Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Luckiest Sumbitch Alive

As my father used to point out, it's hard to get luckier than being born a healthy, straight, white, male American in the latter half of the 20th Century. As Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I just wanted to point out a few things I'm grateful for:

1) I have the single coolest kid on the face of the Earth, bar none. He's President of his high school class, he's an excellent skateboarder, and his favorite movies are The Big Lebowski and Bowling for Columbine. He's been know to spontaneously sing Johnny Cash lyrics, he's got a hell of a jump shot, and he even wants to hang out with his Dad every once in a while.

2) Despite my continuing efforts at self-destruction through poor diet and lack of exercise, my body refuses to cooperate. I have no major health problems of any kind, and there's pretty much nothing wrong with me that a few months in the gym couldn't fix.

3) I live in a society in which I can support myself and my son in what most of the world would consider luxury on a relatively modest income. I have access to all the physical comforts of modern living, good healthcare, a safe neighborhood, and good schools. All these are things that most of the world must do without.

4) I can stretch my mind. Not only do I have access to literally millions of things to read from books, magazines, and the internet; but I can support myself with sufficient leisure to read, to write, and to think without being clouded by exhaustion.

5) I have the freedom to speak my mind without danger. This is also a thing that most of the world must do without. I can't imagine the psychological torture of having to bow and scrape, to pretend agreement with people like Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein in order to stay out of trouble. Due to the sacrifices of millions who have come before me (from those who have fought our external enemies, to those who have kept up the fight within the US to safeguard our civil liberties), I give thanks for the freedoms of speech and of conscience above all.

A Comparison

For those of you who don't have problem with the Iowa attack ads, would you be bothered by an ad which said,
Republicans are calling for us to forcibly convert Muslims to Christianity?

If so, why?
Anne Coulter, a prominent and bestselling Republican author, has called for that very thing. Aren't the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of loyal Republicans who've bought her books implicitly endorsing her views? How would this differ from the ads in Iowa, other than being closer to the truth?

Attacking Bush for Attacking the Terrorists

In the first of what promises to be a record-breaking number of cheap shot attack ads run this Presidential election, the Pubbies are running ads in Iowa stating that some people are attacking Bush for attacking the terrorists.

While this is technically true, as one can find old clips of Al Jazeera criticizing us for bombing Al Qaeda bases in Afganistan; it's implications are obvious bullshit. The Republicans are implying, without coming out and saying it in a way which could be disproved, that prominent Democrats think we shouldn't attack terrorists. Since this isn't even close to the truth, they can't come out and say it directly. They can, however, make implications that they hope will smear their opponents (remember the ad last year that had Tom Daschle's face morph into that of Saddam Hussein?).

This is only the first salvo in Karl Rove's Wrap ourselves in Sept 11th election strategy. As Garry Trudeau has already pointed out, you can expect 9/11 to be the official White House response to damned near any question from here on in.

Why are you cutting taxes for bliionaires instead of people struggling to get by?
9/11; next question?

Why are you making it easier for corporations to shelter income offshore?
9/11; next question?

Get used to more of the same.

Of all the responses I've seen, I liked Wes Clark's the best:
I'm not attacking the President for attacking terrorists, I'm attacking him for not attacking terrorists.; with a discussion of the way that invading Iraq has diverted resources away from battling Al Qaeda and that our inattention has allowed them and the Taliban to reestablish power bases in parts of Afganistan.

This could become a very important point to make in the next year: How has Bush's single-minded focus on Iraq actually hurt the War on Terror elsewhere?

We've obviously diverted a lot of intelligence and military assets from Afganistan to Iraq. We just as obviously don't have nearly as much money available to help out in Afganistan as if we'd never invaded Iraq. This has allowed the situation on the ground to deteriorate to the point that the very people we invaded Afganistan to get rid of now openly control big chunks of the country.

This is something we need to deal with immediately. Even a fraction of the troops and resources devoted to Iraq would make a world of difference in Afganistan.

I'm wondering how much of our neglect of Afganistan has been driven by the PR needs of the Bush White House? Just as they prematurely declared victory in Iraq in order to make themselves look good, they seem to have marked Afganistan off their to-do list and moved on, without acknowledging the years of dogged follow up that will be necessary to really be able to declare victory. I know it's no fun to have a long term presence in places without decent room service, and it looks a lot better to declare victory and go home; but sometimes we're gonna have to stick things out to make a real difference. Afganistan is one of those places.

This tendency to jump into things, make lots of promises, shake things up, then bail before the job gets finished is becoming a hallmark of the Bush White House. They did it with the schools (the No Child Left Untested Act without the money to actually improve our schools); they did it in New York after Sept 11th (remember all the money that was promised and then never delivered to help rebuild?); they did it in Afganistan; and now they seem determined to do it in Iraq.


Still the #1 search result for both "William Burton" and "Bill Clinton's Penis" (which always brings in one or two hits a day), but am unfortunately nowhere near the top for "Fuck Rush Limbaugh".

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

This seems to be the big question of the next year or more.

Should we settle into Iraq for the long haul, committing whatever troops, money, and other resources are needed?

Or should we bail as soon as we can to avoid getting dragged into an unwinnable guerrilla war that will mean needless deaths on both sides?

Whether we should've invaded in the first place is pretty much a moot point now. The question is What the fuck do we do now?

It's quite possible to have been against invading, but now in favor of staying (the You broke it, now you fix it approach).

From a pretty amoral Realpolitic point of view, I guess it's possible to have been in favor of invading but now in favor of leaving (the I don't give a damn what happens, as long as Saddam's out of power and isn't looking to get nukes approach).

Whatever we end up doing, it'll have a cost associated with it. And the answer will end up having a hell of a lot greater effect on our lives for the next few years than we were told when this whole mess started. My own personal answer will end up having a tremendous influence on which Democrat I support next year.

This ain't no Get in, get it done, get out situation. If we get out, then it won't be done.

The Bushie plan to draw down forces for electoral reasons regardless of the situation on the ground is the worst of all possible approaches. It leaves us engaged in a costly guerrilla war, but with absolutely no chance of winning, and no chance that the average Iraqi will stick out his neck to side with us (he'll be there long after we've gone).

More on this later.

Thank God for Basketball Season

Vanderbilt 73
Indiana 60

Monday, November 24, 2003

You should also definitely read Armed Liberal's 6 foreign policy points he'd like to see any Democratic candidates endorse:
First, we're not going anywhere in Afghanistan or Iraq until we're done.....

Second, we're too dependent on ME oil. We're going to do something about it, both by pushing conservation, expanding alternative energy, and expanding exploration......

Third, we're going to stop Israel from building new settlements and push them to dismantle existing illegal ones.......

Fourth, we're going to work to expand the ground-fighting capabilities of our military.......

Fifth, we're going to sit with the Arab countries we are supporting and make it clear that they cannot buy internal stability by fomenting hate against Jews and the West and still expect our financial and military support......

Sixth, we're going to develop security mechanisms based on the theory that fine-grained systems that bring information and communications to the existing public safety community, as well as the public at large are better than huge, centralized bureaucratic solutions.

I honestly don't know what the hell #6 is supposed to mean, but the other 5 seem like a good place to a start discussion.

My good buddy Armed Liberal posted a little while back pointing out what I've also said, that announcing our imminent withdrawal from Iraq makes us look weak and that stating we'll stay as long as we need to makes us look strong. He is a good bit more gung ho on the whole enterprise than I am, but I think we see eye to eye on the need to do it whole hog if you're gonna do it at all. Even when we don't agree, it's always good to see AL's clearly thought out and stated writing:
Let me repeat it: "victory can be our only exit strategy."

By taking this position, by making it clear that we will stay as long at it takes, spend the treasure and blood required to break the wave of Islamist rage, in my view we will reduce the amount of actual violence we will ultimately have to impose.

I'm not convinced that we should've invaded Iraq, nor that we should stay there as things get uglier (but I, as yet, haven't seen an alternative that isn't even uglier). I do know that, should we stay, we need to make it perfectly clear that we're there for the long haul. Otherwise, people like Salam Pax would be nuts to openly side with us.

Note to People Who Opposed the Invasion of Iraq

Those who disagree with you are not, by definition, Nazis or fascists. They do not want to round up all the brown skinned people of the world and herd them into concentration camps. Nor, with the exception of real nutjobs like Anne Coulter, do they want to forcibly convert the heathen at the tip of a bayonet. They are simply people who thought Hussein was a threat to the world and wanted to take him out when they had the chance.

Until you can agree to stop accusing anyone who holds different views than you of being a racist who kills babies for oil, don't expect to win any converts and don't expect those of us still on the fence to treat you like anything other than a fucking idiot.

PS: Those of you who don't act this way, please get your compatriots to shut the fuck up. They make you all look bad.

Note to People Who Supported the Invasion of Iraq

Those who disagree with you are not, by definition, supporting terrorism. They are neither supporters of Osama bin Laden nor people who think that we had it coming on Spetember 11th. For the most part, they're people who think that invading Iraq has made it more likely that terrorists will attack us in the future because it has motivated people to become terrorists who wouldn't have otherwise done so.

Those who disagree also aren't big fans of Saddam Hussein. They do not want to give Saddam the keys to the minivan and let him take the kids out for a spin. They don't think he's a great guy. They just didn't want to invade Iraq to get rid of him (Robert Mugabe is a brutal thug, but Bush is never gonna go after the bastard; does that mean he likes Mugabe?).

Also, you should note that protesting the war is not the same as cheering for the enemy to win. The vast majority out there wish all our soldiers were at home safe in their beds; they aren't wishing for them to die at the hands of terrorists.

Until you can agree to stop accusing anyone who holds different views than you of being an Osama-loving Saddam sympathizer, don't expect to win any converts and don't expect those of us still on the fence to treat you like anything other than a fucking idiot.

PS: Those of you who don't act this way, please get your compatriots to shut the fuck up. They make you all look bad.

Adam Felber divines the essential rules for Rovenomics:
Cut its taxes. If it doesn't have taxes to cut, blow it up.

Mo' Blogrollin'

Avedon Carol is all over the healthcare debate currently not getting nearly enough attention (scroll down to Medicine Ball):

Many Americans like to dazzle themselves with the idea that they have really advanced medicine available to them that the rest of the world doesn't get. I'd be interested in seeing some evidence of that, since (a) no examples are usually given and (b) on the rare occasion when they are, they turn out either not to be true or about things that are only available because NIH made them available - that is, they are the product of tax-payer supported programs and not at all owing to the market - and they will be available in Europe a year or two later if not immediately..........

........30 states have malpractice caps, and none of them have cheaper medicine - or cheaper insurance. "Tort reform" is a scam intended to prevent ordinary people from being able to challenge companies that break faith with them. Free-marketeers imagine that we will be able to enforce contracts against big companies just because, oh, big companies are good and honest and moral, I guess.......

.......By the way, I just love the idea that your health insurance is tied to your employer. God forbid you should be in a position to walk out on a job where you are abused, eh? Especially if you're someone with a pre-existing condition. That's what conservatives call "freedom".

That first point is really important. Ridiculously few medical advances have come entirely through the free market. The basic science just costs too damned much and takes too damned long to turn a profit. Private companies are much better at taking government funded research and turning it into a salable commodity. But that's a far cry from doing all the research themselves.

What we have in this country is a system in which our tax money goes to pay for medical research, which only those with health insurance can afford to buy. Those who can't afford healthcare end up subsidizing research benefitiing those who can.

One nit I do have to pick with Avedon is on the value of preventative care. Our health care system would actually turn a profit off giving away free checkups simply because so many people leave their conditions untreated because they lack health insurance. Something like low level diabetes or high blood pressure that might be treated cheaply if caught early enough gets very expensive to treat if you wait until it's life-threatening. We Americans spend a fortune on emergency care for things that could've been easily controlled if caught in time.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


Oliver Willis on the Democratic Party:
There are some principles that most of the party can agree on: fair taxation, health care availability, equal rights, a preventative (not aggresive) military doctrine, universal access and quality of education, and free but fair markets......For those that choose not to endorse the main planks of the party's reason for being, perhaps it is time for them to choose a new party.

and SKB on gay marriage:
Better yet, the REAL question ought to be, what is it about same sex marriage that poses such a threat to all the hetero soccer moms and NASCAR dads? What is the threat to society? What exactly is it they fear? Some long repressed tingling in their naughty bits? What?

Makes Sense to Me

Iraqi blogger Salam Pax (now added to the blogroll) had a letter to GW Bush published in London's Guardian along with those of a lot of other prominent or not so prominent people (read them all here). His letter is worth reading in its entirety, and expresses better than I could a very real concern: Having gotten America knee deep in Iraq, and having essentially destroyed the only government they've had for 50 years, will Bush finish the job of rebuilding Iraq and reconstituting its civil society? Or will he bail out at the earliest opportunity to help his reelection chances?

I'm telling you; things don't look good so far. The Pentagon has already announced a timetable for drawing down American troop strength, even as things look more unsettled than ever. This really seems to be driven more by the upcoming Presidential election than by reality on the ground.

Regardless of whether it makes military sense or not, they will start pulling out troops early next year. Unfortunately, this makes Iraqi leaders less likely to side with us (as we appear to be turning tail and running) and makes it less likely that the average Iraqi will turn out grateful that we invaded. As I pointed out long ago, the humanitarian case for an invasion was the only one that made sense to me, and it depends entirely on whether or not the Iraqis ended up in better or worse shape than when we invaded.

Kicking Saddam in the crotch then running away is not the way to ensure a peaceful, democratic future for the people of the Middle East. In fact, as the fucker appears to still be on the loose; it isn't inconcievable that Saddam could retake power once we leave. Even many reasonable Iraqis may prefer him to the fundamentalist mullahs who would be the chief alternative.

Well, here's the letter:
Dear George,

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.
Salam Pax

Request for Enlightenment

If anyone can please let me know why I, as a straight male, should give a damn if two gays want to marry, I'd appreciate it.

Most straight couples are taking longer to get married, many don't bother at all, and most of those who do eventually divorce. It seems that the only people left really excited by the prospect are long term gay couples, all of whom will probably show more respect for the institution than the people who get married over and over again on what is essentially a whim.

I don't want to tell other people what to do with their private parts or who to love, just as I don't want other people telling me the same stuff. If you can convince me that I really should care, more power to you.

Et Tu, Lucy?

Thanksgiving approaches.

If, once again, Lucy van Pelt pulls away the football just as Charley Brown is about to kick it, I may need to have a talk with that girl's parents. This sort of juvenile behavior is inexcusable decade after decade.