For those of you not familiar with Arizona, there is a little town in Yavapai County named Bagdad. It ain't big, but I've actually been there. 35 years or so ago my aunt and uncle ran a drive-in movie theater there, and they also published a weekly paper. They were undoubtedly members of Bagdad's Chamber of Commerce, too. I spent a summer in Phoenix once while attending the U of A, and I spent a fair bit of time picking up the paper from the printer, inserting ad pages and rolling and banding it for delivery. Every Thursday morning either my aunt or uncle would drive the 97 miles northwest to the little town and spend the weekend there.
I went with them once, and I gotta say it was a pretty dull place, coming from Phoenix or Tucson as a 20-year-old college student. The town was founded in the 1860s to serve the needs of miners working a copper mine; even in 1990 it had only 1900 inhabitants. I saw the same movie three nights in a row at the theater, helped clean up the snack bar, and was generally bored to distraction. That has to be the smallest town I've ever been in for any length of time; even Kwajalein had more people and more ways to occupy me. Staying with relatives who were forty years older had a dampening effect, ya think?
As I write this, I'm listening to the first baseball broadcast of the new season. I'm a fan; I have been since 1959, when I was a kid in Los Angeles. The city was discovering the newly-arrived Dodgers at the same time I was, and we were rewarded by a World Series championship that year. I've been hooked ever since, even though I quickly learned that a World Series victory was something to be savored, as it can be an elusive thing to catch again (see Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs). One of the greatest pleasures for a true baseball fan can be reading about the game, particularly games that were of historical value to the sport (Reggie Jackson's three homers in 1977; the Angels' come-from-behind wins last year). As far as I'm concerned, Roger Angell of The New Yorker is the best living baseball writer in America, and he has been for forty years. This month Harcourt has published a new collection of his work; it's called Game Time: A Baseball Companion; if you're a fan of baseball, or just good writing, I recommend it.
I have happily been accumulating shares of blogs all day, so all you folks be aware that at the next shareholders' meeting you will be faced with stern questions!
And finally, dumb question of the day: my taskbar (Win 95) has rotated 90 degrees to the left-hand side of the screen; despite fiddling for a while, I've been unable to get it back to the bottom of the screen where it's been for five years. I'm open for ideas (don't say reboot; tried that).
OMG! I have shareholders! Must maximize value, must maximize value!
Imagine you're a 13-year old girl. You're an amateur, playing in your 4th LPGA Tour event, which also happens to be the first major of the year. You make the cut playing with the pros for the first time yesterday. So what do you do today?
The reason this is notable for me is that her home course is a drive and chip from my house.
Robert E. Lee once said, "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it." Ezrael missed that quote in his eloquent essay about this war, but he didn't miss much else. I'm only sorry I didn't read it until today, four days after he posted it. Go read.
Who lost Turkey? That's a little unfair; Turkey may not be lost, but the relationship is certainly frayed. It's an interesting story of misunderstandings on both sides, which leads me to think that even when negotiating from strength, it's often useful to pretend you don't realize that strength. In a geographically-related story, a Kurdish uprising in the North is regarded less than favorably by the Administration.
I woke up this morning to get the paper, and the headline read, "Suicide Attack in Central Iraq Kills Four GIs. My immediate thought was "Oh, great; welcome to the Gaza Strip". I suppose that puts me in the group described here as a holder of fickle opinions. Of course, in my case, my opinion was predisposed to think this could degenerate badly post-war; this does nothing to reverse that feeling.
The commission investigating September 11 has, after an argument, gotten what it believes is enough money to continue its work. You may recall that the original budget was $3M, which was nine times smaller than the budget to investigate the shuttle disaster. It's been bumped up to $11M, so now it's increased to just under half that size. Priorities, priorities.
Oh, charming. Now Syria is accused of supplying material to Iraq, and Rumsfeld is not pleased. Can't say I blame him, if it's true, but it may feed the appetite of the neo-con cabal. Speaking of the cabal, here are further details about Perle's resignation, and another explanation of their rise and plan.
In domestic policy news, the Senate has had to revise faith-based legislation in order to improve its chances for passage; proselytizing religious organizations are excluded from federal grants. And Priscilla Owens was approved for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on a strict party-line vote. The Dems think she's rabidly anti-choice and pro-business; the GOP thinks otherwise.
My primary client graduated from Notre Dame, so I have to say this very quietly in case he reads it: Arizona whupped his guys, 88 - 71.
In other whimsy, I am now listed on Blogshares. Go look, buy shares, make yourself (virtually) rich. Always remember two things: 1) Buy low, sell high and 2) the market, in the words of JP Morgan, "will fluctuate."
Josh Marshall has a new article at The Washington Monthly. In it he lays out a possible scenario for the Administration's hawks (Perle, Wolfowitz, et. al.), and it's not a pretty picture. If he's right, Iraq is step one on a long climb. In breaking news, Perle has resigned. It's unclear just what impact, if any, that may have on their plans.
Open government? If you want to know what sort of discussions went on between Cheney and the Energy Task Force, fuhgaddeaboutit! The VP's conversations can now be classified for 25 years. Previously, that classification authority resided only with the President and agency heads.
Alright, enough of that stuff: have a blogging song! A little melancholy, perhaps (sample line: "Blank page, nothin' to say, Just pictures of my cats today"), but cute.
Pursuant to the commentary below about President Bush and religion, and in light of this bill in the House (it calls for a national day of prayer and fasting), I thought it would be interesting to see what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the subject. Here's the text of the founding precept behind the First Amendment's espousal of separation of church and state: A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. It was introduced into the Virginia Assembly in 1779 (although not passed until 1785). An excerpt:
that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical...
Mr. Jefferson said this about its final passage in his autobiography:
"The bill for establishing religious freedom," says the author, "I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination." (Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67)
Sorry, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States House of Representatives, Mr. Jefferson still makes more sense to me than you do.
If you feel that scoring political points against trial lawyers should not be done on the backs of desperately ill children, go read this. It's that damned Eli Lilly vaccine ingredient exemption which was deleted from the Homeland Security Bill at the insistence of Senators Snowe and Collins. It's returned, but with an additional fillip; not only does it exempt the company from damages, it allows Congress to raid the Vaccine Compensation Fund specifically set up to help those kids. If you agree that's a terrible thing to do and your Congresscritter is on the list provided at that link or this one, please call/mail immediately.
Oh my. If you're not a fan of President Bush, this will amuse you; if you are a fan, don't click it unless you have an ability to laugh ruefully. It's an animated primer on how to refer to the Iraqi people. (Link courtesy of Scott).
The Foreign Service officer resignation count is now up to three. A thirty-year career tossed overboard protesting American policies, because she "cannot defend or implement them." That act takes courage, particularly since she has to know the President and his advisers won't take this as a further sign of their errors, but merely another dumb gesture by a bureaucrat.
So the Administration requested $74.7B for war and related expenses, and expressed surprise that lawmakers were "unexpectedly inquisitive" about the costs. In a sign of the way Iraq may be left, just as Afghanistan has been, the "$8 billion for international relief and reconstruction includes $3.5 billion for Iraq ($2.5 billion in a relief fund and much of the rest for oil field repair)". The balance of the $8B goes to other countries for their "help" in Iraq or fighting terrorism. That puts the lie to what the President has been saying about building democracy and reconstructing the country after its liberation, at least so far. We'll see.
If you're still dissenting, you're in good company; Abe Lincoln was denouncing the Mexican War as it took place. Other than that, the article is a chronicle of the "tyranny of the majority." Of course, if you dissent, you may be subject to more abusive wiretapping. The Supreme Court decided today, by the way, that that wiretapping is fine with them.
The editor of the Lebanon (Beirut) Daily Star seems to believe the same things that Tom Friedman does: that Arab populations must recognize their governments' failings and start doing something about them.
The Arab people, especially individuals and institutions of civil society, must seek a new path out of this third collective calamity since 1915.
We must focus on the first step in an ill person’s march toward recovery, health and growth: honest and dispassionate diagnosis of the underlying problem. Why are we so passive in the face of repeated external reshaping of our world? We must answer that question in order to have a chance of devising strategies to cure the problem, and take control of our lives.
Der Spiegel has an article in its March 17 issue entitled "The Unfettered Gulliver." It's an appraisal of George Bush's America.
Richard Perle declares the UN dead; he says safety through international law is a liberal conceit. I'd call that sour grapes, since the UN wouldn't agree with the Administration, but once again, he's one of the people with the President's ear, so this belief is more dangerous than that.
I swear when I wrote the previous post I had not seen this transcript, but Senator Byrd and I were thinking along the same lines. Oratory is not dead.
But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war.
What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?
I wholeheartedly agree. Nobody likes a bully, and we need friends more than we need unwilling followers. Osama and his gangs are still out there, and it's through international cooperation that we'll counter that activity, not through overwhelming force. One need only look at Afghanistan beyond Kabul to realize that military action can only do so much against the terrorists.
This is the wrong war against the wrong enemy, but it's started. I can only hope it ends well, with minimal casualties to US military men and women and to the Iraqi population, both military and civilian, and that there will be no retaliatory terrorist attacks on the United States and its people. Defenses against the latter are still weak, from what I've been reading; hopefully they will be sufficient.
I also hope that the Administration makes good on all its promises to rebuild Iraq. Watching its performance in Afghanistan and remembering candidate Bush's sneer at nation-building during the campaign, I'm not all that sanguine about that happening; I hope I'm proven wrong.
Kristol and Lawrence Kaplan have just written a book, quoted in this article. Here's an excerpt:
The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there. We stand at the cusp of a new historical era. This is a decisive moment. It is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the twenty-first century.I'd dismiss this, except that they are the true believers, and the Administration has bought the line they put forth. Josh Marshall was really prescient on the situation we now face: read his June 2002 article in the Washington Monthly about the role these people now play in American foreign policy. I am officially terrified. "All war, all the time" seems to be the chosen credo.
As stated below, some of the President's justification for war remains dubious, at best. Cheney contradicted himself on Meet the Press Sunday, for example; the vice president argued that "we believe [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." But Cheney contradicted that assertion moments later, saying it was "only a matter of time before he acquires nuclear weapons." Mr. Vice President, you can't have it both ways. For an even more startling contradiction by the Veep, go here and read the final two paragraphs.
Newsweek hits the stands this week with a cover which makes me cringe: "Why America Scares the World". I think many of us have known this, and it surely won't persuade the hawks/warbloggers, but it is quite an indictment of Administration high-handedness in foreign policy. CalPundit pointed me towards the article and has some thoughts about it.
More media: here's a backgrounder on Kristol of the Weekly Standard, one of the primary Iraq war proponents; there's even a mention of the word cabal!
A CIA spokesman refused to discuss the matter. But some officials charge the administration is not interested in helping the inspectors discover weapons because a discovery could bolster supporters in the U.N. Security Council of continued inspections and undermine the administration's case for war.
So the pretext for war may be based on at best circumstantial evidence, and at worst a tissue of lies.
This may be the shortest "Big Picture" analysis I've ever read: the geopolitical impact of Bush's war. And how's this from Business Week, of all places?
"The Administration risks turning what was once trumpeted as the American Century into the Anti-American Century." When the supposed beneficiaries of the "first MBA Presidency" are saying things like that, it ought to give one pause. So should remarks like this from a respected historian.
"We have, with ignorance and arrogance aforethought, brought the world (and ourselves) to crisis -- and perhaps to chaos."
We've gone through the looking glass.
The Three Strategic Fallacies of the Bush Administration's foreign policy; from the New America Foundation. If you're an Atlantic Monthly reader, the name of that organization will be familiar as a partner in the magazine's Real State of the Union issue. I would add that trashing the UN Security Council and its members when you may need them to help deal with North Korea (remember, that one's multilateral, per President Bush at his news conference) is probably a pretty stupid thing to do.
Corporate greed, part 37: It seems to me that GE would be hard-pressed to argue with the point that their biggest union makes in this press release. How do you justify giving huge raises to the executives while shifting health care costs to the retirees and employees?
I've griped about this before; now the scientific community is weighing in. The CSPI (Center for Science and the Public Interest), the NAS (National Acadamies of Science), and the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) have protested what they see as ideological stacking of scientific panels. "(HHS Secretary) Thompson has yet to respond to a similar letter the group sent in December." Arrogance is not limited to the foreign policy part of the Administration, it seems.
A while back I wrote about tearing up my knee a few years ago. That was the right knee. Yesterday I woke up with a very stiff left knee, for undetermined reasons. If it's still sore Sunday I may be forced to walk on my hands.
Interesting. Here's an L.A. Times article about an internal State Department document which essentially refutes the idea that all the Middle Eastern countries will become democracies like dominoes once Saddam is gone and Iraq is liberated.
Congress may be wising up to the Administration's love of intrusive data gathering about its citizens (that's you and me, folks), in this case the travelling public. It's demanding full oversight of a TSA plan to create a database of passenger profiles. In related news, the TIA is apparently much further along in the planning stages than was previously thought; it's awarded over two dozen grants to various companies and organizations.
The former are "Ideal for cookies, pretzels, carrot and celery sticks, grapes, candy and half a sandwich" (as well as some illicit purposes, but don't tell the DEA); the latter are better suited for my needs. Anyone got an idea of what to do with 99 of these things?
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Congress at work:
Liberty Cabbage = sauerkraut (WW I)
Liberty Hound = dachsund (WW I)
Frankfurter = hot dog (WW I)
This is all a distraction from the stories about possible abortion bans and drilling in ANWR, of course. Not to mention that the Administration now plans to stop publishing a report which shows states what they can expect (or not) from the Feds. That's purely a cost-cutting move, of course; heaven forbid the Administration would actually keep something secret.
Whether you agree that the Administration's policy towards Iraq is correct or not has nothing to do with the men and women who are overseas doing their job; having been overseas while in the Navy myself, I can appreciate the thought behind this project:
Michele has created a website through which you can contribute used or new CDs (or cash for purchase of same) for distribution to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Click on the Trooptrax button.
There were a couple of distinguished voices in today's Op/Ed pages: from the Washington Post, Gary Hart, whose knowledge of terrorism issues is pretty impeccable (he was co-chair of the Commission on National Security/21st Century with Warren Rudman), and from the NY Times, Jimmy Carter. President Carter argues that the seemingly-inevitable military action in Iraq doesn't meet the criteria of a just war; Senator Hart argues that Iraq is not the right enemy, terrorism is.
I am not well-versed enough in either St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine to argue the merits of a just/unjust war, so I'll leave President's Carter's discussion unremarked upon. Senator Hart makes the same point that I've been thinking about almost since the day President Bush announced that Iraq was his target: why? Whatever evil Saddam Hussein has perpetrated, and the catalog is long and ugly, he's not been shown to have participated, funded or in any other way been a part of the terrorist actions of September 11. Some argue that it's all about oil; I'm pretty cynical, but I don't buy that. Others think it's either revenge for Iraq's assassination attempt on the President's father or a feeling that Saddam Hussein is "unfinished business" for current members of the Administration who were participants or advisors in the Gulf War; the second of those theories may have some merit; I don't know. Then there's the idea that Iraq is, in a sense, "low-hanging fruit;" Al Qaeda is a stateless entity, hard to find and destroy, Iraq's not. I suspect that the Administration has a sense of urgency to "do something" to take revenge for the murder of 3,000 people on September 11, and the quick expulsion of the Taliban in Afghanistan wasn't sufficient. That theory is a little more persuasive, although still a little facile for my taste.
Meanwhile, as Senator Hart argues, security at home goes wanting. First responders (public health workers, policemen, firefighters and emergency medical technicians) don't yet have enough equipment or training to be effective in the event of another attack, and the President and his own party are in a spitting match about the funding for those items. Beyond that, nearly every state in the country is beyond broke and facing large deficits. That being the case, each will be hard-pressed to fund the security needs it faces without federal help, yet during the President's State of the Union address he made no mention of helping the states pay for their security requirements.
I am thus left with no real answer as to the reasons for this impending war, and the White House keeps trotting out unpersuasive arguments. "Saddam is evil and has gassed his own people," the President says. Well, true, but what has he done to us? "He's amassing weapons of mass destruction," the President says. Well, maybe; that's why we have UN inspectors in country looking for them. "The Iraqis aren't co-operating," the President says. That's probably true; I'd suggest you assign a squad of US Army soldiers to accompany each carload of inspectors as a show of force. The implication would be "cooperate or face the consequences." Back it up with a couple of carrier groups in the Gulf. Meanwhile, the funds not spent on fighting a war could be used to beef up homeland security at home.
Oh, yeah, and that would free up the foreign policy team to focus on North Korea, which gets more belligerent and provocative every day.
The other day I posted the text of a resignation letter from our former political counselor in Athens. In that letter, the phrase "Oderint dum metuant" was used. It means, roughly, "let them hate as long as they fear." Apparently, that isn't such a bad description of the Administration's attitude towards the rest of the world. Now Mexico (and, implicitly, its citizens currently in the US) is being told to shape up, or the American citizenry may react badly. Unfortunately, the original interview Krugman cites is not available online; I'd like to read it.
Here's a sporting life version of The Onion: Sports Pickle. Sample headline: "U.N. Resolution Declares Huskers No. 1." And this week's "Awww" story is also plucked from the pages of Sports Illustrated: Pick Up Butch, a lovely tradition at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Jon pointed me toward this article in the current Newsweek titled Bush and God. The subtitle reads: "A biography of his faith, and how he wields it as he leads a nation on the brink of war." I grew up Roman Catholic but lapsed after high school, and I can understand the satisfaction of believing that one is doing God's work. I question whether the White House is a place to rely solely on a Supreme Being for guidance, though. Additionally, mixing one's faith into one's work when the majority of the rest of the world doesn't necessarily believe the way you do can create misunderstandings, at the least.
Interestingly, there's an interactive poll in the sidebar of that story; polls are notorious for skewing answers, and this one is no exception. The question is:
Does George W. Bush's religious faith inappropriately dictate policy?
Yes. Church and state are supposed to be separated.
No. What's wrong with bringing morality to the White House?
I don't know.
Now, who the heck would disagree with bringing morality to the White House? But that isn't an answer to the question. The question is, is his personal moral view affecting his policies? Fineman argues, and I agree, that it is; then the question becomes, what impact is that having on his relations with the rest of the world, not to mention all those citizens of his own country who don't share his faith?
Look, for example, at the domestic agenda of this White House, and see how faith is being interjected into the civic life of the nation:
as a matter of politics and principle, the president knows that he needs to deliver on his faith-based domestic agenda, especially since his party controls Congress. The wish list compiled by Rove is a long one. It includes conservative, pro-life judicial nominations; new HUD regulations that allow federal grants for construction of “social service” facilities at religious institutions; a ban on human cloning and “partial birth” abortion; a sweeping program to allow churches, synagogues and mosques to use federal funds to administer social-welfare programs; strengthened limits on stem-cell research; increased funding to teach sexual abstinence in schools, rather than safer sex and pregnancy prevention; foreign-aid policies that stress right-to-life themes, and federal money for prison programs (like the one in Texas) that use Christian tough love in an effort to lower recidivism rates among convicts.
The First Amendment to the Constitution reads in part: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." I think Mr. Bush, perhaps unconsciously, is creating a de facto state religion.
The EU is writing rules to "harmonize" criminal law against hackers and virus-spreaders, but online protest organizing could get caught in the middle. That could have severe consequences for groups like Move On, among others.
For an example of a principled letter of resignation, I recommend reading this. It's from the Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy to Athens. He's of the opinion that the current Administration is destroying all our relationships with our allies out of arrogance.
Here's a cautionary tale about Bosnia, and a possible precursor to post-war Iraq.
Is the US risking future basing rights and thus potential power projection through its bellicosity with its friends? Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman thinks we may be.
Are you willing to pay $9 or $10 a month plus $0.99 per downloaded song? That seems to be the model the major labels are looking at right now. In a related story, the music execs like the Apple model of fee-for-service, too.
Today's accomplishments include:
Let it not be said that I had a dull day.
I am perplexed, and I don't care who knows it. For two years I've had both Prodigy and Verizon as ISP's, on the theory that redundancy doesn't cost a lot and might be handy. Recently Prodigy (owned by SBC) and Yahoo (owned by Yahoo) have done a deal whereby former Prodigy users had to move to the new portal pages that Yahoo had brought to the deal. Finally, day before yesterday, I upgraded (?) to the new software. It gives me a Yahoo browser (with no history button; who the hell had that bright idea?), a 25mb mailbox with the same old address I had at Prodigy, and a slew of other features I don't care about. (As an aside, I now can't seem to get my Prodigy mail in Eudora any longer, which is a pain, and I'm still fighting that battle).
But the puzzle is that, with the new browser and Prodigy's local phone connection, I cannot read certain web sites (specifically kd's). However, when I use the new browser and the Verizon phone connection, I have no trouble accessing her site at all. This makes no sense to me. Why the hell should the phone line have any impact on whether I can read a web site or not?