analysis.