Yankee Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Some good news...

Well, it is Yankees-Red Sox time again, which means that I am always feeling different than the city in which I live. I have no real need to recount the beating inflicted last night, I am sure the Sox will return the favor at some point (but probably not in October).

But I did hear that Cheney was at the game. I actually saw a plane that I assumed to be Air Force 2 on the tarmac at LGA yesterday and was wondering what Cheney was doing in town. It is not like he has many friends anywhere, and certainly not in Yankee Stadium. From an ESPN article, this is what happened:

Cheney, who visited both clubhouses after batting practice, watched part of the game from the box of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and part from a first-row seat next to the Yankees dugout, where he sat between New York Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Cheney was booed when he was shown on the right-field videoboard during the seventh-inning.

Now I will ignore the fact that Steinbrenner even agreed to meet with him, I guess this is the kind of thing that you do when you are really, really rich and some guy wants to give you more money. There are lots of reasons to hate Bush/Cheney and their policies, but if you are very wealthy there are real reasons to like their policies. I also can't claim some kind of moral highground about Yankee fans being superior to Red Sox fans on this one, since I am sure that Cheney would get a similar reception in Boston.

Also warming my heart this morning was a letter to the editor in the Metro (the free paper given out in the morning). The letters are typically idiotic, and just talk about the issue of the day or some stupid column printed earlier in the week. This letter was against Fahrenheit 9/11, and made me beleive that with opponents like these I must be believing something right. There is no link, but here is the letter in its entirity:

Michael Moore has crawled from under his rock to reveal himself not only to be unpatriotic, but a traitor as well. His latest cinematic lie fest seeks to undermine the authority of the President, and give aid and comfort to our enemies. It's high time the Patriot Act be enforced, so ideological terrorists like Moore can be arrested and locked away. The message needs to be conveyed to liberals that if you criticize the president, you go to prison.

Crawled out from under a rock indeed. I love it when these "patriots" expose themselves for what they are...nothing more than modern day Brownshirts.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Busy work = Slow Blogging...

I have taken about 10 plane flights in the last week and started playing internet poker again, so little time for blogging. Sorry about that...maybe I have said all I have to say.

But things always seem to come up. Today Kristof in the Times writes about people calling Bush a liar. He seems to think that it is beneath political discourse. You know what I think...he is a liar. The Kristof says that demonizing and rhetoric is for the right, while the left values nuance. You know what I think...that the left is sick and tired of trying to play fair and losing.

I have heard things like this a lot in response to Farenheit 9/11 even from people I think are very liberal. They say that they are uncomfortable with Michael Moore and that his movie is probably over the top. I am sick and tired of hearing this. It is not like we are trying to elect Michael Moore. You don't hear the right wing saying that they are uncomfortable with Rush Limbaugh being a lying drug addict. They simply use him for what he is...a propaganda device. That is all Michael Moore is as well.

I don't want to lose this election because the left is uncomfortable with the way politics is played. When we are in power we can be above the fray, but the President and his team are setting the rules, and the rules are no holds barred. John Kerry has shown that he is ready to play that way, and we should let him. If he is behind in October I want to see a scortched earth campaign. I want every lie, evil deed, scandel, hint of scandel, and incriminating news clip dredged up and thrown at Bush.

It would be nice to win without doing all this, because Bush deserves to be humiliated by the electorate, but I would rather win dirty than lose clean.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Farenheit 9/11...

I was thinking a little bit about the Michael Moore movie coming out this weekend. It is supposed to be shocking and disturbing, and at the very least raises some serious doubts about President Bush and his ability to lead the nation. I have seen most of Moore's past work and I have no doubt that he can be very effective at sending a message.

But then I started thinking, "So what?" It is going to cost $10 to see this movie. If you charged $10 to see a political advertisement do you think that you would win over many swing voters? But then I realized, it is not the people that see the movie that matter, but it is the news coverage of the movie that matters. And the news coverage will be more or less intense based on the public response to the movie.

Stories about the Passion of the Christ continued for weeks after the release of the movie, and these stories each tried to take a different slant. If people go to see Farenheit 9/11, and continue to see the movie for weeks, there will be coverage of the movie. You can expect to see people claiming that parts of the movie are false, this will just be more publicity for what is true. You will see interviews with real people on the street, who are just plain angry at Bush and will have real reasons why.

This is all going to be the kind of coverage that Kerry cannot buy, and that has been missing in our political discourse for so long. And all you have to do to help make it happen is to see the movie. So regardless of how good it is (but the Cannes film festival seems to think it is good), I am encouraging to see it.

Read it...

If your disgust level with the Bush Administration has momentarily waned due to a lack of a more shocking scandel than Abu Ghraib prison story then just read this. Krugman obviously did about five minutes of research to support his point that Ashcroft is the worst ever, and it is disturbing to read what he turned up. I mean really, there are so many threats, and the fact that Ashcroft is responsible for protecting me against any of them does not put me at ease.

Monday, June 21, 2004


In an effort to find some humor in the sad state of our nation's leadership, here is a funny web site about the selling of our president. Good stuff.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Good honesty...

There have certainly been times where I feel that the Oxblog (especially Josh and David) turn a blind eye towards the failures of our government. But they are not habitually dishonest, and that is why I continue to read them. They have been quite firm that the war in Iraq is still justified, but based not on the lies of the Administration but a belief (legitimate, but one that I now disagree with) that we can bring democracy to Iraq in the form of an invasion and thus change the Middle East for generations. I think this is a huge gamble, I don't think it is working out, but if successful it will do great things for the war.

But this leads them free to be honest with regards to other arguments for war. And I think that David rightly skewers the adminstration for continuing to push the li(n)e that Sadaam was aligned with Al Qaeda. I totally agree. The Bush adminstration, notably including the President himself and Dick Cheney has been incredibly dishonest with the American people this week. They are pushing the same lies they have been pushing for years now, but this time they are pushing against the real evidence that is coming out of the 9/11 commission. I really hope that they are finally exposed for the liars that they are, and we can all acknowledge that only humilation for our government will prevent anyone from trying to take the same liberties with the truth that this American government has done.

UPDATE: Further reading of the Oxblog shows me they have been consistent on this issue this week. I doubt it will change their ultimate views of who should be trusted with American Foreign Policy, but in my view this kind of behavior by our government is inexcusable, and I think most Americans would agree with me.

The football...

I have been a bit remiss in not blogging more about the European Championships. This is probably the second biggest soccer tournament in the world, after the World Cup. It is missing Argentina and Brazil, but other than that all the big football powers are playing against each other to win. Leading teams include France, England, Germany, Holland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And then there is a fair roster of teams that can pop up and have a heck of a tournament. This year it looks like that list is going to include the Czech Republic, Greece, and Denmark.

I have been able to watch some of the games so far, but it has been hard because of the idiotic programming decisions. The company that bought the rights to show the tournament in the US has decided that the cover for all bars showing the games will be $20. A couple of the games are being shown on Fox Sports World, but most of the games are only on PPV. It all strikes me as a very short-sighted decision.

But anyway, the first match I watched was England-France. Which I already wrote about. I have also been able to see the Holland-Germany match, which ended with a fantastic goal by Ruud Van Niestelrooy to give Holland a not fully deserved draw. I also saw the second half of the Czech Repubic-Latvia game. Latvia was fully out-classed in that game, with the Czech's class finally showing through to give them the win.

Friday gave me the good fortune of seeing the Sweden v. Italy game. Italy apparently put forward a dismal effort against the Danes earlier in the week, while the Swedes demolished Bulgaria. This was a must win game for the Italians. And they played great. The got rid of most of their pack it in defense and showed that they are capable of some really pretty soccer. But they were only able to convert one goal and were hanging on to that lead as the game wound down. The Swedes did get their act together towards the end and were putting some good pressure on Buffon, the Italian keeper (You did not think I would write about the game without getting that name in).

Anyway in about the 85th minute the big Swedish striker Ibrahimovic (not a very Swedish name, and maybe even not spelled right) scored an absurd goal with a backwards flick over the goalies head and just over a defender positioned at the post. It was great, and I was pretty excited at the prospect of being spared watching the Italians grind their way through the rest of the tournament.

All three of the games that I have watched in entirety so far have been very exciting to the end. It has been a great tournament so far, and should get even better as we start to reach the elimination rounds later in the week. I am definitely excited to see what else this tournament will offer to fans, and to see if England can rebound from their heartbreaking loss to the French and make a real impact in this tournament.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


It is frightening to me that these people control five electoral votes. I don't care if their ignorance leads them to vote Democratic or Republican, it is the ignorance which is frightening. I suppose part of the blame for their ignorance has to be attributed to politicians in the first place, but that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

I think that the more stories are written about how people will vote and why the more disturbed I will get with our nation. Something to look forward to.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Bottled up stuff...

I have not posted much lately, and for some reason that does not affect the traffic on this site much. I am not sure what to think about that. So I have decided not to think about it much.

I have been thinking about winding down this blog, but I guess that I should hang around and keep writing it for another couple of months until the election. At that point it will probably change radically anyway. Thoughts on this are appreciated.

Well, yesterday I was on the road which meant that I had lots of NPR listening time. It was an interesting day as the main story was the quite dramatic recounting of the response to 9/11. It was a very direct insight into how organizations and people respond to chaos. I have nothing to add on that except to say that it is worth listening to the audio clips if you get a chance.

I think the real reason that I am slow at posting is that everything that can be said about Bush has been said. How many times do I need to be outraged and disgusted by him and his team. Yesterday he was parsing words about the links that he claimed between 9/11 and Sadaam v. Al Qaeda and Sadaam. We all know this is total bullshit, and you can read lots of blog posts that highlight all the links Bush made and how direct the commission was in refuting those links, but what is the point. Really, the guy is out and out lying to America at this point and if you don't get that yet I have no idea how heavy the hammer would have to be to get it through your thick skull.

It has been months since I have heard any defense of Bush that even bordered on thoughtful. His team is total crap, he is a total moron, our nation is going to hell in a handbasket, and our Congress lacks the political will to do their duty and get to the bottom of the various high crimes and treasons that have been committed against our nation by these people.

Humor is all that is left. For the next five months we can try to laugh at how ugly this all is, and forget how bad things really are. I am sure there will be new outrages to come, but I am pessimisstic they will have any significant impact on our nation. I just fail to understand the other side at all at this point, and my writing suffers. I started this blog trying to be fair, and there is no fairness left. There is no middle ground left. There is wrong and there is everything else. For some reason almost half our nation sides with wrong, and I cannot be fair when those are the choices.

When I read a post like this from Josh Marshall, hinting at big news to come, I just think he is being naive. I hope that I am wrong, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Funny stuff...

The General, JC Christian, can be counted on for finding stories that you just don't see on the front page of the New York Times. Check out this post about this story. Apparently someone forgot to send the memo that Congressmen are supposed to behave themselves on international junkets.

While you are there, also enjoy some of his other posts. It is nice to be able to laugh while our country is going to hell.

Just so I am clear...

In the last week there has been a small story bubbling about Sadaam Hussein. Basically, the Red Cross pointed out to the US that after we transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqis on June 30th (which we all assumed would be merely symbolic) the US will have no right to be holding Sadaam Hussein. We had been holding him as a Prisoner of War, and since on June 30th that war will be officially over, so we need to either charge him ourselves, hand him over to an international court, or give him to the Iraqis to take care of. Now since we had already said that Sadaam will be tried by the Iraqis that means that on June 30th we are supposed to hand him over to the new government.

But yesterday Bush decided to put his brain against this question and came up with the concern that security in Iraq may not be sufficient and since no one wants Sadaam to go free that maybe it is not such a good idea to transfer him to Iraqi custody just yet. OK, so if I am following this correctly, we are concerned enough about security under the new Iraqi Government that we cannot trust them to keep on person under lock and key. But when it comes to running the entire country, well sure, they can totally be trusted with that.

So, according to our fearless leader, it is much more important to keep one man in jail, then it is to make sure that an entire nation will have a responsible government. And you were questioning this leadership? Shame on you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Well, the evil-doers finally got around to attacking my gym tonight, although they missed me by a couple of hours. This is the first time I can remember anyone getting injured in a rocket attack here; I hope the guy is ok.

The strange thing is that helicopters have been circling the city (sans lights) for more than two hours, which I've never seen before. Wonder if something more happened than what was reported. In the meantime, I feel like I'm on the set of Boyz in the Hood.

Speaking of security, the international community is a bit uptight at the moment as there's been another suicide bomb warning. I heard that most of the ministries were abandoned of their advisors today.

Now I don't know much about suicide bombing, but I do know that of the 60 martyrs promised in February by the Taliban, there was exactly one manned attack, and that guy threw himself on the windshield of an ISAF jeep on one of the busiest roads in the city. If you're worried that some lunatic is going to choose your podunk ministry out of the hundreds of ministries in Kabul and run by security and track you down, well, you probably shouldn't be working in this country to begin with.

Or, more likely, maybe it's time to go home when suicide warnings don't mean anything to you anymore.

(And there are only 31 ministries in the government, but it seems like a lot more. My personal favorite is the Ministry of Foodstuffs and Light Industry.)

Monday, June 14, 2004

Punch in the gut...

I am a pretty passive England Soccer fan. I definitely prefer them to win than many other teams, but I don'thave a real passion. I am passionate about other teams and I have been around passionate England fans so I kind of understand them. But what I don't understand is how they must be feeling today.

The Euro 2004 championships started this weekend. The biggest match of the first round (in my view) was England v. France. France is still one of the best teams in the world, inspite of their World Cup 2002 wash-out. Because they were defending champions of the World and Euro Cups they have had limited real international competition in the last few years. But it is hard to believe any team would be better than one that includes: Zidane, Henry, Viera, Pires, Trezeguet, and Makelele.

However the England squad is strong. They held their own for most of the first half, although France was still slightly in control of the match. This was really two heavyweights of international footballl going right at each other in a way that happens very infrequently. England got a breakthrough towards the end of the first half with a goal by Frank Lampard off a Beckham cross.

Here I want to just say that there is a shocking gap in quality between England and the US. Before this match I was watching the US struggle to dominate Grenada. The US had total control but could not put a cross on a forward's head. Finally Reyna showed the US what quality is and gave a perfect cross that Beasley put right into the net. It looked so easy, and it should be against a squad like Grenada, but the US is just not quite there yet. Anyway, back to the real match.

From the start of the second half France was putting huge pressure on England. England was lucky to just kick the ball downfield and get a break before the next wave of pressure. At about the 70 minute mark that tactic actually led to something. Thanks to a great move by Wayne Rooney, England had a penalty kick. It looked like they were in control. But Beckham's attempt was saved by Barthez.

However, from that point England did a lot better and had some degree of control of the game. That lasted for most of the rest of the game. With three minutes of injury time added, and a 1-0 lead England looked pretty good. But then the wheels came off. A silly foul by Hesky gave Zidane a chance to equalize from about 30 meters out. He made it look easy. 1-1, England's dreams are shattered. After the celebrations France put more pressure on. A silly back pass by Gerrard led to Henry being free in the box, and he was brought down by the keeper. Zidane converted the penalty with time expiring. 2-1 France and England's hearts were broken. The thing is that France probably deserved to win the game.

I can't wait for the rest of the competition, it is just going to be amazing football.

Divider?...You think...

Check out this post from Josh Marshall about Bush's conversation with the Vatican regarding their policies. It really drives home just how much of a divider Bush is. The only way that he tries to unite people is if they agree with him. There is no negotiation, no reason, just "with me or against me" logic. This runs through all his policies and is one of the reasons that he is going to be considered the worst President ever.

Regarding the topic of the post, really I have no problem with the Catholic Church being an advocate on issues. But when it is done hypocritically that really bothers. Seriously, what is the difference between Kerry, who supports abortion rights, and Bush, who supports the Death Penalty, in the eyes of the Church. I could make the argument that supporting the Death Penalty is far worse because that is actually not stopping the ending of a life personally (when one is executive) while Abortion is granting the decision to others. But that is splitting hairs.

The fact is that there are very few candidates who side with the Church on every issue. Last year the Vatican was quite strong that the invasion of Iraq was not the right thing to do. Bush, of course, ignored them. So if the Catholic Church wants to deny Communion to everyone who disagrees with any policy position of the Church that is fine. They should just be aware that they are going to be looking at some very empty pews.

But if they want to apply this standard selectively, then that is where I have a problem. That is just playing politics and using the power of God to divide the nation and abuse the political process. I have huge issues with that.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A change in tone...

One thing that I hear everytime the conversation turns to politics is that Bush is a horrible President and should not be re-elected. I cannot convey how strong this sentiment is, and is even coming from friends that I know would lean towards supporting Republicans. But the other thing that I hear pretty consistently is that people are not terribly comfortable with John Kerry. However their views are almost always that Kerry is just a stereotype of a politician. Kerry is an empty vessel into which every stereotype of a politician is filled. He is only interested in polls, he is driven by ambition, he lacks conviction, he is an elitist, he cannot connect with people, he is removed from normal life, etc., etc. etc.

The thing is that this view is almost certainly wrong. John Kerry is a person, and once people start to get to know him their views of him will certainly soften. Articles like this one in New York Times will only help John Kerry. And you know what, all this article does is talk about John Kerry the person. It is not a worshipful piece, all it does it get behind the scenes. Pieces like this on television are even more powerful. And you will see these pieces around the time of the DNC. I expect that the Convention will provide such a huge boost to Kerry that everyone will be surprised. What else is there to talk about during the convention but getting to know who John Kerry is? And the image is so shallow right now, that it will only improve his image.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Oh the politics...

One thing I have wondered in the past is how long the GOP coalition of crazy right-wingers and business interests will hold together. There are some CEOs and business leaders who have already recongnized that irresponsible fiscal policy and bungled foreign policy are not the recipe for long term stablity (see Warreen Buffett).

For the Bush economic policy (that would be constantly cutting taxes) to be sustainable he has to find ways to cut significant amounts of spending. So far he has shown no willingness to do so, having never exercised the veto power over Congress on a spending bill. But a few months ago he decided to draw a line in the sand. He put a limit on the Highway Funding bill and said that anything over that limit would be vetoed. But Highway spending is a prime way that Congresspeople send money back to their constituents. So here we have a conflict between the President and the Congress and for his overall fiscal policy to be sustainable in the slightest he has to win this battle.

But the real rub came today. A letter was sent by 211 CEOs to the President asking that he reconsider his policy and support spending on critical national infrastructure. I do not want to overstate the importance of this, but I think this is a real indication of some cracks in the GOP coaltion of interests. It used to be that parties interested in aiding business could count on the GOP supporting their interests. But Bush has so badly bungled everything that even this is now subject to questioning. Now the CEO vote is not that significant, and Bush has already flooded his war chest with money from Corporate interests, but this is a harbinger of trouble in the future. Clinton made the Democratic party less scary to Corporate interests, now Bush is making the GOP more antagonistic towards Corporate interests.

There are certainly signs here that Bush Administration could be leading the GOP into the Wilderness for a long time. We can only hope.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Just one...

Without recapping every news story, it does seem like there have been a lot of memos that were written about how torture might be justified, made legal, or just not called torture (here is one story, here is another, this blog post has a run-down of a few others). Yet today Ashcroft clearly stated that Bush does not approve of torture and that the administration does not approve of the use of torture. Now is it too much for me to wonder if I am ever going to see just one memo, note, or indication otherwise from the President that he did anything to make sure that the US was not torturing people.

I just don't trust these people. I think they thought that torture was acceptable. I think they did not consider the risks it places on American soldiers and civilians around the world. I think they thought the American people would agree that torturing our enemies is acceptable. When the photos came out it quickly became clear that they were wrong, and that is when the change in policy occured. Now that there is public debate, sure Bush does not approve torture. But during the previous 2 years I seriously doubt he took one action to make sure the US was not torturing people, and instead just looked to make sure that they were not violating treaties or turning themselves in war criminals.

Check it...

They are few and far between, but they are always worth reading. See the latest post by The Decembrist. He writes about the changing dynamics of politics since the end of the Reagan era, specifically the importance of developing quality candidates to run contested races in every district.

Bad People...

I started a heated discussion the other night about the threat that the current occupant of the White House poses to our democracy. I have written about this before, but the fundamental question I ask is how far could this adminstration go before all of them and all the GOP members of Congress start to hear shouts from Corporate America that they need to stop? And would that stop them?

There are times where I think that Bush is the kind of guy who will figure out some way to steal this election or just refuse to leave office on some trumped up grounds. Thent here are other times that I think the whole idea is just absurd. I really am not sure what is right, but I sure hope that I never have to find out.

These views might be extreme, but if you want a sense of what fuels my fears I urge you to take a careful look at Kevin Drum's post on the Texas GOP platform. Keep in mind that the Texas GOP is essentially driving the national GOP agenda at this point. These are the people who DeLay and at one time Bush depended on to put them in positions of power. Please read it and be afraid.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

A rant...

In response to an emerging blogoverse fury (here, here, and here) over some idiotic Republicans comments about George Soros I was moved to post this rant on Drezner's message board. I really hate writing about Israel because the topic so disturbs me, but I had to get this off my chest to some of the right-wing nuts:

I am so sick of people calling any Jew who disagrees with the policies of Israel a "self-hating Jew".

I grew up going to Hebrew School and getting the lessons of the Holocaust drilled into my head through traumatic assemblies. Like the one where we spent 2 hours standing in a far too small hallway while being asked to imagine that we were in a rail car and that we were never going to see our parents again. This to a 10 year old!

I learned the lesson of the Holocaust and the importance of the Jewish state to always be there to insure the survival of the Jewish people. A people need a state, because that is the only way of legitimate expression of interests in world politics.

But I feel that the current policies of Israel are moving counter to that goal. I think that they are being too aggressive and overstating their claim to the land between the river and the sea. I think that the policies on both sides are being driven too much by fanatics. For a great study of the personal root of the problem read the New Yorker article on the Settlers from a couple of weeks ago.

I am not absolving Palestinians and Arafat from blame, I am not saying that all the actions of the Israeli Army are un-justified, and I am definitely not saying that the tactics of the Palestians and Israelis are morally equivalent. But I do believe that the policies of the state of Israel run counter to the interests of the Jewish people.

And I don't think any of this makes me a self-hating Jew. I also don't think that the label should be stuck on Soros either. He has his views, and they are probably strongly driven by his own, far more traumatic, experiences. I am sure that he honestly believes that the policies he is advocating are in the best interests of preventing another Holocaust. You can disagree with him, but I don't think that a Gentile from the USA has any right to call him a "self-hating Jew".


Yesterday's post on polarization and partisanship should have made it clear that I take no pride in being partisan. I would rather see myself as one who can objectively evaluate issues, put them into the broader context of the right direction for our nation, and make an informed decision on who to support. That process has led me to deeply fear and loathe George Bush and basically support anything that will lead to his removal from office. But every once in a while I have to recongnize something good that comes from his adminstration.

While there are many Democrats who see as much evil in Rumsfeld as any other member of the adminstration I have always recongnized that there are some very good things that Rumsfeld has tried to do. I think that his ability to speak his mind and drive agendas through are dangerous when there is no real oversight of him, but in the context of a different role, or different adminstration he could be a real asset. I am thinking specifically of his push to change the way the Pentagon is configured to fight wars. This is a good thing, but far from perfect as we are learning in Iraq.

Today comes another real breath of fresh air from Rumsfeld. This AP article details how Rumsfeld broke from the party line while in Singapore and actually worried that we might be losing the broader war against Islamic Fundamentalist. He even acknowledged that fighting a war against terror is just fighting a tactic. To really win we have to make sure that the forces of Islam are not hijacked by fundamentalism. The logical next step that he was not quite ready to make is that the war in Iraq is actually counter-productive to the real battle within Islam. I think these are really remarkable things to be said by a Secretary of Defense in an administration which has always addressed the War against terror in the most simplistic terms possible. I hope that Rumsfeld is asked questions about this speech and is forced to repeat some of its themes. It gets to some of the real questions that we need to be asking in this campaign, and I think that only by talking about these issues is the American public going to come to a more nuanced view of the world and America's role in the world.

BTW: I really encourage you to read the article, but since most are not, here is the money quote:

The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists — whom he termed "zealots and despots" bent on destroying the global system of nation-states — are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. "It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this," Rumsfeld said at an international security conference.

Italics added.

Seriously, just to get back to this, think about what he is saying. Over 3 years since taking office and over 2 and half years since 9/11 we still do not have a coherent approach to this. I don't expect to hear this in any debates from Bush. What a complete failure. We are fighting wars, soldiers are dying, and it is not part of a coherent approach?!!! Let's face it, our President is about seventeen levels over his head, and we are all going to suffer for years in the future.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

To be nitpicky...

I wanted to post about this a few days ago, but did not get a chance. There has been a low-level controversy regarding the allocation of homeland security funds. The argument being made by people like Mayor Bloomberg is that NYC is being shortchanged. He specifically picked on Wyoming and pointed out how much more homeland security funds they got per capita than a proven high value target like NYC was getting. Well, needless to say Wyoming did not agree with Bloomberg.

Now interestingly enough the NYT sent a reporter to write a story about the homeland security needs of Wyoming (sorry, link not available anymore). Basically the article detailed how there are all kinds of national energy and defense assets in Wyoming that need to be protected and that there are not a lot of resources to do that. So, while they said that NYC was asking for resources to do things like prepare a response unit to a bio-terror attack, Wyoming needs things like computers in police cars just to be able to coordinate a basic response to any situation. They also pointed out that there are a lot a of right-wing crazies in Wyoming who get picked up with things like pipe bombs quite regularly.

This all makes sense, but the article never addresses the basic question of what is a federal and what is a local responsibility. I would bet that most of what Wyoming is getting for fighting terrorism from federal dollars are things that local dollars already bought in NYC. The incentive seems to be to spend as little local dollars as possible, then plead the need to the federal government and get bailed out by the tax dollars that come from NY and California. This is a very perverse incentive. Ideally the federal government would take into account the local choices being made and make sure Federal monies are not compensating for those. There is a real argument to be made that all service provision should be taken care of locally. NYC is asking for more money. But the truth is that NYC in total pays a lot more in Federal taxes than it gets back.

Is this right? I don't think so. One of the major drivers of the unequal allocation of resources is national defense. That might have made sense in a time when national defense was all about launching nuclear weapons and flying fighters. But today national defense is as much about our airports, ports and stadiums. The front lines are our cities and resources should be allocated accordingly. But all of this is a dream because our political structure is configured in a fundamentally undemocratic manner and the resource allocation reflects the greater power that a person in Wyoming has compared to a person in New York. Tragic, but it will never change.


I think I am going to take a break from my usual Brooks bashing to give him some credit. He might actually be on to something with the series that he claims to be starting. He says that he is going to start writing about polarization, and starts today with Partisanship. He doesn't say a whole lot that is really interesting, but does put forward some interesting facts (a welcome break from his usual anecdotal driven style) and does't attribute blame to anyone. I doubt he will stay this even-handed, but in the meantime I will give him credit for putting an important topic on the table.

I too am worried by the excessive polarization we see in the nation. I see it all the time in my life. I live in Boston and you can pretty well expect that most of the people that I meet in the course of the day basically loathe George W. Bush. This leads to people feeling comfortable at BBQ's saying things like, "Voting Republican is almost understandable, voting for Bush is not." That is a pretty aggressive statement and not one that would be made in an environment where someone is likely to be a Bush supporter. But even if you don't know the political views of everyone in the room, in Boston today you can pretty much expect that no one is going to be bothered by that statement.

This even runs into the highest levels of corporate management. My firm had an all staff meeting the other day to discuss leadership changes and the start of a search. It was mentioned in passing that there might be a whole lot of people with leadership credentials who will be looking for work in November. This was said wishfully, and clearly conveyed a political preference. There was no real reason to do this, but it was considered entirely appropriate because it is just assumed that everyone in the room agreed that the President should not be re-elected.

This kind of casual comfort with political statements could be a welcome indication that political debate is going to be a greater part of our lives. But I really doubt that is what is going on. People in these settings are not looking to have a real discussion of issues, they are just looking to vent anger and reinforce their own beliefs. It becomes harder to hold alternative view points and everyone moves together to a more extreme view.

The examples I have are of Democratic views in Boston. I am sure that the same thing was going on in the suburbs of Atlanta while Clinton was President. Sure he was doing a lot of good things, but there were also ample opportunities to attack his character and create a reinforcing circle of belief that he was morally unfit to be President.

The problem is that these circles are not meeting. Young urban professionals in the Northeast are a major force in our nation, but currently their views are completely marginalized. Many of the people I know are going to contribute great things to society over their working lives, but only if the nation finds a way to capture and learn from their experiences and views. The same is true of the typical suburban, church-going Republican. However these groups do not meet. And when they do, the subject of politics is not brought up because people shy away from conflict and disagreement.

I know that many of the people that I am working with on a project are Republicans. I also know enough to not bring up politics because it will not help our working relationship. There is no reason why this has to be the case, but the polarization that we each experience in our own communities contributes significantly to the inability to have a reasonable conversation about the issues that really matter.

Now to be a little less fair and balanced. It is clear to me that while the underlying dynamics have nothing to do with national leadership, the intensity and importance of those dynamics is affected by the political climate. George Bush has poisoned the well of productive discourse. There have been many stories written about his inability to engage with alternative viewpoints. His policies reflect beliefs, they do not reflect discourse and comprimise. There is nothing in his policies that people who are not inclined to side with him can see as positive. He has created a situation where one of his chief advisors can say that people who support abortion rights are like terrorists. He has tried to stifle all debate under a guise of patriotism. His Education Secretary compared the teachers union to Terrorists. All of this is not moving our nation in a direction of productive discourse.

Clinton pissed of conservatives by co-opting some of their better ideas and making them Democratic. Bush has pissed off liberals by making expression of their ideas forbidden. These things are not the same. Clinton governed from a point of view that good policy is good politics. Bush governs from a point of view that whatever helps him politically is good politics. Let's not pretend that these are the same thing. The dynamics of polarization are the same, but the environment in which they take place is radically different. I doubt that Brooks is going to come to this conclusion (although it is entirely logically) but Bush must be stopped. Our nation needs to make a statement that divisive politics is not winning politics, that discourse is valued and the politics of focusing only on winning is a losing road.

I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist, I really don't. But can anyone explain to me why the White House is announcing that Ronald Reagan's health is deteriorating? I mean, might there be a more appropriate person for that, like Nancy?

It just seems a little suspicious that a day after one of the worst news days of the Presidency, a senior official on Air Force One lets slip that Reagan might die soon.

Am I being unfair?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I just finished reading All the King's Men a few minutes ago. It's a great political novel, but it's really much more, exploring original sin and redemption, power and morality.

Two of the book's principal themes struck me as particularly relevant these days:

First, that means and ends are inter-related and even the most idealistic goal can be corrupted by the methods used to attain it. Willie Stark, The Boss, was certainly driven by the purest of motivations, and he was quite effective at Getting Things Done. But he was ultimately unsuccessful; his methods alienated important constituencies and left him with broad but shallow support. Though he was firmly in control for most of the book, it was clear that he would be in serious trouble the minute his luck ran out.

Second, that avoiding personal responsibility may be the easiest thing to do in the short-run, but that it can ultimately have severe consequences. Acceptance of responsibility forces a person to come to terms with the decisions that led to the particular problem and perhaps avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

So, anyone see any parallels between these themes and current events taking place in DC?

The neocons had a dream: democracy and freedom in the Middle East. That's a pretty attractive goal and certainly hard to argue with. Unfortunately, certain realities prevented the first step -- overthrowing Saddam -- from ever getting off the ground. No matter, just use al Qaeda and exaggerated intelligence as a pretext for invasion. And don't give an accurate picture of what will be required to police and rebuild Iraq after the war, because this might dampen support.

And now we see the major constituencies, one by one, abandoning the neocons. The armed forces, the intelligence community, old-fashioned conservatives; people are now understanding that they were sold a bill of goods. I strongly suspect that support for the war would have been much more resilient if the neocons had been a bit more forthcoming about what was really going on. (Of course, it's possible that they never would have mustered enough support for an invasion if they hadn't resorted to these methods. We'll never know.)

As for personal responsibility, is there anyone in the world who accepts less than George Bush? Even when one of his national security team finally goes (about 30 months too late), Bush still claims that everyone's doing a great job and he's sorry to accept the resignation.

Is it any surprise that Bush can't learn from his mistakes? He can't see them. And such blindness is a very dangerous characteristic for the most powerful man in the world to have.


With all the scadals circulating around this adminstration (specifically: 9/11 commission, Plame Investigation, Chalabi as Iranian Spy, Complete bungling of the war in Iraq, etc.) just imagine what the reaction would be from Congress if it was a Democrat in charge of all this.

Seriously, it is amazing, these people thought that Clinton undermined the nation by lying about having sex with an intern. Now we have senior administration officials who gave information about broken spy codes to a source of questionable intelligence, and then the information was leaked to the Iranians. Now I don't like the phrase "Axis of Evil" but the setiment is valid. A nation led by Islamic fundamentalists is one that we should definitely be keeping an eye on, and it seems that broken spy codes is a good way to do that.

Think about it, if Iran was going to be involved in funding international terrorists this is a great way to learn about it and foil that plot. Now they, and the rest of the world know that we can break those codes and that they need to find a better way of betraying us and planning attacks against the world. Well, this is just great. I can't believe how bad this is for a war against terror, and it all happenend because we were so damn eager to go to war against Sadaam that we cozied up to some two bit back-stabbing criminal.

THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF. I can't say that loud enough. Yet because no one died, and there are no pictures to drive it home it is not having the impact it should. Our Congress is failing in their duty to keep the Executive branch in line because they are so partisan that checks and balances has stopped happening. I ask you to imagine the outrage if any of this went down under Clinton's watch. We need to have these people punished, if only because the message needs to be sent that no matter what party, undermining our security is a "high crime" and should be punished with impeachment.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I haven't seen The Day After Tomorrow (if you're thinking, "How the hell would he have seen it, given that he's sitting in Afghanistan?", the joke's on you: a colleague just downloaded it this afternoon), but it's directly responsible for my discovery of the best website ever.

That's right, the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics website.

Here's an excerpt from its review of The Matrix:

Supposedly, the computer system needs people as a power source. This makes no sense. The food fed to humans would have far more energy content than the meager power available from humans. It would require even more energy to run the food delivery system not to mention maintain the slime tubs. Why would the machines bother? Surely there'd be a more effective way to extract energy from the food. But wait! It gets worse. Liquefied dead humans are fed back to the living ones. The movie comes dangerously close to implying that the computer/energy system is a giant perpetual motion machine. This is clearly impossible according to the second law of thermodynamics and likewise impossible for us to dismiss lightly.

To cover itself, the movie throws in a quick mention that the human energy source powering the machines is combined with a source of fusion. This is like getting on a 747 and having the captain explain in great detail that the plane is rubber band powered, then add that it also has four jet engines.

And The Matrix Reloaded:
Liberated humans live in a vast underground complex called Zion, complete with elaborate life support systems for air, food, and water. Undoubtedly, these consume vast quantities of energy. So, why are the machines using people as batteries? It seems like they should simply tap into Zion's power grid.

And Independence Day:
Once in place, the alien RVs are synchronized by Earth's very own communication satellites, since the aliens evidently lack clocks. At the appointed moment they turn on blue death beams and mercilessly blow up about a dozen of Earth's major cities.

Fortunately, it's possible to outrun the expanding wall of fire from an exploding city on foot and escape unharmed just milliseconds before the fireball arrives. This assumes that you have a reasonable head start, don't have too far to run before reaching shelter, and are the beautiful girlfriend of one of the movie's heroic fighter pilots.

Unfortunately the physics say otherwise. A flame front several miles wide and hundreds of feet tall would emit an enormous amount of radiant heat. This would sear people well before the fireball arrived. Those who were sheltered enough to survive the heat would most likely be asphyxiated. The massive fireball would consume all the oxygen in the area.

The blast itself would probably be caused by some form of antimatter. Perhaps the blue light would be a containment field. If it were charged, the antimatter could be transported to the bottom of the field using an electrostatic force. If the containment field were then switched off, the antimatter would contact ordinary matter and turn directly into an enormous amount of energy. A mere ten pounds (4.55 kilograms) of antimatter would release almost twice as much energy as the largest hydrogen bomb ever built (100 megatons). The resulting blast would also release a huge amount of cell-killing gamma radiation in addition to the radiant heat already mentioned.

One of my all-time favorite websites (that I had completely forgotten about until today) just got a favorable write-up in the New York Times. Unfortunately, they haven't added any more movies in the last year, but we shouldn't be greedy.

If this is the first you've heard of it, by all means go check out Strindberg and Helium and watch one of the movies. If you don't like it, watch it again. They get funnier, I promise.

Having said that, am I the last person in the world to learn about extreme ironing, which was mentioned in passing in the Times article? What a bizarre sport.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Living in Afghanistan, you see a lot of strange marriages; I think my favorite is the co-worker who married his first cousin... on both sides.

But this is just plain weird.

It's definitely the first time I've heard of someone marrying her step-grandson. Yeesh.