Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

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...


Quote Of The Day

This Bush quote from today's press conference really irks me:

I didn't expect Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period.

It just shows how arrogant we are, how we still think we've got a monopoly on the ideals of freedom, how we still think we're the only ones who could possibly ever have a leader arise to overthrow a government, how we still cling to the "white man's burden". Thomas Jefferson, one of my heroes, became a leader not because a foreign power brought down the regime oppressing him, but because he and his fellow patriots took responsibility for their future and acted to secure our nation's liberty. Democracy cannot be imposed, it must come from within. The Iraqi people have that wellspring of humanity inside, just as we do.

Immediately preceding the above quote, Bush said this:

I remind some of my friends that it took us a while to go from the Articles of Confederation to the United States Constitution. Even our own experiment with democracy, it didn't happen overnight.

Uh...right. I've heard this line of reasoning coming from Rummy as well as Bush: gee, it took 8 years for us to become a free country. Recall that we did in fact have a government under the Articles, it's just that we didn't have as strong a central governing body as we have today under the Constitution. I'll note that the debates during the Federal Convention lasted about 120 days--you think Bremer and crew will have an Iraqi constitution done in another month? Ratification by the requisite nine states took an additional eight months--think we'll be out of Iraq by next summer?

But let me go back to the fundamental issue. If we are arguing by analogy, the most important point is that we threw off our shackles. No foreign power decided to remove them for us by invading our country. Further, while it did take us some time to finally create our Constitution, it was the American people who did it on their own, without a foreign power dictating how it will be.

Now we are the occupying regime and in response, and a Thomas Jefferson* just might emerge to declare independence from us. Maybe it's Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr, maybe it's somebody else. Regardless, as we continue to massacre** Iraqi civilians, they will continue to resist us until they have their country back.


* Or a James Madison, for that matter.
** I use "massacre" in the same sensational manner that Samuel Adams used it wrt the Boston Massacre.  

The Buck Finally Stops?

Not sure what it means, but:

President Bush on Wednesday accepted personal responsibility for a discredited portion of last winter's State of the Union address that suggested Saddam Hussein was shopping for nuclear material in Africa.

"I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely," the president said during an hour-long White House news conference where he sought to quell a controversy that has dogged his administration for weeks.

It was the first time he had specifically taken responsibility for the words. In the past, he sidestepped the question, taking responsibility only for his decisions.

I guess that's a good thing, right?


Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Brief Dean Item

Last week Dean was on VPR's Switchboard call-in program, live from Iowa--I listened, and he sounded really good. Anyway, the NYTimes has a big piece on him (thanks Lilith), with the opening grafs about Howie's Iowa appearance and much, much more. Go read Defying Labels Left or Right, Dean's '04 Run Makes Gains.

BTW, archived audio of the radio program is available at the VPR website.


[Update, 7/30: Check out the post and discussion thread about the Times article at the DDF.] 

Rummy Caption Contest Update

So far, thirteen (13) entries:

[11:42PM: "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]

[11:24PM: "Damn! I dropped my spliff!" - Nurse Ratched]

[Update, 7/30, 10:29PM: "I'm crushing your heads! mwahhhh!" - Amy T]

[Update, 7/30, 9:32PM: "Hey Powell, get over here. Massa needs a manicure." - spine]

[Update, 7/30: "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

The rules:

* 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, this Thursday. 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.

Now's your chance to put words in Rummy's mouth. That's empowerment!

Get to work,

[Instant Update: I decided since this is my contest, I'll post my ideas from earlier this week (no, I can't officially enter the contest):

1) The caption that started it all: Donald Rumsfeld does his Senor Wences impersonation for enthralled reporters. His other puppet looks on.

2) The caption that became a world famous poem: "Look...look, we're looking for Saddam. We know what he looks like, and he's about this high--he's not a tall man. If you see him, let me know, and we'll go kill him. Or arrest him. The point is, we'll get him, if we see him."]

A Tax On Conscience

Quaker in a Basement reports:

The IRS has filed suit against the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends to collect more than $60,000 in income taxes and penalties owed by one employee.
The employee, a long-time peace and justice issues field worker, refused to pay income taxes between 1986 and 1996. Many Quakers and pacifists withhold taxes which fund the military or fighting wars as a matter of conscience.

Go to the QB site for the full dope on this story. For more information on war tax resistance, go to the War Resisters League site.


PS--This is a very personal story for me. Although I live in Vermont, I was born in Pennsylvania and am still a member of the Lewisburg Friends Meeting, which basically makes Philly my Yearly Meeting. 

Mark 10:14

George Bush said this on July 1st:

The true monuments of Saddam Hussein's rule have been brought to light -- the mass graves, the torture chambers, the jail cells for children.

Of course, the children's jail meme still lives, despite its being debunked. So why aren't we invading Israel?

According to the international rights organization Defense for Children International, which handled two-thirds of juvenile cases brought before Israeli courts in2002 -2003, the great majority of children held in Israel are between 15 and 18 years of age. More than nine percent are 13 to14 -year-olds.

"Palestinian child detainees continue to be subjected to barbaric conditions, and often subjected to torture, particularly in Israeli military detention center, " it asserted.

Citing an example, the group said that in the Israeli Hawara detention center near Nablus, "a lawyer witnessed at first hand the ritual beatings and abuse handed out to new inmates in the prison yard before they are admitted into crowded cells, holding up to 12 other inmates."

The Defense for Children International added that at Atzion detention center "child detainees from the Hebron arrest campaign have reported beatings and positional torture, or shabeh.

In his book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges tells a story about kids in a Palestinian refugee camp:

I visited the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip...Barefoot boys, clutching ragged soccer balls and kits made out of scraps of paper, squatted a few feet away under scrub trees...out of the dry furnace air a disembodied voice crackles over a loudspeaker from the Israeli side of the camp's perimeter fence.

"Come on, dogs," the voice boomed in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of Khan Youris? Come! Come!"
The invective spewed out in a bitter torrent. "Son of a bitch!" "Son of a whore!" "Your mother's c**t!"

The boys darted in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separated the camp from the Jewish settlement abutting it. They lobbed rocks towards a jeep, mounted with a loudspeaker and protected by bulletproof armor plates and metal grating, that sat parked on the top of a hill known as Gani Tal. The soldier inside the jeep ridiculed and derided them. Three ambulances - which had pulled up in anticipation of what was to come - line the road below the dunes.

There was the boom of a percussion grenade. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scattered, running clumsily through the heavy sand. They descended out of sight behind the dune in front of me. There were no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shot with silencers. The bullets from M-16 rifles, unseen by me, tumbled end-over-end through their slight bodies. I would see the destruction, the way their stomachs were ripped out, the gaping holes in their limbs and torsos, later in the hospital.

(I entered this passage from the book manually, so all errors are mine.)

This sickens me. We use children as reasons of convenience when justifying an illegal war while at the same time supporting a regime that shows only callous disregard for their lives. This has to stop. I don't know what more I can say.

NB: I firmly support Israel's right to exist. Who knows, some of my relatives might've survived the Shoah and the pogroms and emigrated there. I also firmly believe that to support Israel, I must support Palestine. Americans for Peace Now, the US offshoot of Shalom Achshav, has an advocacy network that you can join to help bring peace and security to both nations.


Everything Here Is By A Wall

Moja at turningtables describes what a soldier faces on a daily basis in Iraq:

everything here is by a wall...i'm encircled by them...the danger is on all sides...there is no escaping it...we try to keep things spread out a little bit out of don't want to put all your eggs in one fish one write centcom and tell them i am immanent danger at my shower won't help my situation...and luckily they have started to install commercial shower trailers...they should be up and running by the end of the week...big white ones...with 6 humongous black water pods to fuel them...and they've even got a/c' we're big pimpin'...they are even right across the street from my if they can only get the commercial toilets in will be like momma's house...except with horrible food...and iraqis who want to behead me...and not to mention the breadbox size rats...but all in's exactly like momma's...

I have no concept. Most of my readers probably don't either. I am so outraged that we've encircled so many people by walls. Let's bring them home.


Empty Calories

So we saw Tomb Raider II, Dad and I. Extremely perfunctory opening sequence, character development and climax. The ending in particular felt a bit flat, particularly since they really didn't adequately set the stage earlier in the film for the ultimate conflicts, with the key character motivation being minimal at best. The archaeology, mythology, and science was also suspect...

...what the hell am I saying? The truth, yes, but Lara Croft is hot and kicks ass! Serious ass. An entertaining film, full of yummy but empty calories. I agree with many reviewers who observe this tops the original. I did feel a certain Raiders of the Lost Ark, B-movie spirit behind the glitz and action, though the flick clearly pales to my all-time fave. But Raiders lacked Lara, who, as I might have mentioned, is hot and kicks ass.

Beware, the plot almost makes no sense. I get it, but I really wondered sometimes how certain leaps were made. I guess everything was moving so fast that the filmmakers didn't think we needed much backstory or logic. But that being said, Lara Croft is hot and kicks ass.

Bottom-line is that the movie passed my "watch test": I didn't have any urge to look at my watch to see how much time might be left. A fun matinee, if not the most intellectually stimulating. And of course, Lara...but you already know that.

Rock on,


As you might have seen, my blogroll has grown immensely. The right nav is getting far too cluttered for my taste, so I am going to be playing around with the template over the next couple weeks. Suggestions from design-minded folks are most welcome.


[Update, 2:15PM: Things are in flux, as you can see. If the drop-down menus above don't work, please let me know! More tweaking to come...]

[Update, 2:55PM: Done tweaking for now. A bit more work to do, but I think things are functional and okay design-wise. Would love feedback on colors, operation, etc. The colors especially, since they look a lot different on my LCD than on a CRT I suspect. Gotta run: catching Tomb Raider with Dad...]

[Update, 7:43PM: Okay, so I'm done futzing around with the blog template for the day, I think. Thanks to the folks who provided public and private feedback. What I did:

* Changed the background color to something that appears brighter--I grabbed one of my spare CRTs and contrast looks good. I strayed completely from the old "web safe" palette, given that doesn't appear necessary these days.

* Added the top nav to clean up the right nav a bit. Grabbed some code from It's supposed to degrade gracefully on older browsers, so hopefully it does. About 3% of my visitors use NS 4.x or 3.x, so it shouldn't impact too many people. If the nav fails completely, then I've lost 2 or 3 readers to whom I profusely apologize, and suggest you upgrade.

* Other minor tweaks: re-organized the right nav, boosted the content div another 5%.

Request to my loyal fans: if you see anything amiss, post a comment *anywhere* and I'll see it. That includes color/contrast issues, JavaScript problems, missing blogs for the blogroll, other display or functional issues. Thanks very much.]


The Hidden Cost

Atrios reader Dan brought President Bush's "Bring Them On" Picture Album to my attention. Not for the faint of heart.

If you missed it in the WaPo a couple weeks ago, read The War After the War. The two-part series puts a human face on how the suffering continues after the wounded soldiers come home. These brave people are paying a huge price for Bush's ill-begotten war.


Who Wants Ten Bucks?

Hey kids, don't forget about the Rummy Caption Contest. Anybody can enter for a chance to win ten bucks from Amazon. There are 7 entries so far, and the deadline is Thursday night. Enter today!


[Update, 9:56AM: 2 fine entries just in from Scott at The Gamer's Nook:

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

2) And now, my Bob Dole impersonation!

Keep 'em coming! This is your chance to make SecDef and/or the Iraqi Viceroy-of-the-Hour say or do anything you want!]

[Update, 6:43PM: Another!

"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]

The Evolution Continues

Dohiyi Mir has finally crawled on to land! Crawly Amphibian status achieved at #1444 in the Ecosystem, and this slimy critter has also inched slightly up to 414th in the traffic rankings.

Carry on,

Dancing Around The Ring

B-Q2 (C8-D7). Something has to break soon.

The center is still interesting.


Late Night Haiku

Chrysanthemum tea
Petals floating in my cup
Drink warm feelings down

Okay, so it's morning, but I wrote this last night. Stef and I went to A Single Pebble--absolutely exquisite Asian restaurant in Burlington--last night as a sort of kickoff to my being on leave for the rest of the summer. As you might have guessed, I drank tea. What you probably don't know is that usually I make Stef be the designated driver so I can have a few glasses of wine. We swapped roles last night, which inspired this more frivolous verse:

My wife has plum wine.
Alas: my turn to drive home;
I drink bitter tears.

That might not technically qualify as haiku, but it's the right mode. And I'm feeling fine now, thanks.


Holy Cash Cow

The bat might be a silly gimmick, but it sure does work: $508,640.31 from 9621 Dean fans. How about that?

Here's how the magic works: inspire people from all walks of life to get involved. I've added a few new links to such people in Howard Dean Central.

* One Father For Dean - Now world famous after a mention on NPR yesterday. One of the folks who voted for my blog in the New Weblog Showcase a few weeks ago, so clearly a father of some discerning taste.

* Dean Independents - You indies are the key to beating Bush. Unsure about Dean? Check out what these folks are saying.

* Republicans For Dean - Yes, there are actually GOP-types who are going to vote for Dean. More and more in the blogosphere I'm seeing posters admit to having voted for Bush in 2000, and are now getting behind our man.

* Grassroots Graphics - Get your bumperstickers, web icons, t-shirt transfers and everything else you need to show that you have the power. The proprietor says: "The graphics are all free for you to use; all I ask is attribution if you use them commercially or place them on another download site."

And check out the great story by CNN's Mark Shields:

On a Thursday morning in July -- before heading to meet undecided voters in Keokuk County, Oskaloosa and Ottumwa -- Howard Dean joined his volunteers filling bags of groceries at the Johnson County Food Bank.

Nothing new here, you could say: Politician proves he's caring and compassionate by spending 10 minutes helping out in front of cameras and microphones at orphanage or soup kitchen before leaving for very private, no-press-allowed fund-raiser with distinguished citizens who seek only a minor change in the tax code that would exclude "those corporations founded in Delaware before January 31, 1975," or something similar.

What potentially makes this scene quite different is that the campaign volunteers, dubbed the Dean Corps, encouraged and inspired by Ross Wilburn, have made a commitment to return each and every week to the food bank.

Wow, real compassion! So when the Dean Corps volunteers go back to the food bank, there won't be any press around, they'll just be doing good work for their community. See what this campaign is about? It's more than running for President, it's actually doing the things that need to be done in this country, not just making idle promises.

The kicker:

Imagine the profound contrast between the Dean campaign volunteers feeding the hungry and comforting the lonely with the Bush pioneer/rangers corralling their $200 million swag for a primary in which the president is unopposed.



Time Traveller Redux

If you've ever received the time traveller spam, you might want to check out a funky blog that's been tracking the history of this odd message.


Monday, July 28, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Rummy Caption Contest Status

So far, there have been several good entries in the Rummy Caption Contest. As a reminder, here's the pic:

Current caption suggestions (in reverse order of entry):

"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

The deal:

* 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, this Thursday. 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.

Thanks to everybody for playing!


Dean Internet Machine on NPR Today

On NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon:

Participation in the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean is just a click away. On Dean's Web site, one can donate money, volunteer, or chat with other supporters. The candidate's staff believes its use of the Internet foreshadows a sea change in politics, but can it elect a candidate?

According to Dean's blog, the piece will include "a report on the Dean Internet Team and a behind-the-scenes look at the Dean Team v. Bush-Cheney Challenge" (which, BTW, is at almost $380k on the strength of over 7200 donors!).


[Update, 5:14PM: Heard the story. Pretty positive. And I'll note when the reporter (Peter Overby) talks about DDF e-mails, "which one participant calls 'nastygrams'" (paraphrasing from memory), that was from a comment I made this weekend:

So gang, what are the talking points we should be including in our nastygrams to Howie? ;-)

Posted by NTodd at July 26, 2003 05:34 PM

Honor me. (BTW, Howie in this context was Howard Kurtz...]

[Update, 8:28PM: The Dean segment audio is now available online. Also note there is a nice synopsis/analysis of the piece over at, you guessed it, the DDF site. You might want to check out one of the other blogs mentioned in the segment: One Father For Dean.] 

Channeling Rummy Poetry

Here's my first attempt at Rummy poetry which was not actually composed by SecDef, but is an original in the Rummy mode:

we're looking for Saddam.
We know what he looks like, and he's
about this high--he's
not a tall man.
If you see him,
let me know, and
we'll go kill him.
Or arrest him.
The point is,
we'll get him,
if we see him.

As usual, I've posted my latest reading. Where did this come from, you ask? Well, it's an example caption for a picture I found of Rummy and Bremer at a press conference. I'm running a contest for the best caption. Want to try to win a $10 gift certificate from Amazon? Check out the original post below.


Gonna Get Ugly In A Few Days

Clock Set to Strike 12 at Verizon:

After a month of negotiations, the big New York phone company and its two biggest unions have yet to reach a single significant agreement. That leaves just a week before the Aug. 2 contract deadline, after which thousands of workers are expected to walk out.

Given the history of unease between the two sides, a damaging third-quarter strike appears likely. Now the big question for Wall Street is how long a walkout might last. A protracted struggle could mean weeks and even months of uncertainty ahead...

Leading up to the dealine, both Verizon and the CWA are duking it out via the airwaves:

Facing an Aug. 2 contract-negotiation deadline, Verizon and the union, the Communications Workers of America, have poured more than $1 million into advertising in a dozen Northeastern cities, straining to win public sympathy and throw each other on the defensive.
Verizon is in ways using the ads to go over the heads of labor leaders and appeal directly to its unionized workers. Indeed, the ads show that the two sides recognize the importance of public support.

"Public opinion is going to matter in this battle," a spokesman for the Communications Workers, Robert Master, said.

The strike could hurt the company's ability to move ahead with new strategic initiatives:

Though video may not be its primary focus, the company says that within five years it expects to distribute video services, which could include TV programming and movies on demand, so it can compete directly with cable companies.
Verizon faces cable companies that are spoiling for a fight. The cable industry has spent more than $75 billion since 1995 to upgrade their networks for high-definition TV, fast Internet access, and telephone service. The phone companies "have to make sizable investments to catch up," says David N. Watson, executive vice-president for marketing at Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator. "And we won't be standing still." In fact, Comcast and the other cable companies are hell-bent on torpedoing Seidenberg's plans by destroying Verizon's profits before it can use them to get into the video business. Cable players are expected to nab 3.7 million phone lines nationwide by 2005, up from 2.2 million last year, according to market researcher Kagan World Media. That, along with competition from AT&T Corp. and wireless companies, caused Verizon to lose 3.7% of its local-phone lines in 2002.

The competitive threat is compounded by Verizon's labor situation. The company is locked in intense negotiations with its two main unions over a new contract for 75,000 of its 228,000 employees. Far apart over issues of health-care costs, work-rule flexibility, and organizing in the wireless unit, the two sides may very well be headed for a strike when the current contract expires on Aug. 2. Verizon has trained tens of thousands of managers to assume union duties should the talks fail. "There is no clear break. Sometimes you can see it in advance. This time, we can't," says George Kohl, director of research for the Communications Workers of America.

Verizon's labor issues won't disappear even if a strike is averted. More than half of its workers belong to a union, while rival cable companies are typically nonunion shops. Verizon has what it says are the highest costs in telecom, with union workers in New York earning an average salary of $62,000, plus overtime and benefits. More important, Verizon has less flexibility than competitors when it comes to laying people off or reassigning them to high-growth units.

From the customer POV, while I have no illusions that it will be "business as usual", I do note that the company is more prepared for a strike than at any other time in its history. My students were training for their backfill positions ages ago, and that's really freaked out the craft folks. They get really nervous when other people know how to do their jobs--I've seen that first hand.

As I've said before, I think the union is being shortsighted here. The game has changed dramatically since they negotiated last time, and Verizon needs to adapt with the times. Technological and economic realities dictate that they lose the "Bell-head" mentality and become a 21st century company, not one stuck in the 19th.


PS--As I ride my bike, I pass the occasional Verizon truck. I always wonder if the techs are prepping to sabotage things while they're out and about. Par for the course. 

Psychology Is Annoying

Dave Pollard posed some questions on his blog a couple days ago. One was "why are so many bloggers INTP's or INFP's?" That's an excellent question. I've known for years that I'm an INTP (which is easy for me to remember because my initials are NTP), and it's annoying that everything I do so clearly fits. Some people wonder how I can get up in front of audiences of up to 200 people and still be an "introvert". Well I am a fairly outgoing guy, but I draw my strength from within--I expend a great deal of energy being "up" when I teach, and I need a lot of me time afterward. Anyway, now that Dave has brought up the relationship to blogging, I'm even more annoyed. And I'm sure that says something about my personality, too. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that Mom's a psychologist...


Jumping The Shark

Oh my, this bit over at The Self Made Pundit is funny:

As viewers of "The Bush Administration" will recall, after a shaky first season, it became one of the highest rated administrations of all time as it adopted a heroic storyline chasing one of the worst villains in American history to the mountains of Afghanistan. For a while in its second season, The Bush Administration seemed to be closely in tune with the desire of viewers (including this one) for a heroic story. Surprisingly, however, the Bush writers seemed to lose interest in this popular plot and never bothered tying up the loose ends in the Afghanistan story - and even downplayed their inability to come up with a way of bringing the villain to justice.

The Bush Administration tried to revive this storyline - and its popularity - as it started its third season with a new villain in a new location - this time in Iraq. This new plot certainly had potential. Many reviewers (including this one) thought the confrontation with Iraq potentially had merit if handled thoughtfully. The writers of The Bush Administration, however, rushed into the Iraq War storyline, apparently without adequately thinking through how they would resolve the story of reconstruction that would follow. The result is that the Iraq plot has become a jumbled mess. This viewer believes the Iraq story would be heading toward a more satisfying conclusion if the Bush Administration writers had spent the time to integrate more international players into the story, rather than rushing to war.
Will the Bush show be cancelled? Well, it comes up for renewal in a little more than 15 months. We'll see at that time just how much tolerance the viewers have for low comedy in high places. Until that point, I fear that viewers will have to brace themselves for even more episodes of Bush playing the hero and jumping the shark.

Thanks to Atrios for bringing it to my attention.


PS--In my ongoing study of how blogs work, I checked out TSMP's Site Meter stats. Yet another example of what I call the Atrios Effect. I think I'm going to trademark that term. 

Hanging Chad

Well, I came in 5th in the latest New Weblog Showcase. There were a few links I know I had that weren't counted, likely due to the problems TTLB had last week, but that still wouldn't have pushed me over the top. There was actually a tie for first, and both sites are worth checking out. Thanks very much to all of you who voted for my post. I'll probably try one more time in 2 weeks, when I'm eligible again.

The good news is I've been getting more exposure, and Dohiyi Mir has moved up 200 spots to #1494 in the Ecosystem, which is tantalizingly close to evolving from Flippery Fish to Crawling Amphibian! Also moved up to 420th in the traffic rankings. Thank you, folks!

Okay, I'm done being self-referential now.


Rummy Caption Contest

Check out the new Rummy photo caption contest below. Winner will receive a $10 gift certificate from Amazon.


'I did not want to be a collaborator'

In today's Guardian, Isam al-Khafaji, a former member of the Iraqi reconstruction council, explains his decision to resign:

There was euphoria when Baghdad first fell, but the Americans acted with arrogance. While many Iraqis are relieved to see Saddam out, and accept the fact that the US is the only power than can secure some semblance of order, they now see it acting as an occupier.
Iraq is now in almost total chaos. No one knows what is going on. We're not talking here about trying to achieve an ideal political system. People cannot understand why a superpower that can amass all that military might can't get the electricity back on. Iraqis are now contrasting Saddam's ability to bring back power after the war in 1991 to the apparent inability of the US to do so now. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories.

Keeps coming back to that hearts and minds thing. Can we mend fences at this point? I'm not sure.

Mr. al-Khafaji does offer this hopeful, yet cautionary note:

There are many signs that Iraqis are working together, without serious tensions between ethnicities. All this is good news for a future Iraq. In the short term, however, I fear there will be more conflicts, run through with Iraqi and American blood.

Peace out,

Dean, Up!

First, Dean crossed the $250k barrier last night in his Bush-Cheney Challenge thing. As of 2AM he raised $259,767.72 on the strength of 4,818 contributors. That's since what, Friday? All online. It's looking more and more like Joe Trippi is right: we can match Bush because we will get 1 million people to give 100 bucks (or 2 million giving $53.92). The people are speaking with their wallets, and are even louder than the fat cats.

Second, Dean's leading in New Hampshire. Well, it's statistically a dead heat, but he is ahead of Kerry 28% to 25% (MOE +/- 5). Kos covers this story and has a great analysis of the Boston Herald's biased, misleading headline on the subject. The associated thread is pretty good, with some discussion about what "statistical tie" really means.

Third, an aside. In 1990 when I was in Kaunas, Lithuania, I was out with some friends late one night. It was our last night in the city, and we bumped into an extremely drunk man who kept asking if we were from Chicago (once he determined that we were Americans and not Estonians). He was in a great mood, was very friendly and spoke okay, if very slurred English. He kept going on an on about "Tomorrow, Vytautas, up!" and pointing at some big pedastal thing. Turns out that this was where a huge statue of the much-revered Vytautas--as Grand Duke in the 14th century he re-established Lithuanian independence from Poland and brought great prosperity and power to the country--was to be raised the next day (alas, we had to catch a train and could not stay around to see the festivities). This was hugely symbolic: another small act of defiance representing Lithuanian national pride and another way to assert independence from the Soviet empire. I still get shivers thinking about how I was in Lithuania during this exciting period and watched a little of their peaceful revolution unfold.

I'm sort of getting the same feeling again. Are you?


Sunday, July 27, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

An Aggressive Move

P-Q4 (D2-D4). Is first blood near?

The middle of the board is getting crowded.


Rummy The Ventriloquist

Donald Rumsfeld does his Senor Wences impersonation for enthralled reporters. His other puppet looks on.

Other ideas for captions? Post 'em!


[Update, 7/28: For those of you too lazy to click on the Comments link, here are a few other caption ideas...

From Amy T. at blogAmY:

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


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"

And here I am channeling Rummy in his poetic idiom:

"Look...look, we're looking for Saddam. We know what he looks like, and he's about this high--he's not a tall man. If you see him, let me know, and we'll go kill him. Or arrest him. The point is, we'll get him, if we see him."

Come on, I want to see some others. 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). Amy, you're already entered and are the current front runner. Unfortunately, I am disqualified. I hate these stupid contest rules.]

[Rules update: contest deadline is midnight UTC, this Thursday. Winner will be announced and rewarded Friday AM. Enter as many times as you like.]

[Latest entry: from Lilith at A Rational Animal: "AFLAC!!!" Okay, we've gotten some good suggestions. Let's get some more! And if you don't have any ideas of your own, go ahead and weigh in on which captions you like the best so far--the voice of the people will be a component in my decision-making process.] 

The Most Dangerous Game

One of Islam Online's top stories points out that according to a British envoy, Saddam Should Be Tried, Not Killed:

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should be brought to trial for his crimes, not killed like his sons Uday and Qusay, the veteran diplomat appointed as Britain's new envoy to Iraq said Sunday, July 27.

The call from Jeremy Greenstock, who quits his role as Britain's U.N ambassador this week to take up the Baghdad posting in September 2003, was backed by a member of the U.S-backed new Iraqi Governing Council, Ahmed Chalabi, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said.
"We have now got to get the father," he said on BBC television's "Breakfast with Frost" interview program.

"I would like to see him brought before a court, but that is in the hands of the military team looking for him," he said. "I would say it is quite important to do that."

Greenstock, 59 , an Arabic speaker, was appointed in June to be Britain's top envoy in Iraq and number two to the chief U.S. administrator in the country, Paul Bremer.

Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, told the "Frost" program: "I think it is much better for the Iraqi people and for the world for Saddam to be caught alive and put on trial."

But judging from the news, it looks like the plan is to go in guns a'blazin'. CNN reports Saddam 'on the run', while the same story gets played a bit differently in the Middle East. Al Bawaba's headline is US forces kill at least five people during failed raid to catch Saddam:

U.S. forces on Sunday raided the home of Prince Rabiah Muhammed al-Habib in an upscale west Baghdad neighborhood and killed at least five people, reports said.

The prince, one of Iraq's most influential tribal leaders, was not at his home when the raid occurred but told the AP he believed the Americans were searching for Saddam.

"I found the house was searched in a very rough way. It seems the Americans came thinking Saddam Hussein was inside my house," al-Habib said.

CNN finally reports in the 11th graf that 3 people were killed and 4 wounded. Unclear what the true butcher bill is, but Reuters appears to back up the al Bawaba figure:

An American soldier at a nearby hospital said five bodies and at least eight wounded had been brought in from the scene of the raid. An Iraqi policeman said all the dead had been in cars fired on by troops as they drove through the area.
The US soldier guarding the emergency ward of Yarmuk Hospital said all the dead and wounded brought in were male and had suffered gunshot or shrapnel wounds. A boy in his early teens was among the dead. Two bloodied corpses lay on the floor of the crowded hospital mortuary.

Lovely. More frontier justice = more collateral damage. Here in the US, folks would be railing against government excess in such a raid--witness incidents like Ruby Ridge--but when it's just towelheads, I guess it doesn't matter. How many more civilians must be "liberated"?


Electronic Voting Concerns

Worries about Diebold's electronic voting machines have been floating around for a while, but overall the buzz has been minimal it seems. New Scientist covered the issue this weekend:

Software flaws in a leading US electronic voting system could be used to subvert the outcome of an election, claim researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Rice University in the US.

The researchers went through every line of code used to control a voting machine made by Diebold Election Systems of Ohio, US. They reported finding serious bugs that could allow one person to cast many electronic votes.

"Common voters, without any insider privileges, can cast unlimited votes without being detected by any mechanisms within the voting system," the researchers say in their paper.

The concerns are starting to hit the radar screen of mainstream media, even in rags like the Toledo Blade*. After the fiasco in Florida, many states like Ohio have been adopting these voting boxes thinking they will be more reliable and accurate. I'm not entirely convinced.

For more information about this issue, check out BlackBoxVoting.


* I bring up the Blade only because it was our local paper when I was growing up in suburban northwestern Ohio. The tag at the time was "One of America's Great Newspapers", but the consensus as I recall was it really wasn't. I have a special place in my heart for the paper, however, as I delivered it for many years as a paperboy. 

Monkey Off My Back

Broke my 2 game hitless streak: 1 for 2, 2 runs scored. I also reached on a throwing error to first (I'm convinced I would've made it anyway), and the ball went out of play so I took second, then scored on the next base hit. Not a bad game overall. We were neck-and-neck until the other team broke it open with a big 6th inning. It started to rain then, and we played the 7th in a downpour (the bad fielding caused by the rain let us almost get back in it). Second game was called.

So not a great offensive night, but I am now hitting .458 (11 for 24), which is okay. I'd still like to see that above .500, and I'd like to score some more runs, but our batting lineup is really screwed up. I'm not hitting where I should be, which is before our big guns who could bring me home once I'm on base. Ah well, I'm not in charge!

Rock on,

[Update: I take these things for granted, but I thought I'd add one final picture of the evening. As I was driving home, I saw a big heron, stoically standing in the big beaver pond that's a few miles down the road from the ball field. I often see deer grazing in the nearby meadows as well, since our games usually end around dusk. I just love those Bambi moments.] 


A picture of a sign on I-5 (from a post at Pacific Views):

I find this incredibly amusing. Your mileage may vary.


Word For The Day: Satyagraha

I have alluded to the Gandhian concept of "satyagraha" both here and on other blogs, and felt that it was worth a little more discussion. It's probably useful to understand where it came from in the first place. In his autobiography, aptly subtitled "The Story of My Experiments with Truth", Gandhi wrote:

The principle called Satyagraha came into being before that name was invented. Indeed when it was born, I myself could not say what it was. In Gujarati also we used the English phrase 'passive resistance' to describe it. When in a meeting of Europeans I found that the term 'passive resistance' was too narrowly construed, that it was supposed to be a weapon of the weak, that it could be characterized by hatred, and that it could finally manifest itself as violence, I had to damur to all these statements and explain the real nature of the Indian movement. It was clear that a new word must be coined by the Indians to designate their struggle.

But I could not for the life of me find out a new name, and therefore offered a nominal prize through Indian Opinion to the reader who made the best suggestion on the subject. As a result Maganlal Gandhi coined the word 'Sadagraha' (Sat=truth, Agraha=firmness) and won the prize. But in order to make it clearer I changed the word to 'Satyagraha' which has since become current in Gujarati as a designation for the struggle.

(NB: the linked website mistakenly had replaced "Sadagraha" with another instance of "Satyagraha" which not only makes no sense in the context, but according to my copy of the autobiography it is also wrong! I have corrected that in the quoted text above.)

Most people focus on the non-violent aspect of Gandhi's methods. What's often missed is that it explicitly admits that nobody, not even the practitioners of NV, holds a monopoly on the truth. Thus, the "sat" aspect reflects that our actions must be part of a process to discover the truth which involves all parties to a conflict. Put simply:

# Each person's opinions and beliefs represent part of the truth.
# In order to see more of the truth we must share our truths cooperatively.
# This implies a desire to communicate and a determination to do so, which in turn requires developing and refining relevant skills of communication.
# Commitment to seeing as much of the truth as possible means that we can not afford to categorize ourselves or others.

Of course, being really nice doesn't affect change by itself. That's why I reject terms like "pacifist" and "passive resistance". Satyagraha is not a weapon of the weak, and requires active engagement. The book A Force More Powerful discusses this point:

"I do not believe in making appeals," [Gandhi] wrote, "when there is no force behind them, whether moral or material."

The potential of satyagraha to change an opponent's position, Gandhi believed, came from the dependence of rulers on the cooperation of those who had the choice to obey or resist. While he continued to argue that satyagraha could reveal the truth to opponents and win them over, he often spoke of it in military terms and planned actions that were intended not so much to convert adversaries but to jeopardize their interests if they did not yield. In this way he made satyagraha a realistic alternative for those more interested in what could produce change than in what conscience could justify.

Non-violence is not about just sitting around hoping good things will happen. It is not appeasement. It is about going about conflict in a different, more truthful way.

Taking a step back, I'd like to explore the truthfulness element a bit more. There have been discussions on other sites like DDF and Kos where people have expressed outrage about disinformation spread about Dean. Insults like "idiot" and far worse are used to describe biased reporters and pundits. I think that's cool in a forum like a blog because we do need a bit of catharsis now and then. However, I note the 3rd and 4th points about "sat": we must learn learn to communicate better and not label people. When writing a letter of complaint to someone, or debating someone on a blog, labeling them an idiot is not really a form of good communication (spoken as one who engages in such unhelpful practice).

We Dean supporters can win this thing because I think we do have a lot of truth on our side, but there are other viewpoints worth considering and we must also be completely above board when it comes to our own claims. From the political POV, we thus far haven't convinced a lot of independent voters of Dean's greatness, judging by recent polls. I think that means we still have some learning to do.


Still Unclear When Suu Kyi Will Be Free

Myanmar Says No Timeframe for Suu Kyi's Release:

Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said on Sunday there was no immediate schedule for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I can't see a timeframe right now," Win Aung told reporters shortly after arriving in Indonesia.

Myanmar is facing mounting international pressure over Suu Kyi, detained since a deadly May 30 clash between her supporters and a pro-government group.

What can you do? Check out the Free Burma Coalition for info.


Now On To Number Six

Armstrong equals tour record:

The Texan Lance Armstrong equaled the record of five consecutive wins in the Tour de France when he crossed the line maintaining his overall lead in Paris Sunday.

He was virtually assured of the historic win going into final leg and kept his nerve in rain-drenched conditions on the Champs-Elysees boulevard, staying safe at the back of the field.

The cyclist, who has come back from cancer, has vowed to go on for a record sixth consecutive victory.
He beat German rival Jan Ullrich by 61 seconds after 2,1125 miles staged over 23-days. He had never won by less than six minutes in his previous victories.

"Before the Tour started I was very confident about winning. But before next year's Tour, I won't be so confident," he added.

Okay, it was a done deal yesterday, but now it's official. Not as dominant as in past years, but still amazing--maybe even more impressive this time around because he was pressured by Ullrich and a few other riders. Like one of my other heroes, Larry Bird, I'm pretty sure he'll be training harder than ever over the coming year.

No riding for me today since I theoretically have softball tonight. Hope the thunderstorms hold off...


My Favorite Spam Is Back

Hadn't seen this one in a long time:

I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me. I am going to need a new DWG unit, prefereably the rechargeable AMD wrist watch model with the GRC79 induction motor, four I80200 warp stabilizers, 512GB of SRAM and the menu driven GUI with front panel XID display.

I will take whatever model you have in stock, as long as its received certification for being safe on carbon based life forms.

In terms of payment:
I dont have any Galactic Credits left. Payment can be made in platinum gold or 2003 currency upon safe delivery of unit. Please transport unit in either a brown paper bag or box to below coordinates on Sunday July 27th at (exactly 3:00pm) Eastern Stand Time. If you miss this timeframe please email me.

42.4845467 & Longitude -71.1576157 and the ground is 101.3' above sea level.

Although those coordinates are a secure guarded area, these channels through email are never secure. Unfortunately it is the only form of communication I have right now. There is a good chance that sombody will try to redirect the signal. The unit must be teleported directly in a waythat nobody will be able to interfere with the transference.

After unit has been sent please email me at:
with payment instructions. Do not reply directly back to this email.

Hey, our time traveller is stuck "just outside" of Beantown. Unfortunately, my dimensional warp generator is also on the fritz and I probably won't get around to fixing it any time soon--heck, I haven't even fixed my lawn mower yet. Can anybody help?

This reminds me, I've been thinking about doing some geocaching this summer. I really should get a move on. I'm on leave for several weeks and am planning some excursions to our camp, so maybe when I'm up in the Northeast Kingdom I'll start a cache. Too bad this new hobby won't help me justify buying a new GPS unit (I lust after the iQue3600). My two Garmins are just so...out of date.


Lilith Is Blogged Out

According to her latest entry at A Rational Animal, Lilith has gone to a well deserved rest. 24 hours of blogging. All for a good cause. And you should be impressed enough to go visit her site, read what she did for an entire day, and pledge your support for her charity, Relief International.


Saturday, July 26, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Sympathetic Blogging At An End

I've been trying to stay with Lilith as long as possible during her Blogathon. Unfortunately, I'm an early riser and waaaaay past my bedtime. I have done my duty. You...yes you, with the face! Go help her make it through the lonely hours. Posting a comment would be nice, and I know a pledge for her charity would do wonders.

"To sleep, perchance to dream."


Dean's Power Still Amazes Me

Boggles the mind.

At the time of this post, Dean has raised over $179K from over 3200 contributors (your esteemed blogger included) this weekend. An average of 55 bucks a pop. Why don't you kick in your $55 right now? Help Howie match what that Dick Cheney is going to have thrown at him by the plutocrats on Monday.

As I observed earlier, people power cannot be stopped.



Blogger Ads

I keep trying to sign up for Blogger Pro so I can get rid of the banner ads at the top of the page. Their ordering system "is currently offline while we retool." They apologize for the inconvenience and have been asking me to check back next week for several weeks.

Anywayz, I noticed the banner that's up there right now contains two ads that say the following: "Support our Troops Flag" and "Support our Troops Gifts". They stay there even after a reload. Did these ads come up because my site is clearly anti-war? I'll have to monitor the relationship between blog content and the ads. Things that make you go "hmm..."


Blogroll Additions (7/26)

Two blogs added to the Nice Blogs list:

* Slashdot - my old standby place for real tech news: "News for nerds. Stuff that matters". My friend Bill observed that everything I've linked to is mostly political in nature, and I figure since I have a tech bent I should include this site to diversify. It's been one of my faves for years.

* The Right Christians - a site I've just learned about: "It is time for the Christian Right to meet the right Christians." I had a sidebar e-mail exchange with Rev. Allen H. Brill that developed out of a thread at Kos. The current entry "Why progressives need a TOE (Theory of Everything)" is interesting.

So, after you vote for my blog in the TTLB New Weblog Showcase, and go to A Rational Animal to root for Lilith in the Blogathon, visit these two new additions to my blogroll.

Speaking of blogrolling, if you're a BlogRolling member: Blogroll Me!


An Epic Battle Unfolds

P-Q3 (D7-D6). I call it the Pritsky Variation.

See the board.


Powerful Forces

Over the past several months I have argued against the war with many different people in many different venues. Being a believer in non-violence*, I've drawn upon the lessons of many examples of peaceful activisim in the face of daunting odds. One example in particular has been at the forefront of my thoughts for quite some time: Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. In the late 70s, Las Madres (the mothers) demanded that the military junta in Argentina account for thousands of "disappeared" Argentines. Their story is discussed in the book A Force More Powerful:

On the first day, there were only fourteen in the resistance force - an improbable troop of women in their middle years, anonymous and ordinary, filled with anxiety, not knowing whether the gray hand of authority would crush them or merely brush them away. Through the equinoctial light of that autumn afternoon, this half-platoon filed across the stone paths of the city's most historic square, collecting near the obelisk erected to celebrate the nation's nineteenth century break with Spanish rule.

They had gone to the Plaza de Mayo, in the civic heart of Buenos Aires, in search of another kind of independence - freedom from an uncertainty more haunting than grief. They still hoped that what they had experienced was a cruel anomaly, perhaps beyond the doing or even knowledge of their leaders. It was to give voice to that loss, and to implore the government's help, that they had appeared on this last day of April 1977 on the plaza outside the Casa Rosada.
The women, whose number soon grew to several score, already sensed that they were testing a surface, without knowing what was beneath. Many others elsewhere in the world who had lived under dictators could have told them what was below: the mendacity of authoritarian control. In the clear air, life in Argentina proceeded as it always had. Given the facade of normalcy, the regime seemed unassailable. No one appeared eager to penetrate it, except now for these desperate women.
When [a] general told them public meetings were prohibited by the state of siege then in effect, they told him they would stay...Although they did not know it, these grieving women had declared war.

The women protested every Thursday in front of the Casa Rosada (the Argentinian White House). They refused to let the regime lie about the abductions and murders of 30,000 people accused of left-wing terrorism, and they are credited with ultimately bringing about the downfall of the military dictatorship in 1983.

The reason I bring this up now is that I've been thinking about this example in the context of our current situation. Specifically, I look at Howard Dean's campaign and realize that in essence, its strength is the same kind of grassroots movement that was at the heart of Las Madres. Okay, at first blush it might seem a specious comparison. Clearly we're not living under the same kind of regime as that which controlled Argentina--I would never minimize the suffering Argentines experienced, nor inflate our own problems. But I see parallels all the same.

The Mothers of the Disappeared started small, and grew to be a force so powerful it brought down a corrupt government capable of the worst atrocities. Imagine what a motivated, energized body of people in a free nation can do. Dean's campaign began modestly and, with the power of the Internet, now boasts tens of thousands of people all working to affect vast change in this country.

I've read that Dean's strengths are his weaknesses: that his only force is passion, that he only appeals to Internet-savvy people, that the rise of bloggers, the DDF, and other examples of his decentralized approach threaten to dilute his message. That speaks volumes to how little the punditocracy understand the phenomenon that is Howard Dean. Not controlling the message is anathema to the RNC, who do need to provide talking points to put the necessary spin on their bogus politics. Dean's message is simple: we are not being served by this administration and we the people can take back our government. You don't need talking points when truth is on your side.

Dean represents a natural force, with people who unbidden will rise to his defense. That has absolutely flummoxed the Establishment, who have grown adept at manipulating the media, creating imagery on a grand scale and ultimately becoming disconnected from the public. Howard Dean strikes a long-dormant chord and it is resonating with a great many people.

I don't want to stretch the point too far. Just know that people can take on a regime, no matter how benign or brutal, by sticking together and fighting for what's right. Whether it be through the DDF or Meetups or good old fashioned real world activism, you do have the power to take this country forward again. The fact that the Beltway types don't understand that is only to our advantage.

Keep the faith,

* A cumbersome phrase, I know, but I hate the term "pacifist" with a passion that you just don't know. In that same vein, I also don't like "passive resistance" for reasons similar Gandhi's. I advocate aggressive, non-violent direct action. We must engage in conflict with those we believe are wrong--it's just a matter doing it while respecting your opponent's dignity as a human being.

[Update: I made some edits to correct a few egregious typos and a totally butchered copy&paste job.] 

Computer Security Problems Growing

According to CERT (which used to be called the Computer Emergency Response Team, but now apparently wants us to never expand the acro), computer security incidents are on the rise. There have been 258,867 incidents reported since 1988, when there were only 6. Last year, there were 82,094--just through Q2 of this year there have already been 76,404. And according to other surveys and studies I've read, the problem is likely much worse as most incidents go unreported because they are often undetected and in many cases businesses are reluctant to report for fear of adverse public reaction. Imagine what could happen to a bank that announces financial information about thousands of customers has been compromised. Ouch.

What's worrisome to me is that we are becoming more and more reliant on the Internet and computers in general to conduct business. While business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce has been extremely visible with the success of and Ebay, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce is growing. Corporations are realizing greater efficiencies and cost savings in conducting business transactions over the Internet. If this infrastructure were to fail, even for just a few days, that could spell disaster. And as I discussed a week ago, that prospect is not as far fetched as you might think.

Time for a self-referential, cross-over plug: if you'd like to know more about e-commerce/e-business issues, you can check out a white paper I wrote back in December. Obviously some of the stats will be a bit dated, but you can get a general idea of what all this is about and what some of the trends were/are.


Just How Popular Is This Blog?

I'm glad you asked. Still in the Flippery Fish category at The Truth Laid Bear, Technorati says there are 11 Inbound Blogs, 14 Inbound Links to the site, and I just had my 1500th visitor in my 6th week of blogging. Too cool for school.

Why is this blog so popular? I'm pretty sure it's because of the one-two punch of the ongoing drama of the chess game and the Rummy poetry. Whatever, thanks very much to everybody for making this the 499th most visited site in the blogosphere, according to TTLB.


DDF Shoots Back

For those of you who did not come here via the DDF site, there's a nice response on the site to today's WaPo story about the organization. I won't bother quoting, just go read the rebuttal.


PS--If you did find the blog via DDF, welcome, stick around a while and please come back! 

Good Sucky Ride

Not as bad as I feared, though Dead Man's Hill wasn't what I would call pleasant. I guess you wouldn't expect that with a name like Dead Man's Hill (I'm going to petition the Town of Fletcher to officially annoint that bad boy with the moniker). Anyway, I managed to average 15.8 mph, which is just a tad off my best pace of the season so I can't complain too much.

As I was riding up the first yucky hill in Fairfax, I recalled there's a sign warning trucks about the grade and looked back to see what the incline is--I swear it said 10%, but I really need to check that. I'm not sure how that compares to DMH, but maybe I can get enough granularity on my topo CD to figure it out. Fortunately it's a relatively short hit, although I hate how much traffic there is on that leg, the shoulder is absolutely awful, and I have to dodge sewer grates and mailboxes.

Two things I thought about on the ride:

* "I think my rear tire is underinflated." It was, damn it. It appears to have developed a slow leak.

* "I think I overdid it loosening up my right pedal." Yesterday I had a lot of trouble getting my cleat out, today it almost slipped out a couple times when I was really pounding it uphill. Oh, for a happy medium.

Two tunes that ran through my head to the point of annoyance:

* The Quidditch theme from Harry Potter...

* ...which somehow morphed into the entire Yes album Close to the Edge.


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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Dean is still the messenger.
We are still the message.

My goodness! Rummy loves
these fair and balanced blogs:

The Coalition

Cairo wonders when I'll be fair
and balanced and go throw sticks...

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