Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

How Unusual: BushCo Misses The Point

Financial Times gives coverage to Dean's aggressive TV ads in NH and TX:

[T]he Dean campaign began running [an ad] in Texas this week, taking direct aim at the president on his home turf.

Mr Dean has spent about $800,000 on the commercials so far. They are simple in format - just Mr Dean speaking into the camera for 30 seconds.

"Has anyone really stood up against George Bush and his policies?" he asks in the Texas commercial, which ran in the Austin television market. "Don't you think it's time somebody did?"

Aides to Mr Bush, who is at his Texas ranch this month, noted dismissively that the Crawford ranch "gets stations from Waco, not Austin".

Um, I think Dean is targeting the voters, not President Self-centered.


PS--Check out Howard Dean TV to see the ads. 

If You Can't Load This Blog...

...then you can't read this post. For some reason I can publish, but all BlogSpot sites are unavailable. Even the mighty Atrios is down. Alas.


[Update, 4:34PM: looks like the site was down for about 2 hours. Grr.] 

Dems, Dean And The Deficit

According to the latest Gallup poll:

[C]lose to eight in 10 Americans view the federal budget deficit as either a crisis (20%) or major problem (57%).
President Bush has argued that the recently passed tax cuts will ultimately have a positive effect on the deficit, but Americans appear unsure about that. When asked if the cuts would result in an increase or decrease of the deficit, Americans choose "increase" by a 20-point margin -- 54% to 34%.
A little over a year ago, Americans were also about evenly divided as to which party in Congress would do a better job with the deficit. But in the latest poll, Americans favor the Democrats over the Republicans by a 13-point margin, 50% to 37%.

Despite 48% of the public also believing in voodoo economics (that Rovian spin machine works wonders) and only 3% saying the deficit is the most important problem in this country (no duh), I think this bodes well for Dems, and Dean in particular. Unka Karl won't be able to accuse Howie of being a tax-and-spend liberal given his record of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets in Vermont. Again, that might dismay the far Left, but their positions I think are politically untenable and a bit too unrealistic.


The Town Of Kebab And Irhab

Baghdad Bulletin reports on Iraqi resistance in Falujah:

Falujans don't consider their resistance of the US occupation terrorism, but a legal resistance.

The surprise to someone unfamiliar with the town is that the resistance is not only armed. The peaceful civil resistance in Falujah has focused the attention of all Falujans that the situation must eventually take the shape of general public opinion, facing the occupation with all means. At the center of the united national movement in Falujah is (the group of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Qubeisi). Ahmed Al-Esawy and Belal Al-Ani told of their movement in Falujah in spite of the fame of Al-Qubeisi as a Religious Islamic leader.

They describe their movement as a nationalist movement and not only contains Sunni, as it is rumored, but some Shia also. It includes Arabs and Kurds, and all other nationalities. We, they said, will welcome our brothers, the Christians, if they desire to join our movement. Our only condition is that the person who wants to belong to this movement should be Iraqi and believe in the uniting of our country and all its sects.
The movement assures delivery of civil services to the people of Falujah. These include cleaning campaigns, achieving clean drinking water, getting aid from humanitarian societies to distribute them to the poor people, to build hospitals and athletic clubs and to set up local newspapers etc.

Iraqis organizing themselves to not only resist occupation, but also to provide services to the people. Gandhi's Constructive Program writ small. It certainly seems like they're capable of peacefully taking control of their own country. Who knew?


PS--This week's Baghdad Bulletin is full of interesting articles. I suggest you check 'em out. 

An Empire Stretched Thin

Paul Kennedy writes in The Australian:

Washington now has military forces in about 130 countries, fighting in some of them, peacekeeping and training foreign military units in others. You can hear George Washington turning in his grave.
Using official statistics, the editors at Global Security report there are 155 combat battalions in the US army. Before October 2001, only 17 of those were deployed on active combat service, in Kosovo and a few other hotspots (garrison deployment in Germany and Japan is not regarded as "active combat" service). Today, that figure stands at 98 combat battalions deployed in active areas.

Even a non-military expert can see this is an impossibly high number to sustain over the longer term, which is why, in addition to the 255,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard forces deployed in combat and peacekeeping missions abroad, the US has sent another 136,000 troops from the National Guard and Reserves.

Most of the US carrier fleet are now back in their bases, being refitted after the defeat of Saddam Hussein, but Washington still has 40,000 sailors afloat and on mission. Meanwhile, the US generals are asking for more troop deployments in Iraq, and the Pentagon has just diverted three warships to the coast of Liberia.
Is this the US future -- to have its troops stationed for an undefined time on the Northwest Frontier or in a disease-ridden port in West Africa or some other outpost?

Excellent question. Kos has discussed rotation issues and how stretched our military is--I'm not going to bother finding the links. Reading all this just makes me wonder how the GOP continues to be viewed as stronger on national security when they appear to be engaging us in snipe hunts all around the world.

Kennedy concludes:

Washington frantically denies it has imperial ambitions, and I believe those denials to be sincere. But if the US increasingly looks like an empire, walks like an empire and quacks like an empire, perhaps it is becoming one just the same.

Um, duh? I briefly blogged about this in June. Quoting from an Air War College paper:

[T]he United States is an imperial power with a vested interest in maintaining a certain level of stability in the international political system, and that stability maintenance requires, as it has of every other imperial power, occasional military intervention along the imperial periphery. The uniqueness of the American empire as a voluntary association of market democracies does not alter the imperial obligations of the United States as the center of that empire. Imperial states meddle in small wars for reasons ranging from deterrence of escalation to protection of friends and allies.

I'm not an isolationist, but I see our numerous deployments as part of the terrorism problem. There are 192 countries in the world, and we have a presence in 130 of them. Bush asked "why do they hate us?" He concluded that they "hate our freedom." No. They hate how our tentacles cover two-thirds of the globe. They hate how we require the world to follow rules as we willfully ignore them. They hate how we export violence. Time to choose a different path, or our empire will fall just as the Romans did.


Bush Budget Priorities

They ain't about Indian health, that much is clear. Given some numbers I've gotten from the Cato Institute, I thought I'd revisit what we've been discussing in the thread about Indian health issues. First, the Indian Health Service appropriations from fiscal year 1999 to 2004:

FY1999 - 2,687
FY2000 - 2,857 (+6.3%)
FY2001 - 3,206 (+12.2%)
FY2002 - 3,366 (+4.9%)
FY2003 - 3,497 (+3.9%)
FY2004 - 3,607 (+3.1%)

FY99-01 are from Clinton budgets. Numbers are in thousands of dollars, with percentage increases in parentheses. I couldn't find actual figures from '99, but found what the 2000 increase was and worked backwards. The '04 figure is the proposed budget--I haven't looked at the appropriations bill to see what was enacted. I culled this from multiple docs at IHS, so if you want the raw info lemme know and I'll find all the necessary links.

I was reading over at Kos that Cato (you know, the real conservative/libertarian people) has provided some interesting revelations about Bush's spending habits:

Government agencies that Republicans were calling to be abolished less than 10 years ago, such as education and labor, have enjoyed jaw-dropping spending increases under Bush of 70 percent and 65 percent respectively.
Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending.

I don't have hard data on what Clinton's overall spending pattern was FY1999-2001, but it appears he continued to rein in spending overall and yet increased IHS monies. I'm not interested in that. I'm more concerned about the present and I see Bush is allowing spending to run wild, but has increased IHS money only 12.5% in three years. And according to the CDC we're only providing 59% of appropriate funds for health services. Conclusion: Bush would rather increase spending 17% on an unnecessary missile defense system (to the tune of $8.9B), than invest money in necessary health services for Native Americans.

So Bush is neither compassionate, nor conservative. Discuss.


[Update: corrected some dreadful typos.] 

Larry King Transcript

When asked by Larry King about what to do in Iraq, Dean said last night:

I would begin the process of going to the United Nations, getting a resolution to bring foreign troops in, preferably including some troops from Arabic-speaking nations and some Muslim troops so that we can make this truly an international occupation. I do believe it's a worthwhile goal to rebuild Iraq into a democracy. I think that's unlikely to happen with this president, given his track record in Afghanistan.

I support the president's invasion of Afghanistan because I thought that was an issue for national security of the United States. But I think what s happened since then has been a very bad harbinger of what the president may do in Iraq.

We're under -- we have probably a fifth of the number of troops that we need to have in Iraq -- excuse me, in Afghanistan. The president is making deals with the warlords, who are certainly not Democratic forces. i think things look bad in Afghanistan. We need the U.N. and NATO to come in and help us there. And the problem is the president has managed to alienate and humiliate all the very countries that we now need to help us maintain the peace both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

I'd say this expresses pretty sound understanding of national security. Disclosure: I disagree with Dean here, as many of you well know, but I of course am not mainstream on the issue of military force.

First, Dean is not just saying that BushCo is wrong, he's stating what he would do as President. He wants to internationalize our efforts in Iraq to legitimize the occupation and give us much needed help. And he believes our building a democracy is important.

Second, anybody who wants to paint Dean as a pacifist and anti-war candidate has nothing on him. Indeed, he did not support the war in Iraq, but he did support the Afghan campaign and was, as you might recall, pushing for intervention in Liberia. Dean is not afraid to flex our military muscle. He does object to putting our soldiers in harm's way without good reason.

Third, Dean recognizes the value of allies and diplomacy. We're in exactly the bind many of us predicted due to the Bush administration's arrogance. Dean understands the limits of power, which is just as important as being able to point at a map and say "bomb this".

Incidentally, Dean's position on internationalizing our operations in Iraq is in line with the Army's own thinkers. From the SSI report I blogged about yesterday:

The United States needs to expand the numbers of foreign Arab and Muslim troops involved with the management of postwar Iraq. Their presence in Iraq for postwar security duties could also be very valuable in convincing Iraqis that the United States is not interested in severing them from the larger Arab World.Such a deployment would have to be coordinated with responsible Iraqi leaders. Moreover, many Arab and Muslim countries would probably be willing to contribute to a postwar stabilization force if it was authorized by the United Nations.While the United States may have to help finance such a force, it would be worth the expense to reduce the danger of U.S.confrontations with the population and assuage Iraqi fears of U.S.domination.

When asked if he would move to the center in the general election, Dean responded:

Larry, I am in the center. I balanced budget. The president hasn't done so. I believe that states have the right to make their own gun laws, after enforcing the federal laws vigorously. I believe that we ought to have health insurance for every single American. Harry Truman put that in the Democratic Party platform in 1948. There's nothing that's not centrist about me. I just think that the party and the electorate, the Republican Party and even my own party has simply moved too far to the right.

You heard it from the horse's mouth, folks. I know that some Dems think Dean isn't left enough because of his fiscal policies, but I'm sorry, that's silly. I'm not actually a Dem myself, I'm one of those Indies that you need to court. I will have a hard time voting for somebody who does fit the stereotypical tax-and-spend mold. Balancing budgets is good. I think most Americans agree, and as Dean observed back in '92, if people don't trust you with their money, they're not going to trust you with anything, including all the good things you want to do for them.

I also dig how Dean is more Federalist than supposed conservatives in many respects. Leaving most of the decisions about gun laws to the states is a good approach--indeed, what works for Vermont would not necessarily be good for New York. And while not stated here, Dean makes a similar argument regarding civil rights for gays.

The one pinko thing Dean does propose is universal health care. Too bad that's not enough for the Leftwing of the Democratic party. I don't think it's Left enough for BushCo to make an issue of it, either, given most Americans have great concerns about healthcare. Of course, Rove and his minions will make something of how Dean will pay for it: rolling back the irresponsible Bush tax cuts. I think Howie will be able to make the case.

I'll let y'all read the rest of the transcript yourselves. The panel discussion after Howie's appearance is also interesting.


Monday, August 04, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Germans And Vermonters Have One Thing In Common

We both like making potato guns:

German police have arrested a man for firing potatoes at passers-by with a home-made bazooka, authorities in the western city of Essen said on Friday.

"It was like a bazooka that fired potatoes," a spokesman for police in Essen said. "Jolly dangerous from close range."

Police said the weapon consisted of about five feet of drainpipe attached to an aerosol can which the man ignited to propel the root vegetables toward their targets.

"He was plastered and probably thought it was fun," the spokesman said.

The 33-year-old man is now under investigation for attempting to cause bodily harm and violating gun laws.

I've played with two variations on the theme: using an air-compressor works pretty well and provides decent range of the spud (downside is the amount of required equipment); the aerosol approach is simpler and I find almost as effective (using a flower-scented bathroom freshener makes for pleasant-smelling artillery). Nothing like launching a potato into the middle of the lake for fun when you're in the boonies. And you don't necessarily need to be plastered, although it does add to the jocularity, or so the Germans would have you believe...


[Update: I can't find the plans that we've used to build guns, but here are a couple of interesting spud gun sites: a nice Beginner's Spud Gun page for an easy, low-rent approach; and The Spudgun Technology Center for more advanced types who prefer the accuracy of laser-guided bolt-action potato weapons.] 

O Dub Endorses Dean

Remember, When Oliver Willis talks, it turns out, the blogosphere cares:

I want my country back. I want America represented by a leader who doesn't stand up for whoever can write the biggest check, or who uses lies and deception to justify sending our troops into harm's way. I want a president who will do and say what's right for our country rather than what benefits the powerful few. I want a president who doesn't just pay lip service to encouraging employment, economic growth and health care - but really does things to help. We should have a president that holds America up as a leader to the world but doesn't act like a spoiled, petulant bully. America deserves a president that makes us proud to be Americans.

That man is Howard Dean.

I wish I'd said that. Not that the blogosphere cares.



According to the Dean blog:

72,134 Meetup volunteers for Meetup ths Wednesday! Over 1,000 new people joined Dean Meetups in the past 5 hours! This people-powered Howard campaign is incredible.

That is pretty amazing.

BTW, this Wednesday is my birthday. Give me a good present by signing up for a Meetup in your area (that will make up for the fact that I'm not going to one, since I'll be celebrating out in the woods). You have the power!


Dean On Larry King Tonight

You probably already have heard, but just in case you haven't...CNN's Larry King asks "Is Democrat Howard Dean President Bush's biggest competition?" Howie will be chatting with Larry tonight at 9PM.


[Update, 9:34PM: I thought Dean sounded good tonight. Okay, Larry isn't Tim Russert, but Dean's getting his stuff down. I'll post a transcript when it becomes available.] 

The Hudna Is Holding

According to Ha'aretz:

Grinding its teeth, the IDF is slowly getting used to the cease-fire and is adjusting itself to its own limitations. The hudna (temporary cease-fire), for the time being at least, is the only game in town. All parties - the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority and, to a certain extent Hamas too - have an interest in preserving it.

In the IDF intelligence and planning division, they are even willing to stick their necks out and say the hudna will probably last beyond its original expiry date - September 29 - which, coincidentally, marks the third anniversary of the intifada.
the truth, as sources in the General Staff admit, is that "the quiet is intoxicating and misleading." As long as there is quiet, therefore, and no local incidents get out of control, it is in no one's interest for the hudna to be broken.

If the hudna goes on, Israel will continue to provide a steady dribble of "good will measures" and both sides will wait - at least until after the American presidential elections of 2004.


Verizon Negotiations: Making Progress Every Day

Verizon, unions rejoin talks:

Verizon Communications Inc. employees reported to work as usual on Monday, after unions agreed to negotiate past a weekend deadline...

The nation's largest telephone company and two unions representing about 80,000 employees, or about a third of the company's work force, were set to resume contract negotiations after making "substantial progress" over the weekend...

Here's the CWA take on things:

Over the weekend, we made real progress in our negotiations with Verizon. We are continuing talks today on some key issues that remain to be worked out and our subcommittees are continuing to do their work.

Our solidarity actions are an important support for bargaining. We have a carefully developed plan that supports bargaining, and right now, that plan does not include any actions that affect the business of the company.

Other actions may be necessary down the road, but right now, it's important that we stay together, follow our plan and focus on our bargaining strategy.

Actions we should all be doing include pre-work rallies, wearing red, after-work tailgates and other activities that mobilize our members, spread our message and build public support.

We can win a fair contract in bargaining if we stay strong and stick with our strategy. That means not falling for management traps, not getting provoked on the job and not planning or discussing options that affect Verizon's business.

Our plan is working -- let's stick to it.

Keep fingers crossed...


Post Saddam Iraq

The Boston Globe reports some good news:

For a second straight day, the US military reported no fatal attacks yesterday on American soldiers in Iraq. In a series of raids, troops detained two dozen people they said were participating in the violent resistance to the US occupation, including a ''targeted leader.''

The US Central Command said yesterday's raids by the Third Armored Cavalry in the so-called Sunni Triangle west and north of the capital netted ''24 regime loyalists, including a targeted leader.'' It provided no details on the identities of the captives.

No fatal attacks, yes, but attacks continune, as do civilian casualties:

A 75 -year-old Iraqi farmer was shot dead and his son wounded Sunday, August 3, after being turned back at a coalition checkpoint west of Fallujah, as U.S. soldiers came under a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack in northeast Iraq on the road between Baquba and Baghdad, wounding two of the troops.

As U.S. occupation troops trawled Iraq for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Sunday, the two Iraqis were caught in the lethal crossfire of the U.S.-led forces war on Iraqi resistance fighters.

So we're wounding and killing more innocent Iraqis, which only creates more resentment. It also seems that we're hell-bent on pissing off our allies, the Kurds, in the process:

U.S. forces arrested Sunday, August 3 the spiritual leader of the Kurdish Islamic Movement - the Kurds' oldest Islamic group Ali Abdul Aziz, and 14 other people in the northern town of Halabja as U.S. troops in the war-ravaged country still take resistance fire.

"Some 2 ,000 U.S. soldiers, supported by two helicopters, laid siege to Abdul Aziz's house in Halabja at 5 : 30pm (1330GMT) on Saturday (August 2) before taking him and 14 other people away," Agence France-Presse quoted the official as saying.

Mullah Omar, brother of Abdul Aziz, and bodyguards of the spiritual leader were among those arrested, he said, adding that the group was taken to an "unknown destination."

"The group is surprised that the Americans can arrest its spiritual guide who has long since declared war on the Baath party and the former regime in Iraq," the official said, accusing U.S. forces of now attacking "supporters of freedom and enemies of Saddam Hussein's regime."
Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier and two Iraqi civilians were wounded near Baquba, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald of the Fourth Infantry Division (4ID) said Monday, August4.

With this as backdrop, I noticed that the Strategic Studies Institute, an Army think tank, has a recent paper on Nationalism, Sectarianism, and the Future of the U.S. Presence in Post-Saddam Iraq:

The removal of Saddam's regime created problems and opportunities for Iraqi ethnic and religious communities. Arab Shi'ites, who comprise the majority of the population, saw new opportunities for political leadership, perhaps with a powerful but fragmented clergy leading the way. Sunni Arabs correspondingly worried about a new distribution of power, and many began to view de-Baathification as a process that further threatens their community. Kurds remain interested in de facto, but not formal, independence from Iraq, and the danger of an Arab backlash to Kurdish aspirations is correspondingly serious. Tribal identities further complicate the situation.

Some attacks against U.S. forces have occurred following the war with most of the violence associated with residual Saddam loyalists from among the Sunni Arab community. Many Shi'ites are more reluctant to engage in such activity so long as it appears that they can take power by political means. Nevertheless, strong anti-U.S. views are present in the pro-Iranian Shi'ite organizations, and these views may spread among other Shi'ites over time. The possibility of confrontations between U.S. troops and hostile crowds is particularly worrisome as is the availability of massive quantities of weapons to the Iraqi population.
Iraqi nationalism is currently in the process of redefining itself for a post-Saddam world. The chances of this nationalism being anti-Western and anti-U.S.seem serious.
[T]he United States has a reputation in the Arab World of favoring democracy so long as the democratic process produces leaders acceptable to Western interests. Advocating democracy and dictating who can be elected are two different concepts. One of the clearest ways the United States can avoid a nationalist backlash is to recognize that ousting Saddam Hussein has not earned for us the privilege of dominating Iraq for the indefinite future. If U.S. leaders believe that it does, then the United States has truly become a colonial power that will inevitably face colonial wars.

If we don't have the right to determine who the Iraqis choose to lead them, what does the future hold? Edward Luttwak from the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote an op-ed piece in the Telegraph and offers a sobering assessment:

By should be obvious that no significant population group in Iraq wants the democracy that the Bush administration is striving so hard to establish.
It would be an astonishing achievement of cultural transformation if a functioning Iraqi democracy could be established in a mere 30 years, or indeed 60. But the Bush administration cannot contemplate decades of colonial government, and is therefore pushing for the formation of some kind of elected government in two or three years, after a constitution is written and approved by referendum, so that elections can be held.

But the immediate problem is that even that perilously accelerated time-table is much too slow for many Iraqis - and for the US Army, which is heading for a veritable collapse in re-enlistments among the troops serving in Iraq.
It is thus not just the successive delays in rotating forces home that are ruining morale, but the mission impossible of turning Iraqis into democrats in short order. Now that hopes of recruiting large numbers of peacekeepers from other countries have faded, the time has come to prepare the next-best exit strategy. If equipped with an adequate security force, there is no reason why the new Iraqi Governing Council cannot be left to rule on its own - and such a force could be formed quickly out of existing Kurdish and Shi'ite militias rounded off with police forces raised in Sunni areas as well. The continued survival of Saddam Hussein is no obstacle to a rapid hand-over of power. He has no loyal followers in Iraq but for the Sunni tribals, who can longer impose their will on most Iraqis.

The perils of a rapid exit are many, but the only alternative is a prolonged occupation that offers no greater guarantees of success, at far greater cost.

Okay, I think this finally pushes me into the rapid exit camp. I had been waffling for a while, not necessarily agreeing with the "we broke it, we bought it" mentality, but recognizing that maybe there were some lessons to learn from the two times we've effectively abandoned Afghanistan. Now I've been brought back full circle, and believe that all of our troubles with terrorism are a result of our poking our guns where they are not wanted. If we would stop trying to dictate to the world how other people should run their lives, that would go a long way to reducing terrorism. Instead, we continue to antagonize other nations in our futile efforts to eradicate that which cannot be eradicated. We're not "draining the swamp", we're creating new swamps everywhere we go. Time to let go of our arrogance.

More immediately, let's bring our soldiers home.


Sunday, August 03, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Back By Unpopular Demand

Humblest apologies for not posting the latest chess move. I've been very busy watching the grass grow in my lawn.

N-KB3 (G8-F6). Something's got to hit the fan soon, I think.

Take a look at the board and you'll see why.



Why do I feel a sudden urge to sing Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive"?


Two Dean Blogs

I added two more Dean blogs to Howard Dean Central in the top nav:

* Progressive Christians for Dean - Progressive Christians for Dean is a group of thoughtful and committed progressive Christians focused on electing Howard Dean President of the United States and getting his message to the larger community of faith. Gov. Dean has a record of commitment to social justice and fiscal responsibility, and he is dedicated to reviving the progressive voice in public policy and ensuring that no person is left behind. We encourage all progressive Christians to support Gov. Dean in his campaign.

* Value Judgement - a daily weblog written by two independent voters on the eastern seaboard of the United States. VJ will focus on the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaigns, including strategy, tactics, and substance. The authors support Howard Dean in the Democratic primary. Accordingly, his campaign will be a prominent topic on this site.

VJ also has a fave Gandhi quotation of mine: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. As I mentioned last week, I think Dean's campaign is really a great example of a popular movement , and I think he's already made it to Gandhi's third point. Anyway, check these sites out.


A Split!

The forecast thunderstorms didn't materialize, so we got to play softball. Quite honestly, I did not want to play, but I'm glad we were able to because we won our first non-forfeit game of the season. We're peaking right as we head into the post-season! Anyway, we had our best run production of the year (better than what we normally score in 2 or 3 games) and handily defeated the opposition. My hitting woes continue, as I experimented with a number of bats, and I went 2 for 5 with 1 run scored. Second game we were back to our usual tricks. I was 0 for 2. I don't know what's going on, but I don't seem to put the ball on the ground any more. I keep getting really good smacks pretty deep to left--I've never been a power hitter, and used to poke the ball between short and 2nd, so this is really weird.

Tonight I played center right for the first time (usually I play catcher or right field). I usually commit at least 1 error a night, but I was very pleased with my solid defensive play in both games. Unfortunately, I tweaked my knee in the 6th inning of the first game. The ground is really uneven on this particular field, and as I was running to pick up a grounder that scooted through, I stepped hard into a divot or dip or something. Not a major injury, obviously, but it's now feeling pretty lousy. I'm going to dine on some Advil, a bottle of Magic Hat #9, and take a hot shower--hopefully that will loosen things up.

So, my season totals: hitting .428, 7 runs, 1 RBI. An offensive powerhouse.


About Time

Finally, WaPo tells the truth about Dean with the headline As Governor, Dean Was Fiscal Conservative:

The new governor faced a roomful of fellow Democrats in 1992, liberal warriors eager after two years of Republican rule to right every perceived wrong in Vermont. But Howard Dean issued no call to arms.

All of your progressive ideas, Dean told his party caucus, won't amount to anything if Vermonters don't trust you with their money -- and they don't. We're seen as tax-happy liberals who spend money unwisely.
"He made us very disciplined about spending, even if we didn't really like it," said former state Senate president Dick McCormack, who sat in that caucus room in 1992. "I was a liberal Democrat, and I fought him a lot, but he made the Democrats very hard to beat."

Are you listening, DLC?


[Update: Blog for America notes that Dean is on the cover of both the current Time and Newsweek. And check this out from USNews:

"I find him very, very refreshing," says Joe Mathews, 53, who owns a travel agency in Manchester, Vt., and, as a Republican, has always voted against Dean "out of habit." But Mathews says he will vote for Dean for president because he admires the fiscal conservatism Dean displayed in 11 years as governor. "What the rest of the country is starting to find out," he says, "is Dean is not particularly left wing. And as far as checkbook issues, he is to the right of George Bush, because if it isn't in the bank, Dean doesn't spend it."

Imagine outflanking Bush on the right.]

Verizon Talks Continue

CWA says:

Early this morning, shortly after midnight, talks between the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Verizon recessed and were scheduled to resume at 10 a.m.

FMCS Director Peter Hurtgen called for the recess and asked the parties to return to meet with him later this morning.

Shortly before the midnight contract expiration, the unions said members would remain on the job until further notice while the talks are underway. Union leaders determined that enough progress had been made at the bargaining table to continue working toward a contract settlement, however key issues remain unresolved.


Clock Strikes Midnight, CWA Not Striking Yet

Bargaining update:

[S]ome progress has been made and therefore until further notice all members should report to work if scheduled. Negotiations will continue possibly through the night...

I honestly don't think anything that will avert the strike will come of this, but who the heck knows?


Saturday, August 02, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Bush In 'Excellent' Health. American Indians: Not So Good.

Bush was given a clean bill of health in his annual physical today. While plutocrat health is not in danger of declining any time soon, according to the CDC:

American Indians and Alaska Natives born today have a life expectancy that is almost 6 years less than the U.S. all races population (70.6 years to 76.5 years, respectively; 1996-98 rates). American Indian and Alaska Native infants die at a rate of 8.9 per every 1,000 live births, as compared to 7.2 per 1,000 for the U.S. all races population (1996-98 rates).

How can a portion of our population have such drastically shorter lives than Americans as a whole? The accompanying health trends report indicates that "[d]isease patterns among Indians are strongly associated with adverse consequences from poverty, limited access to health services, and cultural dislocation." Witness the disturbing patterns:

American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from alcoholism (770%), tuberculosis (750%), diabetes (420%), accidents (280%), suicide (190%), and homicide (210%).

I guess the silver lining is that pretty much all of these causes are preventable. However, while I've been complaining about Iraqi water supply issues, look at what's going on in our own backyard:

Safe and adequate water supply and waste disposal facilities are lacking in approximately 7.5% of American Indian and Alaska Native homes, compared to 1% of the homes for the U.S. general population.

It's unconscionable that anybody in America would lack an adequate water supply. What's equally disturbing:

[Indian Health Service] appropriated funding provides only 59% of the necessary federal funding for providing mainstream personal health care services to American Indians and Alaska Natives...

A symptom of Bush budgetary policy. I guess "compassionate conservative" means that Bush is compassionate toward rich, white conservative Americans and not poor Native Americans. One more glaring reason we have to dump this guy in 2004.


PS--In the interest of full disclosure, the Vermont Abenaki have been critical of Howard Dean on the issue of tribal/civil rights. I personally am unconvinced that tribal recognition and civil rights are related--it seems to me that people are conflating two different issues. I also think the Abenaki beef with Dean is unwarranted given the fact that a) tribal recognition is a federal issue, and b) our independently-elected Atty General is the one who has advised the Bureau of Indian Affairs as to the State's opinion on the matter. Dean has always appeared to be supportive of Abenaki culture and civil rights to me. Anyway, the linked VPR story is presented to provide a backstory and some balance. MB over at Wampum probably can provide more perspective.


A Coin Flip

I recently ordered a book called She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan. An excerpt:

Sometimes I played a game in the woods called Girl Planet. In it, I was an astronaut who had crashed on an uninhabited world. There was a large fallen tree I used as the crashed-and-destroyed- rocket. The thing was, though, that anybody who breathed the air on this planet turned into a girl. There was nothing you could do about it, it just happened. My clothes turned into a girls' clothes too, which should give an indication of exactly how powerful the atmosphere was. It changed your clothes! Once female, I walked through the cobblestone woods, past the abandoned houses, until I arrived at Governor Earles' mansion, which I started to try to fix up. It took years, but eventually I had a nice little place put together. By the time astronauts from Earth came to rescue me, I had grown into a mature woman, a college professor, occasionally playing piano in blues bands, kissing my children goodnight as they lay asleep in their beds. My rescuers would say, "We're looking for James Finney Boylan, the novelist. We found his rocket all smashed up back there in the woods. Do you know where he is, ma'am?"

"I'm sorry," I said. "He's gone now."

I had a creative writing class (fiction) with James Finney Boylan, the novelist, a long time ago at Colby College on a planet called Earth. He was one of my favorite college professors, and I liked hanging out and talking with him throughout my career*. I learned a lot from him, even though I might not always apply the lessons in my writing or life at large today. I bought each of his books as they came out**, and found great joy in seeing the world through his unique perspective. He's gone now.

I like Jenny, and I still have a lot to learn from her.

End transmission.


* A trip down nostalgia lane: in the 80s, we had a pre-cursor to blogging that was all text/menu driven on an old Vax/Ultrix system where we used to debate the issues of the day in threaded discussions. Jim and I also talked in real life, if you can believe that.

** I would always try to get Jim to sign my copies "To my favorite B+ student". He always refused, damn him.

PS--Listen to the Marketplace segment with Jenny and host David Brancaccio (the son of the director of my sole acting experience in college, "A Servant of Two Masters"). 

So Long, Suckers

I got a new hair cut! And I went to a doctor and he shoved
his finger up my ass. Then I got a lollipop! Now I'm going on
vacation for a month...see ya, wouldn't want to be ya.

Nope, no caption contest, unless folks agitate for it. I do listen to my peeps, after all.

Interesting to note that Bush "has a mild high frequency hearing loss" according to his latest physical. Perhaps that's why he doesn't hear all the shrill criticism of his policies? Maybe we should just lower everything an octave or two...


Salam "the spy" Pax

Salam was in Tikrit a few days ago:

I can not really say it was very wise to go to Tikrit with foreigners two days after the death of Uday and Qusay was confirmed. They are not very friendly up there in Saddam's home town at the best of times, and now they border on the hostile. I am now Salam "the spy" Pax in Aujah.
Saddam is still on the walls despite Mullah Bremer's fatwa concerning the images and propaganda of the old regime. Back in Baghdad, military personnel were standing in long queues waiting for their pay cheque while Saddam's new tape was being aired on al-Jazeera. Saddam is calling for his army to reform while they are waiting for hours to get paid by "the infidel invader".

So, now, disgruntled military personnel can be struck off the list of possible resistance members. That leaves Ba'athists and Islamic extremists. While dealing with these two groups, the Americans will manage to piss off the rest of the population. Take for example the Task Force 20 raid a couple of days ago in Mansur. They got some "intelligence" and surrounded an area that they had bombed with bunker-busting bombs just four months ago. They were not even being shot at or anything. These are people who were driving in their cars through their neighbourhood streets. And got the sheikh of the biggest tribe in Iraq angry in the process. Great job.


My Phone Won't Work In Iraq

Won't work in Europe either and I'm not going to Iraq any time soon, so I guess it's no biggy. According to a cellular-news story entitled US blocks French and German companies from Iraqi tender:

The contentious debate as to whether the networks will use GSM or CDMA seems to have swung towards the GSM camp with the requirement that any operator must "provide full national and international roaming service to their customers through agreements with other Iraqi licensees and with a wide range of operators in trading partner countries". The networks will also be required to provide roaming between the three regions that the licenses will be offered. The spectrum bands being made also favour GSM over CDMA.

I'll leave the issues of US spite and the obvious "but what about clean water?" issues aside for now and just look at the technical stuff. It's good that GSM will likely be the foundation of the Iraqi cell network, given the rest of the world is in that camp (the US is always the odd duck it seems). If you'd like an overview of the evolution of wireless telephony systems, check out the whitepaper written by my boss, Paul Whalen.

There was one tidbit in the DoD press release about all this that caught my eye:

Currently, there is limited land-line service in Iraq, Wells said. Telecommunications switches were damaged in the war, but they are under repair. There are 3,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cables in the country, but they have been targets of sabotage.

I'm sure there is some sabotage of the fiber going on, but let's be honest: we damaged a good bit of the facility in prepping for the war:

U.S. air war commanders carried out a comprehensive plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the Iraq war, according to an internal briefing on the conflict by the senior allied air war commander.

Known as Southern Focus, the plan called for attacks on the network of fiber-optic cable that Saddam Hussein's government used to transmit military communications...

Looks like we also had a hand in damaging the necessary infrastructure. I'm not sure why stuff like this still rankles, but it does.


Brag Time

Wow, I just had my 2000th visitor, which means I've had my best week so far: 500 visits! Not only that, but the blog has evolved into a Slithering Reptile, has moved up to the #1024 spot in the Ecosystem, is ranked 397th in traffic, and has gotten several more links in the Link Cosmos. Silly, I guess, but this makes me glad. I really appreciate everybody dropping by, commenting, giving me feedback, etc. Nice to know I'm not just shouting into the wind!

Rock on,

Rummy Readings

Okay, so I've added readings for the latest two Rummy poems: Pass the Doobie (an NTodd original) and How Close (derived as usual from a recent DoD transcript). Per Lilith's suggestion, I tried doing the Doobie, as it were, as Rummy might say it while smoking herb--can anybody out there do a better impression? Ah well, it's not like this is a professional endeavor. Have a listen and lemme know what y'all think...


Have We Not Heard The Chimes At Midnight?

Quick roundup about tomorrow morning's Verizon strike. Basically everybody agrees that at 12:01AM, the union will strike against Verizon. WaPo makes an interesting observation:

[I]ndustry observers say that unless a strike drags on, disruptions may be limited because the sluggish economy has held down business expansion and the widespread use of cell phones has reduced reliance on land lines.

Verizon has been working feverishly to get managers ready to backfill craft jobs, and is better prepared than ever to deal with the work stoppage. Combine that with the above observations and the company is in pretty good shape to weather the strike. I have both union and non-union friends, and for their sakes I hope the company will emerge in okay shape and that the strike won't hurt the folks on the line. The idea that cell phones might mitigate some of the impact is particularly interesting. Anecdotally I know many people use their wireless phones in lieu of land lines for long distance calls, with "no roaming/LD" packages being so cheap, and in many cases have completely abandoned the wired network, exclusively relying on their cell phones. However, there are still people who use the traditional telephone network, such as my friend David who I helped moved to a new apartment yesterday. He could be effected, as the NYTimes reports:

Neither side was voicing optimism yesterday, with the unions saying that 78,000 workers would walk out at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow if no new contract was reached by then.

The strike would involve workers in states from Virginia to Maine. It is not expected to affect regular phone service, but might cause delays in installing new phone lines.

And yeah, the union certainly isn't expressing optimism. The Northeast Bargaining Update says "We remain far apart on all major issues as expiration draws near." Mid-Atlantic says:

With only hours now until the expiration of our contract we are still where we started, which is to say that we have not accepted a single concessionary demand. With so little time left, we are on course for what we've always known; this contract will be won in the fight,
In a few more hours this battle will be completely in the hands of our members, and our contract and our Unions could not be in better hands.

Special Instructions to MOBILIZERS - NORTH: "Shock and Awe"

Where I come from, them's fightin' words. Since I've been on a poetry kick lately, here's a poem written by Rachelle Klemunes, a Local 13500 member:

Friday, August 01, 2003





To all my friends, students and colleagues at Verizon, on both sides of the picket line, I wish you all the best in the days (hopefully not weeks or months) ahead.


[Update: Marketplace had a story earlier this week about the impending strike:

Officials from Verizon and its two unions are trying to work out a deal before with federal mediators before a deadline set for Sunday. And though industry observers are expecting another strike like the one that hit the nation's largest phone company in 2000, the impact of a strike this time around is likely to be different. Why? When management and labor sat down at the negotiating table 3 years ago, the fight was over how to split up the bounty of a brand-new company. Now, in this post-boom telecom industry, they’re said to be fighting over who loses the least. Since Verizon’s only ace in the hole may be wireless, its local phone workers may not have a strong hand to play at the bargaining table.

Stay tuned...]

[Update, 9:04PM: Forbes has an article (via Reuters) about the strike:

Verizon has trained its white-collar workers to handle union tasks such as installing telephones, climbing telephone poles to repair lines, and fielding customer service calls.

As my friend Gary Kessler would say, lemme say this about that: climbing poles is not a small feat. When teaching at the Verizon facility in Marlboro, MA, I've hung out with pole climbers on many an occasion. It's tough training and tough work, and there are many who have failed to become linemen of the county because they couldn't make it up past six feet on the pole.

One more thing. The longest strike for the old Nynex was 17 weeks. This one could conceivably go 30-40 weeks. Not good for either side. Are there really even two sides? I'm not so sure.]

MS150 Bike Ride

I'd planned on riding in this year's MS150, but instead I'm sponsoring my friend Matt again. I encourage y'all to do the same:

If I got to you last year, you know what this is about, if not, you may be able to guess. In either case, you can pledge [online] and get it all over with quickly (BTW, you don't need to make a username and password, just ignore those fields). If you want to know more before commiting some dough to the cause, I've put up some information about why I'm doing this, what MS is all about, and why you should help. Please consider reading it.



Cairo's not very happy with me. I played tug with her this morning, but apparently not enough, so she got all mopey. Taking a picture of her probably didn't help her mood. I'll make it up to her later.


Have You Seen Me?

CENTCOM has just announced a startlingly innovative new effort to catch Saddam Hussein. US military officials tell Dohiyi Mir that they are putting photos of the missing dictator, who once gassed his own people with weapons we provided him, on milk cartons all over Iraq. The digitally-altered pictures show Saddam as he might look today, based on darn good intelligence. It is hoped that since Iraqis still have no clean water, they will be drinking huge quantities of milk and thus this will be the best way to distribute the pictures. Some officials privately expressed concern that Iraqis might not want to buy milk because continued lack of electricity makes refrigeration impossible, but Viceroy L. Paul Bremer III has indicated this only helps the effort. "Not being able to keep milk for more than a few hours in the intolerable Iraqi summer heat is actually to our advantage," he said. "This will encourage the Iraqi people to drink the milk faster and buy more, which will enable us to get more pictures out to the public to ensure that we will raise the awareness level. This shows how the Coalition Provisional Authority is making great strides to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis."

Mr. Bremer also noted the CPA has taken a page from CENTCOM's playbook and plans to inform the Iraqi public of official directives using the milk carton mechanism. He observed, "If we'd had this method available to us back in June, it would have been a lot easier to get word out when I issued Order 14 on Prohibited Media Activity." Discussions are also underway in the newly appointed Governing Council regarding the use of milk cartons to present a new Iraqi constitution for ratification, should one ever be drafted. The current president of the Council, Ibrahim Jafari, who will preside over the body from noon today until 3PM, when a new election for the rotating presidency will be held, promised that once the Council hashes out exactly what the background of the new Iraqi flag will look like, they will "get right on the constitution thing."


[Update: Made the text wrap around the pic. That's it.] 

I Want My Two Dollars!

Early end to poker night for no particular reason. After being down as much as 16 bucks early in the evening (got killed on so many close hands like when I had a 7-high straight and lost to an 8-high, etc.), I made a slow, steady comeback and finished the night a whopping 2 dollars up.

Anybody who can name the movie that inspired the post title wins my undying respect. I'm keeping the two bucks.


Friday, August 01, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

One Rummy Poem Before I Go

From yesterday's stakeout:

How can you know if you’re closer
until you catch him, you can’t know, you get
all these leads and
all these suggestions and
somebody says I think this or
maybe he’s there and so you
work it out and eventually if everything
works out you catch him.
And in this case we have not caught him, therefore
we are obviously not close or
we are close but
we don’t know because we haven’t caught him.
We’ll only know when he’s caught
how close we were.

Compare to my own original poem in the Rummy mode called Look. A reading of this and another NTodd original, Pass the Doobie, to come...


[Update, 8/2: Added the audio reading.] 

NTodd Engaged In Real World Activity

Alert the media! I will be offline until about 4AM tomorrow, as I'll be heading out in just a bit to help a friend move, then it's off to my semi-regular poker night. So check out the vast Dohiyi Mir archives, chat amongst yourselves in the comments and keep obsessively hitting "reload" so my traffic looks high. See ya tomorrow...


DHS Warns Of Internet Attacks

The National Infrastructure Protection Center has issued this update to an earlier warning about Windows:

The DHS/ Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) is issuing this advisory in consultation with the Microsoft Corporation to heighten awareness of potential Internet disruptions resulting from the possible spread of malicious software exploiting a vulnerability in popular Microsoft Windows operating systems.


Here's the deal: scanning software is readily available for the "script kiddies" to download and start probing for vulnerable systems. In a matter of minutes, I could scan my ISP's network or that of another provider and find lots of users whose systems are wide open (I've done this as a security professional). Frankly, most Internet users are not all that savvy when it comes to computer security, and they represent a weak link--once I find them and take advantage of this announced flaw, I can load and run software from their machines to do whatever I want.

One popular form of attack is known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). As the name suggests, I can do a variety of things (e.g., flood a computer with bogus computer messages) to bog down and/or crash a machine, thus denying service to legitimate users. That's become more difficult to do with a single hacker computer, but I can enlist unwitting participants to launch my attack from hundreds or thousands of computers at once, which is difficult to block. So I scan a network with an automated tool, install a "zombie" agent program that will do my bidding on all the exposed machines I find, and once I've got enough in my virtual army I send a command to them and they will attack whatever network or computer that I desire. You might recall a spate of highly publicized attacks on the likes of Ebay and Amazon and CNN back in 2000. That could happen again.

Do us all a favor and get you machine in tip-top shape. If you don't know how to do that, ask your IT administrator or ISP to help.


We Have A Winner!

First of all, thanks to all who participated in the Rummy Caption Contest. I really enjoyed the entries. Even though only one of you will get the Amazon gift cert, you're all winners in my book. Heh.

Before we get to the award announcement, let me describe the selection process. This was tough because there were really good captions. So I chose a subset of 5 entries that met at least one of the following completely subjective criteria:

1) Excellent fit with the picture.

2) Not quite a match for the picture, but inspired enough such that the entry does a good job channeling/parodying what Rummy might say.

3) Just wicked funny.

Then Cairo got into the game. I wrote the finalists down on slips of paper and put them into more or less identical dog toys (formerly stuffed hedgehog squeaky toys) downstairs in the living room. Cairo and I have a routine where she comes upstairs to check on me first thing in the morning while I'm at my computer, and when she did I told her to go back downstairs and bring me a toy (really, she's very smart). She in fact brought me two toys, one of which we immediately started to play tug with. That one contained the winner.

I debated doing this, but I will now list the runner ups (runners up?) in alpha order:

"You know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin and it's playing just for the Iraqi people." - Bill Simmon

"Do I believe that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it means that Saddam caused the 9/11 attacks? Gosh! Absolutely!" - Lilith

"Damn! I dropped my spliff!" - Nurse Ratched

"Hey Powell, get over here. Massa needs a manicure." - spine

And the winner of the 10 dollar Amazon gift certificate is:

"I'm crushing your heads! mwahhhh!" - Amy T

Congratulations Amy T! Your cert will arrive via e-mail shortly. And thanks once again everybody. There will be other contests in the future as the opportunity arises, with more incredibly valuable prizes.

Rock on,


There has been a lot of talk about internationalizing the occupation of Iraq by bringing in other countries' troops under a UN mandate. Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus writes in the Asia Times that this would be a good idea:

Four theses on a campaign that could use opportunities created by the invasion and occupation of Iraq in a creative way: a campaign to turn the administration of Iraq over to the United Nations:

1. A United Nations administration would be more likely to bring peace and stability to Iraq.

2. Turning over control of Iraq to the UN would be in the best interests of Americans.

3. The United Nations could succeed in such an effort.

4. Such a campaign is winnable.

Not surprisingly, there's a bit of skepticism in the Muslim world about all of this. In Islam Online's Ask the Scholar section, someone asks:

The U.S. is trying to convince the U.N. and its allied countries to send international forces to Iraq. This is obviously due to the Americans’ inability to face the Iraqi popular resistance forces alone. What is the ruling on fighting the international forces that enter Iraq?

The response:

Scholars agree that it is an individual obligation to use all possible means to defend the homeland against invasion. This means that not only men have to fight, but also excused people, such as women and the old, must participate.

In addition, any external forces that go to Iraq to support the U.S. invasion inside Iraq are considered invaders as well. Hence, they are to be treated in the same manner as the U.S.-led forces; the invaded people must resist them by all possible means.
If international forces are sent to Iraq by U.N. resolution to maintain peace and security in the country, without extending any support to the invaders, then the popular resistance forces in Iraq must not fight them. If, on the other hand, they have gone there to support the invaders and add legality to their occupation of the land, then they are in the same position of the invaders and should be resisted by all available defense mechanisms.
Sending international forces to Iraq has two possible interpretations:

First, they are support to occupation. In other words, the international forces would be placed as shields for the U.S. and the British forces in Iraq. In this case, it is permissible to fight them.

Second, they are sent to evacuate U.S. and British forces from Iraq and giving the reins of power there to the Iraqis themselves. In this case they are not to be fought. Rather, the way should be paved for them to carry out the mission they are assigned with.

But if they stay for a long time with the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq, then they must be fought and dismissed.

Any UN peacekeeping force will have to walk a very fine line. If their involvement is perceived as occupation, then there will be serious trouble not just for the troops, but for any Iraqi who helps the occupiers. As WaPo reports today, an Iraqi father was forced to execute his informant son. Likely not the last such incident:

In the simmering guerrilla war fought along the Tigris, U.S. officials say they have received a deluge of tips from informants, the intelligence growing since U.S. forces killed former president Saddam Hussein's two sons last week.
But a shadowy response has followed, a less-publicized but no less deadly theater of violence in the U.S. occupation. U.S. officials and residents say informers have been killed, shot and attacked with grenades. U.S. officials say they have no numbers on deaths, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the campaign is widespread in a region long a source of support for Hussein's government. The U.S. officials declined to discuss specifics about individual informers...

Lists of informers have circulated in at least two northern cities, and remnants of the Saddam's Fedayeen militia have vowed in videotaped warnings broadcast on Arab satellite networks that they will fight informers "before we fight the Americans."

Another fatwa, dealing with the issue of assisting the occupation:

In the eyes of Shari`ah, assisting or cooperating with the oppressor is basically rejected in Islam, regardless of whoever happens to be the victim of oppression. This is because Almighty Allah warns us against any sort of cooperation that will lead to spreading evil and mischief on earth. He says, “…help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression…” (Al-Ma’idah: 2) Thus, assisting and cooperating with the oppressive forces in killing and capturing innocent people is absolutely haram (forbidden), as it is a grave crime and heinous sin.

Taken as a whole, none of this bodes well. Involving the UN might just be a bandaid, and we should get out of Iraq as quickly as possible to save Iraqi, American and other lives. I think this is dawning on the US now:

L. Paul Bremer, touring the Iraqi Foreign Ministry with some of the council's 25 members, told reporters that organizing elections by this time next year was "not unrealistic." Bremer previously had stated that elections would be held at the end of 2004 to replace the council...

Here's hoping.


Giving Life

Islam Online reports: Palestinian Boy Saves Lives Of Four Israelis.

Waleed Ouda fell off his house in the vicinity of Nablus 10 days ago, to be rushed to a nearby hospital - where modest medical capabilities were not enough to save his life.

The 11 -year-old boy was then referred to Schneider Children's Hospital in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, where death had the final say on Tuesday, July29 .
Waleed's heart and lungs was transplanted to a13 -year-old girl suffering from cystic fibrosis.

The functioning heart of the girl - an Arab Israeli named Kawthar Zughbi - was then transplanted to another11 -year-old girl from Um Al-Fahm.

One of Waleed's kidneys and his liver were given to an Israeli child, while the other kidney was to lease life into another.

Acts like this give life and hope.


Rummy Contest Is Closed

Thanks for all the entries! 10 people entered a total of 14 fine caption suggestions, and it's going to be hard to pick one to award the exciting grand prize. Maybe I'll ask Patrick over at The Poison Kitchen to gin up a random number generator for me. No, no, I take full responsibility for all my decisions, just like the President. I will be making the selection, with the help of my dog Cairo, and announcing the results very soon.


Thursday, July 31, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


A medium quality JPEG doesn't do justice to the sunset I saw from my backyard this evening, but what the heck:


Each evening, I watch the clouds flying
and curling. My heart's so sad.

Each evening, a loon calls to the evening.
Sad about a friend, I hurt inside.

Each evening I find myself thinking
of someone in white, red scarf on his shoulder.

From Cao Dao Viet Nam: Vietnamese Folk Poetry, translated by John Balaban. I pre-ordered this book a long time ago, and it finally arrived from Amazon today. Very nice.


Conflict Termination

...since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. - how pretty much every news story ends a sentence tallying the latest US deaths in Iraq. has been 90 days since the end of the major combat operations in Iraq. - President Bush in yesterday's news conference.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has a new report entitled Iraq and Conflict Termination: The Road to Guerrilla War?. Here's their assessment of the results of our current nation-building efforts:

The most likely case still seems to be mixed success in nation building that puts Iraq on a better political and economic path, but does so in a climate of continuing low-level security threats and serious Iraqi ethnic and sectarian tensions. This would be a case where the US and other nation-builders muddle through to the point where Iraq is making progress, and they can declare victory and leave. Scarcely the "shining city on a hill" that would transform the entire Middle East, but still a kind of victory and better for the Iraqis than Saddam and Company.

It is left as an exercise for the reader to read about the best and worst case scenarios. The lessons discussed in this report are not new. In fact, back in June I discussed a paper from April 2002 that highlighted these issues well before we invaded Iraq. Here's what the CSIS concludes:

The problem in terms of lessons learned is...that, after a great military victory, the US and its allies were not able to take the right course of action from the start. They were unprepared to win the peace, focused on the wrong objectives, and lacked meaningful coordination and central guidance and direction. Unless this situation changes in Iraq, the US may end up fighting a third Gulf War against the Iraqi people. If it does, this war will be primarily political, economic, ethnic, and sectarian; and this is a kind of asymmetric war that US should never have to fight and cannot win.
This should be the last war in which there is a policy-level, military, and intelligence failure to come to grips with conflict termination and the transition to nation-building. The United States and its allies should address the issues involved before, during, and after the conflict. They should be prepared to commit the proper resources, and they should see political and psychological warfare in grand strategic terms. A war is over only when violence is ended, military forces are no longer needed to provide security, and nation-building can safely take place without military protection. It does not end with the defeat of the main forces of the enemy on the battlefield.

Our president doesn't appear to have read this memo, either.


Hurry! Rummy Caption Contest Is Almost Over

You've only got a few hours left to enter the Rummy Caption Contest. Join several other clever people who have already entered a caption for a chance to win 10 bucks from Amazon:

[Update, 8:42: Rumsfeld, providing his clean fingernails as evidence, insists that his had was not up Bush's ass in the months leading up to the Iraq conflict. - blunted]

"Do I believe that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it means that Saddam caused the 9/11 attacks? Gosh! Absolutely!" - Lilith

"Damn! I dropped my spliff!" - Nurse Ratched

"I'm crushing your heads! mwahhhh!" - Amy T

"Hey Powell, get over here. Massa needs a manicure." - spine

"And-A-One, And-A-Two ... !" - dan

In reaction, the Secretary mocked crybaby US soldiers in Iraq. With his hand upright like a sock puppet, a squeaky voice pleads, "Please don't kill me!" - EssJay

"You know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin and it's playing just for the families of American soldiers." - T. Rex

"I'm here to tell you that Consul Bremer's penis is =this= big. Ain't that right, Paul?" - Scott

"And now, my Bob Dole impersonation!" - Scott

"You know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin and it's playing just for the Iraqi people." - Bill Simmon

"AFLAC!!!" - Lilith

Puppet2:"OH shit, he lost the sock puppet! Now what are we gonna do?! everyone can see!" - Amy T

Rummy:"if i just stand here looking real earnest, like i'm taking a dump, and make some hand gestures, it doesn't matter what i say. surely no one will question my integrity" - Amy T

A reminder:

* Best caption (as judged by me and my dog Cairo) will win a $10 gift cert from Amazon (make sure you provide your e-mail address, which will not be shared with anyone).

* Contest deadline is midnight UTC, today. Enter as many times as you like (just click on the Comment link below, type your entry and submit).

* Winner will be announced and rewarded Friday AM.

Make him sing, make him cry, make him into a human being. Whatever you want, just make SecDef do something.


Is Uday Still Alive?

In an article entitled Iraqis Still Skeptical Over ‘Killing’ Of Saddam Sons, Islam Online provides this interesting tidbit:

An Iraqi citizen, Abdel-Sattar Al-Essawy, interviewed by IOL correspondent relayed a rather more dazzling story.

He said that U.S. forces who raided a house of Amer el-Hadethi, a former secretary of Uday, in Baghdad on Tuesday, July29 , said they rather searching for Uday himself.

Essawy, whose family owns a house next to Hadethi’s, said "after U.S. soldiers completed the three-hour search of the house, my brother asked them through a translator what they are seeking for, to be answered 'Uday'."

"You mean the same Uday you released his pictures in deathbed," asked the dumbfounded brother, to be rebuffed with "Non of your damn business".

Yes, I'm skeptical. Interesting, nonetheless.


The Israeli War On Mixed Marriage

Ha'aretz reports on the latest outrage:

The Knesset plenum approved Thursday the second and third readings of a bill to prevent Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving citizenship or permanent residency status.

The bill, which has been denounced by its opponents as 'racist' and 'inhumane,' passed by a majority of 53 votes to 25, with one abstention.
Bill supporters noted that Palestinians who received Israeli citizenship by marriage were playing a growing role in terror attacks, a phenomenon that the director the Shin Bet security service Avi Dichter described in a closed session Tuesday.

Most of those who will be affected by the amendment are Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, who will now be unable to live together in Israel.
Local and international human rights groups have decried the bill as racist, saying it creates an impossible situation in which couples will either have to separate or move abroad.

Along with "transfer", this is part and parcel of Israel's continued efforts to completely remove Palestinians from the country, all in the name of security. Screw human dignity. Jail their kids, destroy their marriages, kick them out, build a fence, create a veritable bantustan and what do you get? Certainly not peace, and not security either.


The War On Homosexuality

Not quite a declaration of war yet, but this is what Bush said in his news conference yesterday:

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, many of your supporters believe that homosexuality is immoral. They believe that it's been given too much acceptance in policy terms and culturally. As someone who's spoken out in strongly moral terms, what's your view on homosexuality?

BUSH: Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own.

I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country.

On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.

Got that? We're all sinners, and Bush equates gayness with sinfulness. And now he's looking at how to codify what marriage is. Now I seem to recall reading something somewhere about a wall of separation between Church and State...where did I see that? That's right, it was on some stuff I saw in the shredded paper pile at the DOJ.

If we respect each individual, then we must respect each individual's right to love whomever they choose. Does your faith have a problem with that? Fine, but the State should not be mucking around with what is inherently a religious issue. As Howard Dean rightly observes, there is a distinction between the civil rights at stake and the religious institution of marriage. Certainly these two have traditionally been intertwined, but it's time for them to be separated.

Dubya has a new ally in this war on gay terror. That's right, the Vatican has weighed in on the most important issue of the age:

Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.
Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided". They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. The homosexual inclination is however "objectively disordered" and homosexual practices are "sins gravely contrary to chastity".
The scope of the civil law is certainly more limited than that of the moral law, but civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person. Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex.
It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good.

Glad we cleared that up. Sounds like the Pope just fleshes out what Bush was saying. How nice that we must accept the queers, but do note that being gay is "objectively" pro-Saddam, uh...disordered. So disordered, in fact, that creating a civil law that recognizes gay rights will be contrary to the common good. How do we know it will be contrary to the common good? Because it will result in changes to our society, contrary to the common good. Simple logic: P implies P. QED.

Unfortunately, there are signs of backlash in our country, which is why I'm sure Dubya is looking to squash gay rights:

Americans' acceptance of the concept that "homosexual relations between consenting adults" should be legal had -- up until this month -- slowly increased, from a low point of 32% recorded in 1986 to the high point of 60% this May. But two separate Gallup polls conducted this month show a dramatic reversal of this trend. A July 18-20 poll found 50% of Americans saying that homosexual relations should be legal, and a just completed July 25-27 poll confirms the substantial drop in support, with just 48% of those interviewed saying such relations should be legal.
Why has support for gay rights dropped so significantly in the space of just two months? There is no way of ascertaining the answer to this question directly, but it is clear that the major intervening gay rights issue occurring between the May poll and the current one was the June 26 Supreme Court decision that struck down an anti-sodomy law in Texas that had banned sex between two consenting adults of the same gender. Thus, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the court decision, coupled with highly publicized discussions of the ruling's potential impact, may have been a major factor in the shift in the public's attitudes.
[T]he new polling data suggest a backlash. The discussion that followed the Supreme Court decision focused in part on whether it would increase the possibility of legalized gay marriage and other, more formal, reductions of the distinction between heterosexual and homosexual relations in society.
[I]t may be that Americans -- formerly willing to accept the concept of gay rights -- have been pushed to more conservative positions by the intense focus on the potential for dramatic future change in American society. Or it could be that the intense and vocal opposition to the liberalization of gay rights that surfaced after the decision has activated what had been more dormant conservative attitudes within the American population.

Time for a courageous leader to step up and guarantee gays their civil rights, despite the public's attitudes. We had the very same issue in Vermont, when two-thirds of Vermonters were against even the idea of civil unions, let alone gay marriage. Yet the legislature did the right thing, Governor Dean signed the law, and our state has continued to survive the past few years.

I like Dean's position in the national debate: let states decide if they want to sanction full-blown marriage, or domestic partnership or civil unions. The only Federal role would be to guarantee equal protection under the law and a fundamental recognition of the rights that homosexuals, as all Americans, deserve. No church has to marry queer couples, but the State must protect their rights. It's that simple.


Fantasy Terrorism League

T. Rex has a new idea DARPA might consider:

Bring 'Em On! With the Pentagon's New Fantasy Terrorism League!

* Completely free to play!

* Create a custom league or join a public one!

* Win one of many great prizes!

Join up now and play the latest, greatest innovation to come out of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - Fantasy Terrorism League!

In our new and exciting FREE game, you draft the terrorists and compete against your family and friends, who all draft their own terrorists! Depending on how successfull your team of terrorists is in the real world, you win!

Oh my. Go read.


PS--If you don't get it, check out the "terror futures market" DARPA was playing with. Now try to figure out which is the parody. 

Getting Baked With Rummy

A Rummy caption from Nurse Ratched inspired me to muse about what Rummy would sound like when partaking of the green:

Pass the doobie, pass the...
I want...a toke.
I want to take a hit.
And I think you know that I need
the doobie to do that.
Doobie to do that, doobie do,
Yabba dabba doobie.
Man, that's some righteous weed.
Meyers! Don't Bogart the doobie...
Take a toke, then let's bomb Syria.

No, I wasn't smoking anything when I wrote this. Just tired and punchy--my sleep schedule has been really screwed up for several weeks, and it's starting to take its toll. Anyway, I re-read this today and find it as amusing as I did last night. Your mileage most definitely will vary. Don't forget the Rummy Caption Contest ends today at midnight UTC. Enter for a chance to win 10 bucks from Wahoo!


PS--I'm not going to do a reading on this one.

[Update: modified the Rummy wording a bit just to make it sound better to my ears.]

[Update, 8/2: Added the audio reading.] 

Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Haiku On The Drive Home

Crescent moon hangs low
A sliver of light at dusk
Summer sun waning

Really wonderful sunset tonight on the drive home from softball, and just as it was getting dark on the last mile home, I turned and saw the moon sitting just above the trees. It's nice to live and play in Vermont.


Rummy Contest Deadline Tomorrow

10111213 fine entries, looking for a few more. Suggest a Rummy photo caption for a chance to win 10 bucks from Amazon by midnight UTC tomorrow. See below for details. Anybody can play, enter as many times as you like!


[Update, 11:42PM: Okay, we've got 13 entries (see the post down below for all of them). Is that unlucky? In my experience there's no such thing as luck. But maybe just in case, some other captions might be a good idea...] 

Scoreless Game

N-QB3 (B1-C3). The tension is so thick you can, well...I dunno. Color commentary for chess is hard.

For you visual creatures, the board is down below.


Bottom Of The Standings

Time for my obligatory update on our softball team: we continue to suck. Shutout the first game. My favorite bat is still missing and I was 0 for 2. Second game we were fairly close in yet another losing effort--I was 2 for 3 with my first RBI of the season (our screwy batting order means there's rarely anybody on, or in scoring position, when I'm at the plate). So my average dropped back down to .448. I don't think I've got any leverage for when my salary negotiations come up at the end of the season.

Well, postseason in a couple weeks, then it will be time to look to volleyball season. I'm very much looking forward to that.


Bottom Of The First

The way I calculate it, each month from now until November 2, 2004, represents half of an inning. Right now we're still in the bottom of the first, so there's a lot of policital baseball left to play. For those of you keeping score at home, here's the latest poll from Zogby:

More than two-thirds (69%) of the Democratic and Independent likely primary voters surveyed said it is likely that President George W. Bush will be re-elected, regardless of how they plan to vote.

This has gotten a lot of attention, but it's really a meaningless result. Just look at similar polls done by the Pew Research Center in June '03 and October '92:

Compare the '92 results with what Zogby just announced. Barely over a year until the 1992 election and roughly the same percentage of Dems thought Bush I would win. If memory serves, he didn't. So what does this prove? Well, the American public really stinks at calling a winner this early in the game. And it is early: I haven't even finished my first beer yet (I'm still working in the metaphor, so stay with me!).

Now the percentage of Dems who think Bush II will win has increased since March. Zogby doesn't break things down as clearly as Pew, so it's hard to figure out why the figures have changed from a few months ago and why they're are so drastically different from the Pew polling. Maybe all the DLC sniping at certain Democratic candidates is taking its toll on the party?

The Zogby poll also says:

Three Democratic presidential hopefuls share the lead in nationwide polling of likely voters in a primary election, according to results released by Zogby International. Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt, former Vermont Governor Dr. Howard Dean, and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman each polled 12% of the 504 likely voters surveyed July 16-17.

In similar nationwide polling by Zogby in March, Lieberman lead the pack with 18%, followed by Gephardt at 11% and Kerry at 9%. Kerry maintained his 9% in the new poll, slipping from 3rd to 4th. Dean jumps in the new poll from a 4th place tie to a 1st place tie. The margin of error for both polls is +/- 4.4%. Error margins are higher for sub-groups.

As Dean's name recog grows, so does his standing overall. Also keep in mind that this poll was taken before Dean's amazing fundraising effort this weekend, and all the related press. Electable.

And I could use a beer as we head into the second inning...


June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 April 2007


Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards

A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.

For more about me, go to You can also e-mail me at

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My goodness! Rummy loves
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