Friday, April 30, 2004
Here's the heart of the matter:
The words of criticism are the same now as they were last year. On Friday, Mark Shields criticized President Bush for not attending a single funeral and for his refusal to lift the ban on media coverage at Dover. That same day, the New York Times reiterated its editorial opinion to have the ban lifted, saying that though the "theory" seems to be that the pictures are intrusive to bereaved families, "it seems far more likely" that the Pentagon is eager to check "the impact that photos of large numbers of flag-draped coffins may have on the American public's attitude toward the war."
I have lived through the numbing sadness of going to Dover to pick up my son, and have experienced the body-shaking pain of having to lay to his final rest a member of the U.S. Military.
The idea of criticizing President Bush on his choice not to attend the funerals is ludicrous. The simple fact is that President Bush either attends all or attends none for to attend some could be interpreted as an insult to those fallen heroes whose funerals he is seen to have "spurned." Besides, the logistics are impossible. On the day that my son was being buried in New Jersey his two buddies he was killed with were being buried at the same time at opposite ends of Pennsylvania. What was the president to do when the helicopter crashed and killed 17 soldiers? How to attend 17 funerals without forcing the families to wait for the president?
I would not have wanted the president to attend my son's funeral for it would have changed the entire dynamic of the day. The church service was a "Celebration of the Life of Kyle Andrew Griffin" and had President Bush honored us with his presence that would have all changed. It would have become a media circus. I knew full well just exactly how much President Bush honors my son and I am comforted by that.
The arguments put forth to have the ban on media coverage lifted vary from allowing the American people to bear witness to the sacrifice of the soldiers and thus honor them, to the need to deny President Bush the opportunity to hide the real costs in human terms of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steve Capus, executive producer of "NBC Nightly News," arrogantly and presumptuously spoke for me when he stated, "It would seem that the only reason somebody would come out against the use of these pictures is that they are worried about the political fallout." Well I am that SOMEBODY and as I looked at those pictures the tears were not running because of my worry about political fallout. In all the criticism there has never once been put forth a single argument of how having the media coverage lifted would be of benefit to the loved ones of these heroes. We are never taken into account. We are the collateral damage in this all so obvious ideological struggle.
Take a minute and read the whole thing.
How do I know this? First, my referrers page goes on forever with Google searches looking for his article. I take that as evidence that those of us who have publicized his article have only magnified its circulation a million times over. I hope the Tillman family is comforted by the collective outrage, but perhaps they are suffering for it. If it were me, I wouldn't really want all of this controversy slammed into the middle of my grieving.
Second, I received a couple of emails last night from somebody who is circulating Gonzalez's email addresses (or the email addresses of somebody with that name), and what purports to be his telephone number and photograph, extracted off the Web. Why do we need that information? To harrass the guy? Don't do it.
He takes shelter under the First Amendment, and his opponents should too. Torture him in the press and in the blogosphere if you must, but do not contact him directly, harrass him in person, call him on the phone or load up his email account. Leave him in peace to consider the rage that he has unleashed.
Muqtada al-Sadr's Iran-based mentor, Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri, no longer supports al-Sadr's uprising against U.S. forces in An Najaf. In an interview with AFP in Qom, Haeri's younger brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Hossein Haeri, said, "For us to approve of the activities of Muqtada al-Sadr, he would need to coordinate with our office in An Najaf, something he has not been doing. Neither Ayatollah Haeri nor any other Iraqi religious leader has declared jihad, so one cannot attack the occupation forces -- unless they attack Iraqis, then they have the right to defend themselves."
This is the first clear statement separating the mainstream Shiite leadership from the actions of al-Sadr, whose forces are engaged in a standoff with U.S. forces in An Najaf.
At its core, the statement signals that the Iranians still want to work with the United States in managing Iraq. This is no small achievement for Washington. Since Iraq's population is majority Shia, any permanent resolution in Iraq will be colored by U.S.-Iranian relations.
And here's the even more hopeful conclusion:
In short, this move demonstrates that Iran -- despite all posturing -- continues to work with the United States to attain its goals of a unified Iraq dominated by its Arab Shiite allies. While Iran and the Iraqi Shia might be able to achieve most of what they had hoped for, the real winner in this latest round is the United States. Sunnis are patrolling Sunnis in Al Fallujah, Iranian Shia are reining in Iraqi Shia, and for the first time in weeks, there is a serious possibility that no major combat will take place anywhere in the country.
This is as positive on Iraq as Stratfor has been in weeks. The last sentence represents a very bold prediction -- we will soon see how right, or wrong, it is.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Doctors have known for years that a large dose of regular old birth control pills, taken within a day or two of unprotected sex, would prevent pregnancy. Family planning clinics, at least in liberal college towns, have been making such "emergency contraception" available to girls and women for years. There is no reason that I know of that birth control pills in appropriate doses should not be widely available, widely discussed, and sold over the counter. Indeed, in December an FDA Advisory Panel recommended that the FDA approve OTC sales of Barr's "Plan B" formulation. But the approval letter did not come.
There are a million reasons why the FDA might not get around to sending out an approval letter (I'm aware of one company with a delay in a long-pending approval simply because one particular FDA supervisor is on a long vacation), but the reproductive freedom crowd is convinced that the delay in this case derives from the abortion opponents in the Bush Administration. You see, if you are a hardcore pro-lifer, you probably think that "emergency contraception" is actually an abortifacient. Or maybe you are just against sex for fun.
In any case, the delay in Plan B has exorcised the flower of American feminism, who have organized a huge letter-writing and email dumping campaign to get the product out there. An apparent supporter of Plan B approval also penciled this cartoon, which a friend of mine called to my attention. He described it "as harsh as a mainstream cartoon gets." I agree.
This is very funny, almost no matter who you support in the election. I especially like Slide 3, "relative severity of wound," which puts "shrapnel wound" between "scrape from fingernail" and "thorn from rose" on a line graph.
McDermott said he mistakenly reverted to the pledge as he had recited it in childhood. The phrase "under God" was added in 1954, when McDermott was 18.
This is laugh-out-loud funny. When I sing the pre "reform" version of "Old Nassau," I know what I'm doing, and that was only 17 years ago. It almost makes me wonder how often McDermott has actually recited the Pledge since 1954.
It also almost makes me wish that I didn't support McDermott's position, or at least a more subtle variant thereof, on the Pledge.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Annals of numismatics: The Sac dollar is on the ropes
The Ike dollar was, in fact, a beautiful coin, at least on the reverse, with its majestic eagle landing on the moon (the obverse was nothing special -- whatever one thought of Dwight D. as a general or as a President, there's no denying that it's hard to make a bald Kansan look good in a little nickel disk), so its failure probably reflected changing American habits (get it?), rather than revulsion at the design.
Since Ike, we've had the hideous Susan B. Anthony dollars of the Carter years, which, like many American coins, reflected the tenor of the times, and the "Sac" dollars of the last four years.
In the Suzie Bs and the Sacs, the Mint made fundamental design changes to increase the appeal of the coin with the idea that it might circulate as a matter of convenience, notwithstanding the continued availability of the dollar Federal Reserve Note. The Suzie Bs were only a little larger than a quarter, and had an eleven-sided raised interior edge. Well, they didn't circulate, which the Mint apparently attributed to confusion with the quarter. Maybe. I never confused Suzie Bs with quarters (but then I can distinguish most American coins by touch, which I concede is a bizarre and uncommon skill).
So the Mint struck back (get it?) with the Sacagawea dollar, which is larger in size and different in color. Still they don't circulate, with hundreds of millions of them piled up in jars around the house and more than 250 million in inventory. That many dollar coins -- even small dollar coins -- takes up a lot of room, not to mention the nasty dent in the seigniorage (we're mixing a lot of metaphors tonight).
What to do? The Congress is considering legislation that would authorize rotating obverses with the busts of every President in the order in which they served at the rate four a year for, presumably, at least eleven years. The Statue of Liberty would be on the reverse.
I think this is a great idea for a number of reasons. First, it emulates the successful state quarter program, which has taught some good history to a lot of people. Who can argue with that? A Presidential dollar program -- even if the coins do not circulate much -- will be very educational for Americans at a time when the country would do well to remember its great heroes, and its great failures. Second, the proposed design marks the return of Lady Liberty to America's production coinage. True, they are sneaking her in under cover of darkness as a statue on the reverse instead of a windblown beauty on the obverse, but it's a start. It is too much to hope for the return of coins that look like this or this or this.
Don't worry, we'll get back to usual TigerHawk fare soon enough!
You know he was a real Rambo, who wanted to be in the "real" thick of things. I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures. Well, he got his wish. Even Rambo got shot in the third movie, but in real life, you die as a result of being shot. They should call Pat Tillman's army life "Rambo 4: Rambo Attempts to Strike Back at His Former Rambo 3 Taliban Friends, and Gets Killed."
My father used to say that "the First Amendment doesn't mean a damn for people that most of us agree with -- it is only important for people who say things that most of us despise." The First Amendment was written for Rene Gonzalez.
UPDATE: Rob A. at Fine Why Fine fisks the hell out of Rene Gonzalez.
Amer Azizi (search) helped organize a meeting in northeast Spain in July 2001 that key plotters in the U.S. attacks, including suspect suicide pilot Mohamed Atta (search), used to finalize details, Judge Baltasar Garzon said.
An agreement on “acquisitions and provision of mutual services” was signed in Yerevan by the chief of the Armenian army staff, Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, and the visiting deputy commander of the U.S. troops in Europe, General Charles Wald. It reflects growing U.S.-Armenian military cooperation and is apparently linked to Armenia’s plans to send non-combat military personnel to Iraq.
George and Azerbaijan are already strong allies of the United States, and have troops in Iraq. Armenia has been the Caucaus state most oriented toward Tehran and Moscow, rather than America. Closer Armenian-American ties strengthen the encirclement of Iran, and may make it more difficult for Russia to meddle in the Gulf.
Scores of teenage militants armed with little more than machetes attacked security outposts across Thailand's troubled Muslim-dominated south Wednesday, but they were repulsed by police who had been tipped off to the offensive. At least 107 militants were killed....
It was the worst violence in a region that has seen dozens of people killed in near-daily of attacks this year. The government has blamed Islamic separatists who have sought to carve out a homeland in the Muslim-majority south of this predominantly Buddhist country for decades.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
I like the term 'decedent.' It's as though the man weren't dead, but merely involved in some sort of protracted legal dispute. For evident reasons, mortuary science is awash with euphemisms. "Don't say stiff, corpse, cadaver," scolds The Principles and Practice of Embalming. "Say decedent, remains or Mr. Blank. Don't say 'keep.' Say 'maintain preservation.'...." Wrinkles are "acquired facial markings." Decomposed brain that filters down through a damaged skull and bubbles out the nose is "frothy purge."
Bonus points if you use the term "frothy purge" in a business meeting, whether or not correctly.
These babies are the size of your hand. If McDonald's ever served escargot, this would be what they would use for the SuperSized portion.
Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia has a rule that forbids large groups of students from wearing shirts of the same color -- apparently pants of the same color are just fine -- unless they are the school colors.
So naturally the students are showing up wearing T-shirts of the same color. Last week it was pink, this week it is powder blue. The principal is sending them all home with orders to change, all in an effort to combat gang activity. The students, and TigerHawk, think that this is hilarious:
“A gang of pink guys? Oh, that really scares me,” said Lizz Spencer, a Capital student who wore a T-shirt with the school’s colors Monday.
“Baby blue. Uh-oh,” said Bryan Flowers, another Capital student. “Those people [school administrators] in the office, they must be part of a gang — they’re all wearing ties.”
And the rebellion continues: Tuesday through Friday, the kids are going to wear red, white, grey and black shirts, in that order.
This is obviously a standoff that the administration can't afford to lose. Send in the Marines, even if it ticks off the Shiites.
Oops. Wrong standoff.
And finally, we hear from the whining parents, who are, as always, the most annoying:
Some parents complained to central office administrators Monday afternoon, saying their children inadvertently wore light blue T-shirts to school.
Yeah, right, that's the ticket! It was definitely inadvertent! Didn't mean to wear that powder blue shirt, mom!
Here's the opening paragraph of Chapter 2:
Out behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center is a lovely, forested grove with squirrels leaping in the branches of hickory trees and birds calling and patches of green grass where people lie on their backs in the sun, or sometimes the shade, depending on where the researchers put them.
Knoxville, it turns out, has the world's only field research facility dedicated to the study of human decay.
Read the book.
Monday, April 26, 2004
First, addressing the Princeton aspect of the NFL draft, NFL GMs elected not to draft any Princetonians, choosing instead to gamble that they will be available in the free agent market. Whether or not they are prepared to outbid Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley remains to be seen.
The Hawkeyes faired better, but then they did offer two players, Robert Gallery and Nate Kaeding, who were the best players at their position in college football last year. Gallery, a 6'7'' 323 pound left tackle, has in many ways been the story of the draft, considered a sure thing by NFL scouts watching him perform at the combine in March. I won't make any career predictions but he did bring the Outland Trophy back to Iowa City where it has not been seen since Alex Karras left campus. Gallery was chosen 2nd in the overall draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Kaeding, a kicker, went in the 3rd round to the Chargers where he will be reunited with former Hawkeye golden boy Tim Dwight. Eli Manning will not be joining him. Kickers usually are not drafted at all, let alone on the first day, so this is a compliment. Having watched Kaeding for the past three years, I will predict that he will be a successful NFL kicker for years to come. The kid is tough.
Perhaps the steal of the draft was Hawkeye safety Bob Sanders slipping to 44 overall and going to the Colts. Concerns remain over Sanders' diminutive stature, but his 5'8'' height is compensated for by 4.4 speed and the best vertical leap at the combine. Starting at safety since his freshman season, Sanders was a two time All-Big 10 selection and was widely regarded as the hardest hitter in the conference. In many respects, Bob Sanders was a key to the recent resurgence of the Iowa football program, and I expect he'll make receivers think twice about running the crossing pattern against Indy. By the end of September his height will no longer be a topic of discussion.
Hawkeye receiver Mo Brown and running back Fred Russell went undrafted, a surprise to some. Brown was injured for much of his senior year and had a lackluster showing in senior all-star games. Russell, on the other hand, rushed for 1200 yards the last two seasons and was MVP of the last two bowls he participated in, the FKA Florida Citrus Bowl and the all-star Hula Bowl. Russell is only 5'7'' and 195 pounds, a fact which obviously concerns scouts. (Seeing him in the huddle next to Gallery has always been an absurd spectacle). A Joe Morris type player, he's got a shot at the NFL if he can land with the right team. If that doesn't work out, look for him to put up big numbers in the wide open CFL (where former Hawkeye Heisman runner up Brad Banks has gone to ply his trade).
Of course the whole story can be found at Hawk Central.
He has complained about "Benedict Arnold" CEOs who outsource jobs, and now it turns out that he owns shares in their companies. His defense? The old blind trust dodge, which anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows is a crock. You can construct a blind trust to avoid politically annoying investments, especially if you are willing to give up return. Why didn't he do it?
Now, he has apparently been nailed to the wall by ABC News on the question of whether or not he has thrown away his medals. Notwithstanding almost twenty years of outraged denials from Kerry, ABC has uncovered a videotape that shows a much younger John Kerry claiming just that:
"I gave back, I can't remember, 6, 7, 8, 9 medals," Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C. news program on WRC-TV's called Viewpoints on November 6, 1971, according to a tape obtained by ABCNEWS.
I haven't seen the underlying video, but if one reads the ABCNews article closely there does appear to be a defense: Kerry still has his medals, he says, which means that he did not in fact give them away. Did he lie 30 years ago, then? Well, it depends on the meaning of "gave back." He has said in past years that he gave away his own "ribbons," but not his medals, and that he was given medals of other soldiers to give away on their behalf.
Either that, or his family gave them away.
TigerHawk has two unrelated points. First, the Kerry campaign does not seem to have prepared itself well for these inevitable disclosures. I'm no big fan of consistency as a trait, and I think that gotcha political journalism is a waste of print. But if you can't get your act together enough to lose the SUV, put your money in Treasuries, and come up with a good story on the "reverse medals ceremony," you had better not be too sanctimonious about gas guzzlers, "Benedict Arnold CEOs," or your military service.
Second, these kinds of lame legalistic defenses -- didn't inhale, meaning of "is," fine distinctions in family ownership, the investment rules constraining blind trusts, and the difference between ribbons and medals -- do not work well with the average guy. It might be surprising that these defenses come from Democrats, because the Democratic Party sets itself up as the party of the average guy. However, it is also the party of lawyers, or at least lawyer candidates (it is instructive that the last Republican lawyer candidate was Nixon, who spliced the truth pretty finelt himself). Lawyer candidates tend to think that all questioning should be dealt with as if it were a deposition, and that gets them into trouble.
All of this distraction is disappointing to me. I'm a reluctant supporter of the Bush Administration, not a fervent one, and was hoping for a campaign that would force Bush to move toward the center on various things, including the deficit (make it smaller) and a number of social issues. That won't happen if Bush doesn't feel some heat, and with his poll numbers holding up after a very bad month, he can't be feeling nervous just yet.
In any case, the Kerry campaign had better not have any more of these nettlesome nano-issues, because if it does it is going to face some of the most hilariously effective television ads ever deployed in a presidential campaign, none of which will raise the level of the political discourse in this country.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Scrappleface on Autogate
"Kerry Gets Permission to Drive 'Family' SUV" - headline, Scrappleface.
"I didn't ask to take it on the campaign trail because it gets lousy gas mileage which is bad for the environment," said Mr. Kerry. "But I was excited when Teresa told me that I could run out to the Piggly-Wiggly in the big rig."
Read the whole thing.
First, the Associated Press is reporting that the "Saudis aided in Iraq more than thought":
But senior political and military officials from both countries told The Associated Press the Saudi royal family permitted widespread military operations to be staged from inside the kingdom during the coalition force's invasion of Iraq.
These officials would only talk on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity and the fact that some operational details remain classified.
While the heart of the ground attack came from Kuwait, thousands of special forces soldiers were permitted to stage their operations into Iraq from inside Saudi Arabia, the officials said. These staging areas became essential once Turkey declined to allow U.S. forces to operate from its soil.
In addition, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched attacks, reconnaissance flights and intelligence missions from three Saudi air bases, not just the Prince Sultan Air Base where U.S. officials have acknowledged activity.
Apart from the obvious question it begs ("more than thought" by whom? -- I assumed that the Saudis were helping a lot), it interests me that the story should surface as news now. Obviously, somebody inside the Administration thought that it was a good time to improve the image of the Saudis inside the United States. Why?
One reason -- a cynical one -- is that the Bush family is very closely associated with the Saudi royals. The Bush-Saud relationship has become more public recently, including in connection with the claim that the Saudis promised to push down oil prices ahead of the U.S. elections this November. Meanwhile, the reputation of the Saudi royal family in the United States, and of Saudi Arabian society in general, has suffered tremendously in the last three years, and for good reason. Perhaps the Bush Administration is trying to burnish the image of the Saudis ever so slightly so as to armor itself against criticism that the Bush family is too chummy with the House of Saud.
There are, however, several possible geopolitical reasons for signalling that the American-Saudi relationship remains strong. First, the Saudis are increasingly under attack from Islamist terrorists, perhaps because the jihadists have interpreted the substantial withdrawal of the American military from Saudi Arabia as a signal that we will not support the Saudis if the chips are down. Second, the Saudis have felt it necessary to be very critical of the United States recently, particularly over its support for, or failure to withdraw support from, the Sharon government. We may be interested in blunting that criticism by "outing" the Saudi support for the Iraq war, which the Saudis are obviously not eager to publicize within the Arab world. Finally, it may be helpful to us if Iraqis, including some of the Sunnis who are actively resisting the American occupation, understand that Saudi Arabia was an active supporter of the invasion.
Separately, Reuters is reporting that Prince Bandar suggested a year ago that the United States buy off the Iraqi army, and that a lot of the bloodshed since then could have been avoided had we done this. This was a very wise suggestion on Bandar's part, and it is advice that the American command and the CPA should have taken. For at least 700 years, and probably for much longer than that, any student of history has understood that unemployed soldiers are to be avoided if humanly possible. In disbanding the Iraqi army, we recreated brigandage, one of the three great scourages of 14th century Europe, when unemployed men-at-arms terrorized a population dying of plague and paralyzed by the schism of the Church. The solution then, as now, was to employ the unemployed soldiers. We should have done it a year ago, and we should do it now if we still have the chance.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
John Kerry has had tough words on the Presidential campaign trail for "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who export U.S. jobs. But according to the May, 2003, financial disclosure form he's required to file with the U.S. Senate every year, the Democratic candidate has stock in several multinationals that have outsourced work overseas -- General Electric (GE ), Procter & Gamble (PG ), and Verizon (VZ ), among others.
Business Week, like most media, delights in uncovering supposed hypocrisy of this sort. Not surprisingly, the Kerry campaign says that the investments are all in a blind trust over which Kerry has no control, and in any case he is going to hammer companies that outsource, as he defines it:
"It's a silly comparison," says Kerry senior adviser Michael Meehan. "Senator Kerry has a plan to crack down on companies who send jobs overseas."
I think that Business Week's article is banal: anybody that holds a reasonably diversified portfolio of common stocks -- or mutual funds that hold common stocks -- is going to own the shares of many companies that "outsource." We didn't have to wait for Kerry's disclosure statement to know that. And Kerry's defense -- that the shares are in a blind trust -- is ridiculous for the same reason. It would be almost impossible to own a diversified portfolio of public companies without investing in companies that outsource, and which, by Kerry's definition, are led by Benedict Arnold CEOs. One needn't know the particular companies in the portfolio to know that most of them outsource at least some of their production.
Of course, Kerry could avoid the risk that his blind trust will, heaven forfend, cause him to profit from outsourcing by structuring the trust so that it is permitted to invest only in debt securities. Then there would be no chance that he might turn a buck on the back of American labor. True, his rate of return would be roughly half that of equities, but that's the point, isn't it? We outsource certain functions because it is more profitable to do so. If you want to avoid benefiting from outsourcing, you have to take your return in the form of interest, rather than a share of the profits. Kerry wants to have his cake and eat it too.
As with Autogate, I am not big on picking apart these petty hypocricies. I wonder, though, why Kerry didn't do more to spare himself this sort of grief before the campaign began in earnest. Presumably, he could have influenced the trusts to move his assets into Treasuries last year. Why didn't he do it?
Dear Mr. Henneman:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I am sorry that someone thought a headline like that was appropriate and I have forwarded this to our Legal team to what can be done about it.
Thank you again for taking the time to alert us to this use of our content!
I'm fairly sure that the WaPo's legal team will in fact do nothing, but on the off-chance that enough reader feedback will trigger a nastygram to the PIMC, I suggest that TigerHawk's sparse but fiesty readership follow suit and rat these guys out: firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep the heat on.
And while you're at it, give to the Spirit of America.
Now, the TigerHawk family owns both an SUV and a Teutonic road monster (a BMW we inherited from TigerHawk's mother-in-law), and loves them both. We are, like John Kerry, slightly troubled by the wasteful and dangerous aspects of the SUV, which we lamely justify because we have to haul around horses several times a week (OK, strictly speaking, we choose to haul around horses several times a week in the same sense that other families choose to cart their children up and down the East Coast so that they can play soccer and hockey). The difference between John Kerry's family and the TigerHawk family is that we understand and can live with these contradictions. He can't, because he's running for President.
So if you are going to run for President and "invest" $6 million of your "own" money in the campaign, and if your nomination depends on sucking up to environmentalists and your election depends on winning Michigan, why don't you lose the SUV and the Audi in advance, rather than coming up with ridiculous excuses that harm your credibility?
Friday, April 23, 2004
Meanwhile, amid the pictures of coffins and the sobering news of Pat Tillman's sacrifice, American soldiers are re-enlisting slightly ahead of the Army's objectives. There are people who cannot imagine enlisting in the first place who argue that this success must be because of the sad shape of the economy (assuming, arguendo, it is in sad shape). I think this is hogwash. The economy wasn't bad for Pat Tillman.
If you're just a civilian at home living your life, what small contribution can you make to support our soldiers? My suggestion is that you give a few dollars to the Spirit of America, via the link at the top of the sidebar of this blog. The Spirit of America is a non-profit that raises unencumbered private money so that our men and women at arms can do good works for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq without waiting for the United States Congress or the Pentagon's procurement machinery. Make a contribution, and feel good.
UPDATE: Ryan Boots has a great round-up of Tillman links here.
UPDATE: The Portland Independant Media Center headlines its story on Pat Tillman: 'Dumb Jock Killed In Afghanistan.' It is hard to understand what depravity would motivate somebody to write such a headline. If I were the Washington Post, which wrote the underlying story, I would protest most strenuously. In fact, TigerHawk is going to write a letter to the WaPo suggesting just that. CWCID: Allah.
Many news organizations across the country are mistakenly identifying the flag-draped caskets of the Space Shuttle Columbia's crew as those of war casualties from Iraq.
Fact-checking is a lost art.
UPDATE: I think I titled this post wrong. To be fair, it wasn't the media's liberality that drove it -- in a few cases at least -- to publish the photos of the wrong coffins. It was the need for speed. We have found that speed is a more important basis for competition in newsgathering than credibility.
State Rep. Derrick Shepherd said he filed the bill because he was tired of catching glimpses of boxer shorts and G-strings over the lowered belt lines of young adults.
With legislation, you always have to think about the unintended consequences.
The ACLU, however, undermines its argument against the bill by citing the historically lawful plumber's butt crack syndrome as if it were a good thing:
"What about a woman who is wearing a bathing suit under her garment or she has something like a sarong wrapped around her and it's below her waist," he said. "I can think of a lot of workers, plumbers, who are working and expose their buttocks ..."
The forensic deconstruction of these bureaucratic records is a wasteful exercise for all kinds of reasons. First, both candidates have done more for their country than most people, including especially the vast majority of journalists who chase down the oppo-research leads that the campaign staffs feed them. Second, it sends a terrible message to the soldiers fighting for us today. How must they feel, knowing that the valiant or at least sincere contributions of one generation of soldiers become the object of ridicule in the next generation? Both campaigns are undermining the war we are fighting now by pecking each other to death over the military service of the candidates. Third, nobody who has served in the military, or any branch of government, believes that the record-keeping system is so robust that it should be decisively probative of valor, attendance, or anything else thirty years after the fact.
None of this is to say that the campaigns do not deserve this. Bush asked for it with the staged flight on to the Lincoln's deck, and Kerry asked for it by acting as though service in Vietnam was in some respect a qualification for serving as commander in chief. But enough already.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
The United States and the Sunni guerrillas in Iraq agreed to an extended cease-fire in Al Fallujah on April 19. Most media treated the news as important. It was, in fact, extraordinary. The fact that either force -- U.S. or Iraqi -- would have considered negotiating with the other represents an astounding evolution on both sides. For the first time in the guerrilla war, the United States and the guerrillas went down what a Marine general referred to as a "political track." That a political track has emerged between these two adversaries represents a stunning evolution. Even if it goes no further -- and even if the cease-fire in Al Fallujah collapses -- it represents a massive shift in policy on both sides...
The willingness of the United States to negotiate with the guerrillas is the most significant evolution...
More important is the fact that both sides felt constrained -- at least in this limited circumstance -- to negotiate. In that sense, each side was defeated by the other. The United States conceded that it could not unilaterally impose its will on Al Fallujah. There are political and military reasons for this. Politically, the collateral damage of house-to-house fighting would have had significant political consequences for Iraq, the alliance and the United States. The guerrillas could not have been defeated without a significant number of civilian casualties. Militarily, the United States has no desire to engage in urban combat. Casualties among U.S. troops would have been high, and the forces doing the fighting would have been exhausted. At a time of substantial troop shortages, the level of effort needed to pacify Al Fallujah would have represented a substantial burden. The guerrillas had posed a politico-military problem that could not readily be solved unilaterally.
It was also a defeat for the guerrillas. Their political position has been unalterable opposition to the United States, and an uncompromising struggle to defeat the Americans. They have presented themselves not only as ready to die, but also as representing an Iraq that was ready to die with them. At the very least, it is clear that the citizens of Al Fallujah were ready neither to die nor to endure the siege the United States was prepared to impose. At most, the guerrillas themselves, trapped inside Al Fallujah, chose to negotiate an exit, even if it meant surrendering heavy weapons -- including machine guns -- and even if it meant that they could no longer use Al Fallujah as a battleground. Whether it was the civilians or the guerrillas that drove for settlement, someone settled -- and the settlement included the guerrillas.
The behavior of the guerrillas indicates to us that their numbers and resources are not as deep as it might appear. The guerrillas are not cowards. Cowards don't take on U.S. Marines. Forcing the United States into house-to-house fighting would have been logical -- unless the guerrillas in Al Fallujah represented a substantial proportion of the guerrilla fighting force and had to be retained. If that were the case, it would indicate that the guerrillas are afraid of battles of annihilation that they cannot recover from. Obviously, there is strong anti-American feeling in Iraq, but the difference between throwing a rock or a grenade and carrying out the effective, coordinated warfare of the professional guerrilla is training. Enthusiasm does not create soldiers. Training takes time and secure bases. It is likely that the guerrillas have neither, so -- with substantial forces trapped in Al Fallujah -- they had to negotiate their way out....
Al Fallujah demonstrates three things: First, it demonstrates that under certain circumstances, a political agreement -- however limited -- can be negotiated between the United States and the guerrillas. Second, it demonstrates that the United States is aware of the limits of its power and is now open, for the first time, to some sort of political resolution -- even if it means dealing with the guerrillas. Third, it demonstrates that the guerrillas are aware of the limits of their power, and are implicitly prepared for some solution short of complete, immediate victory....
There were powerful political forces driving toward a settlement as well, and the military imperative was simply the cutting edge. But there are also powerful political forces in Iraq. The United States clearly does not want an interminable civil war in Iraq. The jihadists -- the foreign Islamist militants -- obviously do want that. But the view of the Sunni guerrillas might be different. They have other enemies besides the Americans -- they have the Shia. The Sunnis have as little desire to be dominated by the Shia as the Shia have to be dominated by the Sunnis. In that aversion, there is political opportunity. Unlike the foreign jihadists, the native Sunni guerrillas are not ideologically opposed to negotiating with the Shia -- or the Americans.
The United States has banked heavily on the cooperation of the Shia. It reached agreement with the Shia to allow them a Shiite-dominated government. After the December 2003 suppression of the Sunni guerrillas, Washington cooled a bit on the deal. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani demanded elections, which he knew the Shia would win. Washington insisted on a prefabricated government that limited Shiite power and would frame the new constitution, leading to elections. Al-Sistani suspected that the new constitution would be written so as to deny the Shia what the United States had promised.
Al-Sistani first demanded elections. The United States refused to budge. He then called huge demonstrations. The United States refused to budge. Then Muqtada al-Sadr -- who is either al-Sistani's mortal enemy, his tool or both -- rose up in the south. Al-Sistani was showing the United States that -- without him and the Shia -- the U.S. position in Iraq would become untenable. He made an exceptionally good case. The United States approached al-Sistani urgently to intercede, but -- outstanding negotiator that he is -- al-Sistani refused to budge for several days, during which it appeared that all of Iraq was exploding. Then, he quietly interceded and al-Sadr -- trapped with relatively limited forces, isolated from the Shiite main body and facing the United States -- began to look for a way out. Al-Sistani appeared to have proven his point to the United States: Without the Shia, the United States cannot remain in Iraq. Without al-Sistani, the Shia will become unmanageable.
From al-Sistani's point of view, there was a three-player game in Iraq -- fragments notwithstanding -- and the Shia were the swing players, with the Sunnis and Americans at each other's throats. In any three-player game, the swing player is in the strongest position. Al-Sistani, able to swing between the Americans and the Sunnis, was the most powerful figure in Iraq. So long as the Americans and Sunnis remained locked in that position, al-Sistani would win.
The Sunnis did not want to see a Shiite-dominated Iraq. So long as al-Sistani was talking to the Americans and they were not, the choice was between a long, difficult, uncertain war and capitulation. The Sunnis had to change the terms of the game. What they signaled to al-Sistani was that if he continued to negotiate with the United States and not throw in with the guerrillas, they would have no choice but to open a line of communication with the Americans as well. Al Fallujah proved not only that they would -- but more importantly -- that they could.
From the U.S. point of view, the hostility between Sunnis and Shia is the bedrock of the occupation. They cannot permit the two players to unite against them. Nor can they allow the Shia to become too powerful or for the Americans to become their prisoners. While al-Sistani was coolly playing his hand, it became clear to the Americans that they needed additional options. Otherwise, the only two outcomes they faced here were a Sunni-Shiite alliance against them or becoming the prisoner of the Shia.
By opening negotiations with the Sunnis, the Americans sent a stunning message to the Shia: The idea of negotiation with the Sunnis is not out of the question. In fact, by completing the cease-fire agreement before agreement was reached over al-Sadr's forces in An Najaf, the United States pointed out that it was, at the moment, easier to deal with the Sunnis than with the Shia. This increased pressure on al-Sistani, who saw for the first time a small indicator that his position was not as unassailably powerful as he thought.
The New Swing Player
The Al Fallujah cease-fire has started -- emphasis on "started" -- a process whereby the United States moves to become the swing player, balancing between Sunnis and Shia. Having reached out to the Sunnis to isolate the Americans and make them more forthcoming, the Shia now face the possibility of "arrangements" -- not agreements, not treaties, not a settlement -- between U.S. and Sunni forces that put realities in place, out of which broader understandings might gradually emerge.
In the end, the United States has limited interest in Iraq, but the Iraqis -- Sunnis and Shia alike -- are not going anywhere. They are going to have to deal with each other, although they do not trust each other -- and with good reason. Neither trusts the United States, but the United States will eventually leave. In the meantime, the United States could be exceedingly useful in cementing Sunni or Shiite power over each other. Neither side wants to wind up dominated by the other. Neither wants the Americans to stay in Iraq permanently, but the United States does not want to stay permanently either. A few years hardly makes a major difference in an area where history is measured in millennia.
The simple assumption is that most Iraqis want the Americans out. That is a true statement, but not a sufficient one. A truer statement is this: Most Iraqis want the Americans out, but are extremely interested in what happens after they leave. Given that, the proper statement is: Most Iraqis want the Americans out, but are prepared to use the Americans toward their ends while they are there, and want them to leave in a manner that will maximize their own interests in a postwar Iraqi world.
That is the lever that the Americans have, and that they seem to have been playing in the past year. It is a long step down from the days when the Department of Defense skirmished with the State Department about which of them would govern postwar Iraq, on the assumption that those were the only choices. Unpleasant political choices will have to be made in Iraq, but the United States now has a standpoint from which to manipulate the situation and remain in Iraq while it exerts pressure in the region. In the end -- grand ambitions notwithstanding -- that is what the United States came for in the first place.
Families don't own trucks, people do. What actual person owns the SUV?
Not that I care a wit about this sort of silliness. But if you're going to be sanctimonious about gas mileage, which John Kerry most certainly has been, you ought at least be willing to drive under-powered tiny little cars. Whatever happened to 'think globally, act locally'?
A) Why is it in the news almost every night? Because it is one of the FEW places in all of Iraq where trouble exists. Iraq has 25 million people and is the size of California. Faluja and surrounding towns total 500,000 people. Do the math: that's not a big percentage of Iraq. How many people were murdered last night in L.A.? Did it make headline news? Why not?
B) Saddam could not and did not control Faluja. He bought off those he could, killed those he couldn't and played all leaders against one another. It was and is a 'difficult' town. Nothing new about that. What is new is that outside people have come in to stir up unrest. How many are there is classified, but let me tell you this: there are more people in the northeast Minneapolis gangs than there are causing havoc in Faluja. Surprised?
C) Then why does it get so much coverage? Because the major news outlets have camera crews permanently posted in Faluja. So, if you are from outside Iraq, and want to get air time for your cause, where would you go to terrorize, bomb, mutilate and destroy? Faluja.
Unfortunately, in constantly citing his own record in Vietnam as evidence of his ability to be commander in chief or to impugn Bush's qualifications or military service, Kerry has opened the door, as we lawyers say. He can expect nothing less, even if it is unfortunate that his opponents decided to lower themselves to Kerry's level.
UPDATE: The New York Times is on its usual high horse, calling for more disclosure from the Kerrys. I do not agree with the national media's self-interested desire to see every twist and wiggle of a candidate's life disclosed. I think it keeps good people out of government, and we need more good people in government. However, there is no question that having lived by the sword, as it were, whining to no end about Bush's National Guard records, the Kerry campaign can hardly be excused from dying by the sword. Let's see all the medical records, and Theresa's tax returns to boot. If John Zaccaro had to cough up his, why should Mrs. Heinz get a pass? Because her last name doesn't end in a vowel?
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
And we have a new coach to celebrate, Joe Scott '87, from the Air Force Acadamy:
Scott led Air Force to a 22-7 record in 2003-04, the best record in school history, and led the Falcons to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 42 years, where they lost to North Carolina in the first round. Air Force finished 12-2 in Mountain West Conference (MWC) play, winning its first-ever regular-season conference title. The Falcons, who led the nation in scoring defense (50.9 ppg) and finished in the top 20 nationally in team field-goal percentage and three-pointers per game, had never finished a season with more than 17 wins before this year. Scott was named the MWC and the NABC District 13 Coach of the Year this past month.
This is going to be great.
There are three groups of blogs struggling valiantly to raise the most money. TigerHawk has thrown its hat in with Dean's World's Liberty Alliance, in support of which you may contribute here. If, for some twisted reason, you would prefer to give through the Victory Coalition or the Fighting Fusilleers, follow this trail to the Command Post. The important thing is to pull out your credit card and give a few dollars to this wonderful cause before you forget and click on to the next thing.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Interestingly, nobody in the business press, at least according to my fairly quick review of the mainstream coverage of Cantalupo's death and the management succession at McDonald's, thinks that Cantalupo's cause of death -- suddenly, from a heart attack -- is itself a public relations problem for the company. Maybe the silence is out of respect for Cantalupo's family, but I think it must be a real issue. If the CEO of a pharmaceutical company died from an adverse drug reaction, would the press stay equally as silent?
Compare the McDonald's case to the controversy that swirled around the discovery back in February that the Chairman of Smith & Wesson, James Joseph Minder, had served time for armed robbery forty years ago. Minder served his time and turned his life around sufficiently to become the chairman of a public company, becoming quite the textbook case for the rehabilitation of criminals. Why the controversy, unless perhaps Minder hadn't used Smith & Wesson handguns back in the day, as it were?
Well, a lot of us hate Arabs.
Oops. I've said too much.
Why is it so acceptable for world leaders to declare that this or that nation or people hates America (or Israel), but for some reason we are not allowed to declare our hatred in reverse? Why is everybody else allowed to hate and we must search for ways to diffuse their hatred? Why do we describe Arab public opinion as if it were a pot on a stove, and it is boiling only because we have turned the flame up too high? Why do we refuse to recognize that Arabs are human beings who make choices about their beliefs, opinions and actions, just as Westerners make choices? I believe it is because the Western chattering classes are racist: they hold Arabs in such contempt, they are unwilling to hold them to the same standards as Westerners.
I'm not big on the hatred thing, and do not hate Arabs. However, if Arabs choose to hate us, we are certainly entitled to hate them in return. We don't, by and large -- you do not see headlines declaring that American hatred of Arabs is at an all-time high -- but no honest person could blame us if we did.
Of course, it is perhaps unfair to bind today's Germany to its history. But history is much longer in the Middle East, and countries that wish to pronounce on matters of Middle Eastern affairs would do well to remember their own past.
Monday, April 19, 2004
Saturday, April 17, 2004
At long last, this pressing question seems to have been resolved. In Alaska, at least.
According to a judgment issued by the court Wednesday, the Alaska State Troopers got a report about 11:15 p.m. June 21, 2001, that a man and woman were fighting in a car. The caller had the license number and approximate location of the vehicle, so trooper Lawrence Erickson was dispatched to investigate a possible domestic violence incident.
Headed north on the Steese Highway, Erickson noticed the blue Jeep Cherokee driving south. He turned around and followed and got close enough to confirm the plate was the same.
The Jeep stopped for a red light. Erickson was directly behind and could see into the Cherokee. At first he thought the man and woman were still fighting but "soon realized that the two were having a sexual encounter," the judgment says.
The woman in the passenger seat was facing the driver, her left leg on top of the driver's seat, wrapped around his head rest. "While trooper Erickson watched [and who wouldn't? - Ed.], Wallace 'got up and leaned over on top of the female passenger,' " the judgment says.
The light turned green. Wallace did not respond "for a few seconds." Then he sat back up and started to drive away. Erickson turned on his patrol lights, and Wallace stopped after about a block.
Erickson inquired about the reported fight. "Wallace responded that the passenger was his wife and that they had been having sex, not fighting," the judgment says. Wallace "smelled strongly of alcohol, had red, watery eyes, unsteady balance and thick speech."
In a unanimous decision, the appeals court judges said the trooper had a legal right to stop the Jeep and ask questions about possible domestic violence even if the couple was no longer fighting.
And besides that, the judges said, the Alaska Administrative Code provides that no person "may drive a vehicle when he has in his embrace, or holds in his hands, another person in a manner (that) prevents the free and unhampered operation of the vehicle."
So Erickson actually had two legal reasons to stop the car and get a whiff of Wallace's breath, the court concluded.
Maybe it's just that it's Saturday night and I've had half a bottle of wine, but it seems to me you don't need to be Louis Brandeis to figure out that the Alaskan prohibition against driving while embracing or holding another person still leaves a lot of room to maneuver, as it were, behind the wheel of a car.
A spokesman for the Kerry presidential campaign said the truce offer "demonstrates that Mr. Kerry is the only candidate who can save America from the threat of terror."
The unnamed source speculated that Mr. bin Laden would prefer to deal with Mr. Kerry because "they are both intellectuals...you know, masterminds."
If you don't drop by Scrappleface on a regular basis, you are not helping yourself become a happier person.
From one of the failed Republican campaigns against FDR: "We don't want Eleanor either!" I remember my father digging that out and wearing it with a smile in the fall of 1972 -- after all, Mrs. George McGovern goes by Eleanor.
It is a little hard to imagine a slogan targeting "Laura," but "We don't want Hillary either!" would have been extremely plausible, as is, perhaps "We don't want The-ray-za either!"
There are loads of buttons from the fifties, sixties and seventies, including a "rare" (and original) McGovern/Eagleton in '72 badge; "President Nixon. Now more than ever."; and a whole slew of "Ike" buttons. My favorite from the Eisenhower years is a huge red, white and blue "J'Aime Ike" badge. Can you imagine anybody today trying to win votes with such a slogan? "J'Aime Bush"? Unlikely. "J'Aime Kerry"? Likely, but counterproductive to put it on a badge.
You don't see a lot of campaign buttons any more -- only signs and bumper stickers. Why is this? I have the sense that we now consider it inappropriate to associate our political opinions with big parts of our lives. Sure, it is fine to advertise our beliefs anonymously to everybody else who happens to see our car in the mall parking lot, but it has been years since I have seen somebody wear a political button on their jacket in the supermarket (and I live in a college town), or on their lapel in the office. Is this depersonalization of our political views a bad sign for American democracy? Or is it a healthy accommodation, separating the political from the personal? I'm not sure I have an answer.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Thursday, April 15, 2004
To be clear, I have no problem with endorsing the withdrawal from Gaza, and for making it clear that there will be no Palestinian right of return inside metropolitan Israel. However, Bush also endorsed the annexation by Israel of the Jewish settlements of Maale Adumim, Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion, Ariel and Givat Zeev in the West Bank. Implicit in that endorsement is support for Israel to continue to provide security to those settlers. In order for Israel to protect those settlements, deep within PA territory, it will need to provide heavily patrolled corridors or exclusion zones that connect the settlements to Israel proper. These annexed settlements, and the exclusion zones necessary to protect them, will carve huge wedges out of PA territory and drive a stake in any plausible hope for a successful Palestinian state. I therefore do not believe that it is in America's interests to accept or endorse the premise that the government of Israel may annex any territory on the West Bank that is not precisely contiguous with Israel, or that it should provide protection to any of the Jewish settlers who have chosen to live in PA territory.
This is difficult for me to say. I consider myself to be a very strong supporter of Israel, both because I believe that America's and Israel's respective interests are often -- though by no means always -- aligned, and because Israel is the most righteous country in a very tough part of the world. Also, I quite consciously consider the Palestinian Arabs to be enemies, or friends of the enemies, of America, as they were during World War I, World War II, the Cold War, our awakened struggle against Islamist jihad since September 11, and the Iraq War. So I really do not care what they think.
Unfortunately, though, America needs effective government of the Gaza strip and the West Bank. This should be an important objective of the Bush Administration, which has repeatedly stressed that failed states -- or otherwise ungoverned or ungovernable parts of the world -- become petrie dishes in which terrorist organizations grow to fighting strength. The Sharon withdrawal plan will leave behind just such an ungoverned and unpoliced region on the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, even if principled, moderate, effective Palestinian leaders were to emerge, the territory left to the Palestinians will be so fractured and dysfunctional as a result of the annexations that no viable state could realistically develop. Left with no government, no possibility of economic or social success, and no real ability to attack Israel through its wall, these territories will become what Afghanistan and the Sudan were in the last decade: recruitment centers and training facilities for Islamist jihadists.
Think of it another way: Israel, Gaza and the West Bank constitute a box. Very few countries in the world would take in either Jews or Palestinian Arabs even if they wanted to leave, so the people living in that box cannot escape their intramural enemies by migrating again. There is a small set of possible outcomes.
First, the people in the box can sustain low grade war against each other until the end of time. This would be a horrible thing for everybody, because it would offer no hope for the Palestinians and it would destroy, eventually, Israel's considerable moral authority.
Second, the people in the box could form one nation. This nation would have an effective government for a while, but this result would be unacceptable to the Jews because demographic trends inside the box favor the Arabs, who in their poverty are reproducing more quickly, as poor people do the world over.
Third, the people in the box could form two nations, and divide the territory in a way that ensures the security of a Jewish Israel and which gives some chance of economic and social cohesion to the Palestinian Arabs.
Fourth, Israel can withdraw behind its twisting wall, hunker down, and leave behind a failed state, or no state at all, in the formerly occupied territories. What better place to train the next generation of jihadists?
I know of no fifth alternative.
Of the four, the first and fourth options feed the war on terrorism (although the fourth is vastly worse than the first from America's standpoint), and Israel will not accept the second option. The third option is therefore the only alternative that both serves Israel's security requirements and the American war on Islamist jihad. Yet it seems as though Israel's annexation of huge chunks of the West Bank would make the third option "non-viable," as they say in Washington.
So why did Bush endorse the annexation? How does the endorsement benefit the United States? What is it that I'm missing?
It pains me to say this, but I am very concerned that in endorsing the West Bank annexations, Bush has destroyed any hope for a successful Palestinian state. This seems terribly inconsistent with at least one of the strategic objectives of the Iraq war, which was to gain influence over failed or failing states in the region. In any case, what are we going to do when the West Bank becomes the next headquarters for international jihad?
UPDATE (Friday morning): Via Isreallycool, who is probably going to de-link me for this post, Kerry has endorsed Bush's endorsement:
Kerry on Wednesday blessed the agreements struck by US President George W. Bush and Sharon. Bush said after meeting Sharon that Palestinian refugees should return to a future state of Palestine, not Israel, and sanctioned the idea that Israel would retain control of some settlements as part of a final peace deal.
OK, Mr. Kerry, same questions. It would be great if one of the two of you explained how supporting the West Bank annexation is in American interests.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Organization of the Islamic Conference is calling an "urgent meeting next week to discuss rising violence in Iraq and the recent U.S. policy shift on Israel's withdrawal from the Palestinian territories."
Farr, an African-American from Detroit, was inspired to learn when he saw another player who didn't match the Scotsman stereotype.
"I was at a funeral and I saw a Marine playing the bagpipes, and I thought, this isn't a big, burly, redheaded guy with a ponytail and a big stomach. He's a small Hispanic Marine. I said if he can learn to play the bagpipes, I can learn," he said, chuckling.
When he is not on the front-line, Farr wears a kilt when playing, and some Marines have been skeptical about a member of one of the toughest fighting forces in the world donning what looks like a skirt.
But Farr is unfazed. He's looking for a desert camouflage kilt he can wear in operations like these.
Semper Fi, laddie!
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Authorities say the Reverend Dwayne Long of Rose Hill was bitten by a rattlesnake Sunday afternoon and refused to seek medical treatment. He died early Monday at his home.
Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons says Long was a minister at a Pentecostal church where members practice serpent-handling.
Parsons says Long was holding a rattlesnake during an Easter service when the snake bit him on the back of a finger. He says the congregation prayed for the minister, but no one -- including Long -- sought medical treatment.
Oh how I wish the President were more articulate. His unwavering leadership is inspiring, but it would be so much more inspiring if he could speak as clearly as Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, or even, heaven forfend, Richard Nixon. That the Bush family has produced two such utterly inarticulate Presidents is the most powerful evidence I have seen to support the idea that the country really is in the hands of an evil cabal.
Bush is right not to apologize. Does the principal apologize if some bully smacks you on the nose on the playground? No. The bully attacked you. Did Winston Churchill apologize when the Luftwaffe indiscriminately bombed British civilians? No, even though we now know that in at least one case he let a terrible attack occur rather than revealing that we had broken the Nazis codes. Those advocates of a presidential apology who are not motivated by their desire that Bush lose in November -- and they are few and far between -- have mistaken Islamist jihad for some sort of natural force, like the weather. If an earthquake destroys Los Angeles and the federal government responds incompetently, the President should apologize. It is the government's job to prepare for and respond to predictable events. However, our primary means for dealing with enemies -- who are actors to whom culpability may be assigned -- is to deter them. We deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years. If we fail to deter a deterrable enemy, then we have not done a good job defending the country and perhaps an apology is in order. Neville Chamberlain should have apologized, perhaps, for letting Hitler remilitarize the Rhineland and the concessions at Munich. But when the enemy is suicidal and therefore cannot be deterred, it is the enemy, and only the enemy, that is culpable. Neither Clinton nor Bush need apologize for the attacks on September 11.
Bush needs to learn how not to admit he makes mistakes. I wonder what it is about the Bush administration that makes it so unwilling to admit mistakes. One theory popular among Bush's opponents is that the lot of them are pig-headed and arrogant. I'm not sure that's what's going on -- Bush has humbled himself before. He had the courage to admit that he was a slave to alcohol, and he has humbled himself to his religion. My guess is that Rove and company have made the tactical judgment that any admission that "mistakes were made" will be replayed constantly by the media and the Kerry campaign out of context, and that it is therefore better just to dig in and concede nothing. It is nevertheless frustrating for those of us who want to see the President succeed that he is so poor at dealing with this issue -- the squirming last night was positively uncomfortable.
Here's what I would say, if asked whether I made any mistakes:
"We've made a great many very difficult decisions in this administration, both before and after September 11. In making those decisions, we assessed and weighed the information that we had at the time, and did the best we could. I honestly believe that those decisions were the best that could be made at the time they were made.
"Of course, we live in an uncertain world, and everybody makes decisions that don't work out for one reason or another. In retrospect, there are countless things that we might have done differently to avoid some of the challenges we face today. But how can we know that in avoiding today's troubles we would not have created other even more terrible challenges? Suppose, for example, that we had delayed the war by a few weeks or months so that we could have gone in with more troops, as various people have advocated. Well, we might very well have suffered many more casualties fighting a more prepared enemy in the terrible heat of the Iraqi summer.
"With the bias of hindsight, you can always wish that you had acted differently. What you cannot know is whether other unexpected events with even more difficult consequences would have occurred had you acted differently. Next question."
Clinton or Blair could have said that, but even TigerHawk's lame effort is beyond President Bush.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
And occasionally you find some really great stuff. For example, take a look at this awesome mosaic of John Ashcroft assembled entirely from porn (and if you're a bit shy about dirty pictures, don't worry about this too much -- the pictures are smaller than Janet Jackson's breast on a Watchman).
I will, however, spare you the accompanying link to a mosaic of our President made up entirely of little sphincter pictures. Even I think that's in bad taste, which is saying something on a blog that has discussed submissive urination, described the surgical removal of pylar cysts, passed along the health benefits of eating boogers, and only yesterday called Andy Rooney a turd.
CWCID: Tom Tomorrow.
Monday, April 12, 2004
We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours, but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. A relatively small number are professional soldiers. During the last few years, when millions of jobs disappeared, many young people, desperate for some income, enlisted in the Army. About 40 percent of our soldiers in Iraq enlisted in the National Guard or the Army Reserve to pick up some extra money and never thought they'd be called on to fight. They want to come home.
Of course, some of this is true, however demotivating it may be to express it so crassly. However, Rooney's partial truth, expressed without regard for other truths -- that there are many good and noble motivations for soldiering, even (or especially) in Iraq -- is debased. He is looking only at the dark and cynical, and denying other plausible and inspiring reasons to fight for the right things in Iraq. That's why I think Andy Rooney is a turd.
He is also disingenuous. He supports his argument with very misleading evidence:
One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure. If 22 young men and one woman killed themselves because they couldn't take it, think how many more are desperately unhappy but unwilling to die.
Of course, Rooney did not bother to look into suicide rates for the American population as a whole, which are quite obviously available on the National Institutes for Mental Health website. According to my back of the envelope calculation, the soldiers in Iraq are committing suicide at a rate no greater than typical for Americans of that age cohort and gender (men over 20 commit suicide at the more than 20 per 100,000 per year).
So Rooney is not only a turd (my term), but in the writing of this cramped and cynical column he practiced very shoddy journalism.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is insane. Warren Buffett is probably the most respected investor of all time. Not only is he tremendously successful as an investor, but his integrity is remarkable for a businessman of his stature. Buffett owns almost 10% of Coke's stock, moreover, which means that his personal financial interests are closely aligned with those of other shareholders (albeit not perfectly). Finally, Buffett qualifies as an independent director under the NYSE's listing standards.
TigerHawk, who in his secret identity has reason to care about good corporate governance, agrees completely. In fact, I think that the good Professor did not go far enough. The problem, in my opinion, is this notion that the significant stock ownership ipso facto compromises "independence," at least as the self-styled corporate watch dogs define it. I have never understood why somebody who owns a large percentage of a company should not be considered "independent" in the absence of other transactions between the stockholder and the company. The reason, in theory, that we care about all this independence stuff is the concern that the management, which does not own the company, will in some regard hijack the company for its own gain. You need independent directors in various capacities to stand against that. Who is going to be more vigilent than an outside director that also happens to be a huge stockholder?
I would love to see somebody in the popular press or blogosphere examine this issue closely. I am sure that people have debated it in the law journals, but most of us in the real world don't have the time to excavate that kind of detail. Professor Bainbridge, back to you!
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Good for him. The TigerHawk family is proud to have scheduled its summer extravaganza in Italy this year.
Friday, April 09, 2004
Japan needs to hit back hard. Can it reach within itself and rediscover its martial spirit? If it can, would that make the world a safer place? Even five years ago I would have said that Japanese and German pacifism is better for the world than the alternative. Now I'm not so sure.
The ragtag group of unshaven, AK-47-toting Iraqi commandos have been knocking down doors in Baghdad looking for insurgents since January, according to a U.S. Special Forces adviser who called himself "Greg."
"They're getting there," he said after some loud confusion over whether they were going to ask neighbors for a key to a door or break it down.
There was much yelling and arguing in Arabic as about 30 of the Iraqi troops made their way through the four-story building, where resident Ahmad and a dozen other women and children huddled in a lower apartment to avoid being hit with mortars that had been fired nearby.
No one seemed to be in charge, but in the end, the Iraqi troops seemed to make friends of the residents.
"People like us," said Abbas Khudhair, who added that while most of his comrades were from the Kurdish north, the force included members from all regions of the country, included Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and included most of the political parties represented in Iraq's new government.
Khudhair, 22, of the town of Hillah in the Babylon province, said his group was the future of Iraq.
"We work together for all Iraq," he said.
Just what Iraq needs: tough men of good will, who believe in something greater than the tribe.