Sunday, December 26, 2004

Back from Africa

I'm back from Africa and I thought I'd attempt to summarize my experiences, although I'm certainly not a good enough writer to do my trip justice.

Perhaps first I should start with a few generalizations. Niger is directly north of Nigeria. It is a large country, twice the size of Texas, with about 11 million people. There are two main types of climate. In the north is the Sahara. South of the desert are semi-arid plains known as the Sahel, which is where the people live.

I might as well clear up a few possible things right off the bat. Niger is not romantic Africa. It is not lush Africa, nor is it beautiful Africa.
Niger is poor (the least developed in the world, depending on how one measures). It is dry. It is dusty. One doesn't go on safari there, because the animals are so rare. It is dirty. It is hot. It is over populated. When one walks outside, one is surrounded by beggars, mainly children incessantly chanting "cadeaux, cadeaux" (French for "gift"). In the capital, one smells burning trash at night. Transparency International rates it as tied for 122nd place in the world for openness (although in fairness my sister says that since the army has been paid more regularly the last few years, soldiers are less likely to demand bribes at roadblocks, so it's better than it used to be). As my dad said, going to Niger is not a vacation, it is an adventure.

But on to the adventure. We flew from Paris to Niamey, the capital. The airport at Niamey has one runway. It doesn't really have a gate. They run a portable staircase up to the plane, one walks down the stairs and then across the tarmac to a door in the airport. There in't much to see in Niamey. The roads, laid out by the French (who essentially created the city about 100 years ago) are wide. The main ones have four lanes of pavement and wide sidewalks which aren't paved; they're dust. One still sees camels walking around the city streets.

We left the next morning on a small boat, known as a pirogue, for Parc W. There is one river in Niger, the Niger River (and one bridge, the John F. Kennedy Bridge in Niamey). Pirogues are how one gets around on the Niger River. Ours was about ten yards long and maybe five feet wide. It was powered by a single outboard motor. Which died about lunch time. Very luckily for us, another boat happened by and towed us to the nearby market. After a some negotiating, the owner of our towboat lent us a new motor. Wisely not trusting our crew, he also sent his own guy along to run the motor. We arrived at our campsite that afternoon.

Parc W is a national park. One really feels isolated in the bush. Before dinner we had time to climb a nearby rock promontory, and outside the campsite, there was no sign of human habitation. The next morning we left before dawn to go looking for wildlife. We spent a day and a half driving around Parc W. It was fairly productive--we saw many antelopes, small crocodiles, buffalo, baboons, monkeys, innumerable beautiful birds, and lions. Yes, lions. We were close to the lions, about ten yards. It was very cool. We missed out on elephants and hippos, although we heard a hippo bellow from the riverbank.

After a couple of days, we drove back from Parc W to Niamey on a dirt road most of the way. While swerving to avoid a pothole so deep it had grass growing at the bottom of it, our driver gave himself a flat tire. He then proved himself unable to lower the spare tire from its place underneath the vehicle (i.e. we were stuck). I redeemed my five years of engineering education by figuring out that he was using the wrong tool and freeing the spare.

We had one night in Niamey and then we were off. We drove east, on one of the few paved roads. Our goal was Sabon Gida, the village where my sister lived for two years while she was in the Peace Corps. First, however, we had (the inevitable?) mechanical difficulties. Something was wrong with our vehicle's reserve fuel line. After sputtering all morning, the engine died in the heat of the day. As he pulled off the road, our driver must have hit a sharp piece of glass, because we then had a flat tire as well. Ugh. With the spare tire on, he managed to get the engine running enough that we could limp into Konni, a market town on the Niger-Nigeria border. After a few hours pursuing repairs, we eventually got to Sabon Gida.

It was fascinating. It's really two villages in one location because there are two ethnic groups: the Hausa (farmers) and the Fulans (herders). The Hausa (language: Hausa) and the Fulans (language: Fulfuldei) know each other, and get along fine, but they have two chiefs, two mosques, and they never intermarry. My sister and her husband speak Hausa, as do most of the Fulans. None of the Hausa speak Fulfuldei.
We were big news. Everyone came to see us. Both chiefs, both religious leaders, all of Kristen's friends. We saw a side of Africa that few people have a chance to see.
I did not expect to find that in this devoutly Muslim country, the people of Sabon Gida were jokesters. They laughed, they teased, they were witty and clever. They were also extraordinarily generous. They brought us all kinds of food, including lots and lots of milk (which was delicious, once we boiled it). They, the people who live relatively close to the subsistence level, could not stop bringing food to us, who are incomprehensively rich. I was warned that it would happen, but that did not make it any less poignant.

After two nights in the village we went further east, to Agadez, an old caravan town at the base of the Air (two syllables: aye-year') Mountains. Our hotel room in Agadez was very nice, with clean sheets, a ceiling fan, and, most importantly, a shower and a toilet. After a few days without either, they are much appreciated.
On our way out of Agadez, we stopped at the incomparable Dabous giraffe carvings. I'd seen them in National Geographic or something, and it was astonishing to see them in real life. They are just marvelous.

Next we ventured into the Air Mountains themselves. They resemble nothing so much as the surface of the moon. Much of Niger is devoid of plants; much of the Air Mountains are devoid of soil as well. It's a blasted, barren, and empty place. There are a few washes where bushes grow, and we did see a few people and camels making their way slowly, but this was rare.

{Brief historical diversion: North Africa was not always a desert. It used to be quite fertile. It supported all sorts of big mammals, it was forested, there were lakes. This was when the Dabous giraffes were carved--today there are no giraffes within hundreds of miles of the carvings. About ten thousand years ago, there was some sort of climactic change (I don't remember the cause--maybe a shift in ocean currents?) and it began to stop raining. Over time, the desert advanced and almost everything died. In the Air Mountains, there are enormous piles of rocks. I assume they once were verdant hills, but the plants all died, and then the wind and occasional flash flood washed all the soil away. Libya today is drilling for water. Vast stores of water exist under the Sahara, remnants of this earlier time.}

We spent the night in the mountain town of Iferouane. As I lay awake and looked up at the incredible stars on a nice chilly night, it occurred to me that I would never be in a more obscure place. Unfortunately, by this time every member of our party was suffering from food poisoning (or worse), and we had to turn back to Agadez. Driving over rough roads in extreme heat while suffering from intestinal difficulties is no one's idea of a good time.

So what to make of Niger? It's an interesting place. It's a hard place to visit. The only real reason to go is the people, who are as a general rule open, kind, funny, generous, and clever.

I leave you with some observations about Niger:

I lost about 15 pounds, between the heat and my intestinal ailments. By the time I left, I weighed in at 167, which I haven't been since early in my freshman year of college, when I was just starting rowing.

Private car ownership is very rare, well beyond the means of the vast majority of the population. At least 80% of the vehicles on the road fall into one of three categories:
(1) Vastly overloaded transport vehicles--this is how most Nigeriens travel and transport goods. The smallest are 'bush taxis', which are cars (Toyotas or Peugeots) crammed with about four paying passengers per row. Bags on top. This category also includes minivans, again jammed with people, often with 20 goats riding on top. On the large side are big semi trucks, overloaded with all manner of cargo, people, and animals.
(2) Mercedes sedans--unquestionably the vehicle of choice if you can afford one.
(3) Toyota Landcruisers (diesel)--unquestionably the vehicle of choice for trekkers like us. We had three while we were there, each with 200,000-300,000 miles. Incredibly rugged vehicles, considering the extreme conditions (astonishingly rough 'roads', 110 degree heat, incessant dust). I'd be interested in seeing how long a so-called rugged SUV (Built Ram Tough!) would last out there...

To amuse myself, I kept track of soccer jerseys I recognized in the towns. The tally:

France: 2
Nigeria: 1
Agentina: 1
Michael Owen: 1 (England)
Figo: 1 (Real Madrid)
Zidane: 3
Ronaldo: 1
Rivaldo: 1
England: 2
Brazil: 1
Arsenal: 1
and finally
Beckham: 11 (4 Manchester United, 4 Real Madrid, 2 misc.) He really is ubiquitous.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This will likely be my last post for a while. I leave for Africa on Saturday. Specifically, Niger, in West Africa. Why Niger? A valid question. My sister was in the Peace Corps there. She came back to here, and then has spent the last six months over there. I've never been.

We'll be spending some time in Parc W ("Park Doo-bl-vey", they speak French over there), some time in my sister's village, and some time in and around Agadez, which is deep in the Sahara. Agadez is near the Air ("A-year") Mountains which, perhaps counterintuitively, appear to be rather solid. (Get it? Air Mountains? Solid? Oh, nevermind.)

It's winter there. Note that the current forcast for Niamey calls for highs in the mid 90s, lows in the mid 60s, and widespread dust. Agadez, in the desert, should be somewhat cooler.

Niger has been relatively safe. No, I'm not going to forward that particular article to my mom, who will be spending the entire time worrying about us.

I'm meeting my dad in Paris and we fly to Niamey. I've already started my anti-malarial Mefloquin and the vivid dreams have started. Last night's was very intense, whatever it was.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's pretty clear that Rehnquist is on the way out. It's only a matter of time.

Seems to me that it's a very good thing for Bush that he's held on this long. If he'd retired earlier, Bush would have had to picked someone. If he'd had to pick someone in 2002, there would perhaps have been a ruling where this judge revealed his or her rabid pro-life stance, which would have alienated enough women to cost Bush the election. Now, he can appoint whoever he wants.

But my guess is it'll be someone without a record. Undoubtedly it will be someone who grew up poor and is now rich (see yesterday's post). Someone who will, perhaps like Clarence Thomas, lie at his confirmation hearing and say that he'd never really thought about Roe v. Wade, so he couldn't offer an opinion about it. That's just my guess....

Monday, November 29, 2004

I find it interesting that the president habitually seeks to surround himself with people who are now rich but started life poor. The latest example is his nominee to be Secretary of Commerce (who does what, exactly?).

It interests me because Bush himself grew up fabulously rich and among the astonishingly powerful and has, because of his connections to that world, become rich himself. It's as if he needs to prove his authenticity. This desire to prove his authenticity may also be behind his 'just a regular guy' persona that he hews to relentlessly. (Of course, he's just a regular guy who grew up rich with a huge summer home in Maine, but he doesn't mention that much....)

It's as if he really does want to implicitly demonstrate to America "Hey, yes I'm rich, but being rich isn't a crime! Look at all the people around me who got rich of their own personality and drive." It's just interesting that he never fails to tout anyone ELSE's up-from-the-bootstraps story....

Friday, November 26, 2004

I'll be honest. I don't know much about the Ukraine. The stories seem to indicate that the pro-western candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was cheated in the voting. And Putin doesn't like him. So he can't be all bad.

BUT, I did happen to notice his right hand man, who happens to be a woman, Yuliya Tymoshenko. Ms. Tymoshenko is, shall we say, beautiful. Now I like Dianne Feinstein and Sandra Day O'Connor just fine, but they are no Yuliya Tymoshenko.....

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Well at least Ashcroft is gone. He was an atrocious Attorney General.

For starters, consider (a) his FBI did a crappy job chasing the terrorists who were in the USA before Sept. 11 (this sounds like it'll get juicier within a few days); (b) he said, before Sept. 11, that he didn't want to hear any more about these terrorists (Sept. 11 Commission Report, p. 265); and (3) he was happy to enforce the "Patriot" Act, but not against gun crimes.

America is a better place with him gone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why do companies outsource jobs to India? I suppose one reason is lower costs.

But another is that thousands of smart engineers graduate every year in India, while here in the US we're still fighting about whether to teach evolution. Science education in the US is terrible, as evidenced by the number of people who believe in creationism and astrology.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Iraq is, of course, a disaster.

But now consider the government's fiscal policies. Look at how the national debt has mushroomed over the last four years. This is not good for our future.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

With the Sixth Circuit's decision to allow the GOP (and Democrats) to have a person inside the polling stations, I fear that we're going to read about shouting matches, fistfights, and maybe worse in Ohio. Maybe elsewhere too. I think the Republican party should be ashamed of trying to intimidate people from voting--but with Karl Rove in charge, they're immune from shame.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The administration's 'justification' for the war in Iraq (which, though unspecified, lingered murkily in the penumbra between weapons of mass destruction and a connection between Saddam and Al Quaeda) has of course been conclusively proven false. But that doesn't stop many people from believing it, and it doesn't stop Dick Cheney from bringing it up, even though he knows it's a lie.

Strikes me that this isn't the first time we've done this. I see similarities to the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. LBJ claimed that US ships had been attacked by the North Vietnamese. Congress believed him and passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was the legal justification for the war.
The problem was that there was no attack. US ships were shooting at nothing and then observing the explosions caused by their shots. The evidence was ambiguous then, but the administration kept insisting that the attack happened. Old myths die hard--in his generally fabulous book, MacNamara insists that the evidence was ambiguous, even though it wasn't then and isn't now.

Iraq is a roughly similar situation. In both cases, the administration took some ambiguous (at best) evidence and kept insisting it was true, parlaying it into congressional support. Even afterward, people still believe the lie. So far, we've avoided huge casualties in Iraq, but we were in Vietnam for eleven years after that resolution. Do we want to be in Iraq until 2013? I sure hope not.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

I think the election is going to be a disaster. Too many allegations of noneligible voters, intimidation of voters, signing up voters while ripping up the voter registration cards of those who sign up as Democrats (all of which are undoubtedly true).

I don't understand why the electronic voting machines don't keep paper records. It couldn't be too hard to have the machine print out a paper copy of what a voter selected immediately after the voter makes his decisions, could it? I don't understand why this doesn't happen already.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I like Eminem.

I like him more after his new video.

I'm not sure why Bush has any popularity. The way I see it, he has one half of a success: Afghanistan. He was right to go in, he was right to prop up Hamid Karzai. But it's only half, because he was wrong to pull our troops away from there for his Ahab-ish Iraq war.

His more obvious failures include: (1) Iraq (was not and never was connected with terrorism); (2) economy; (3) lack of energy policy (giving handouts to energy companies doesn't reduce our dependence on the House of Saud; (4) the environment; (5) the attacks of Sept. 11 (he should have done more--after reading the report of the September 11 Commission, it's clear why Bush fought like hell to prevent it from coming into existence and then from doing its job).

Friday, October 29, 2004

This thread does a pretty good job of expressing my feelings about the World Series.

I'll add another: Bruno Einar Lindberg, my beloved grandfather.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I am in awe of Curt Schilling.

I don't use the words "heroic" or "courageous" to describe professional athletes getting paid millions of dollars, and I wouldn't use them here either. It is, however, astonishing.

The only comparable performance I can think of is when Michael Jordan had the flu, was puking, and had a temperature of about 102 and somehow put up about 40 points against Utah in the NBA finals. And I'd say that Schilling is even more impressive, because there was more pressure on him. Jordan could always get healthy for the next game. But throughout the playoffs the hopes of Red Sox Nation depend very heavily on Schilling.

The standard example seems to be Willis Reed. I don't think so. Willis Reed's appearance was electric, from what I've read, but he only scored about two baskets. Schilling and Jordan not only played in the game, they dominated it.

[As a sidenote, I read an entertaining quote from Bill Russell about that game, revealing about both him and Wilt Chamberlain. Reed went up against Chamberlain in that game. When Reed appeared, Chamberlain was shocked and spooked even though Reed could barely walk. This really gets Russell agitated. He says that if Reed had tried that on him, he'd have demanded the ball the next ten times down the court and scored on Reed every time. If some gimpy guy walked out of the locker room and lined up against him, Russell was insulted, not intimidated. Chamberlain never beat Russell.]

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Michigan is showing a happy ability to move the ball on offense, and a discouraging inability to score touchdowns. I'm not sure why this is. I'd give more fades to Braylon Edwards in the end zone, though. He's been pretty successful at plucking the ball from the air above cornerbacks.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Today I again tried to order my standard 0.4 pounds of ground beef for one hamburger. The conversation started with him asking me: "How many ounces is that?"
I was a little confused (remember, they use a digital scale) "I don't know, just over four"
Him: "A quarter pound"
Me: "Point four pounds"
He weighed out the requisite 0.04 pounds.
I relented and finally asked for "Point forty". These magic words got me my burger.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Sox against the Redbirds in the World Series. I'm so happy, I'm stunned. These are the two teams I like, the two teams I've always loved, the two teams I rooted for my entire life. When I was a kid, many were the nights I fell asleep listening to Jack Buck (yes, Joe Buck's father) announcing the Cardinals on KMOX.

I do remember the Redbirds winning in 1982. (Jim Kaat, who first pitched in 1907, was a reliever for that team.) I remember Willie McGee hitting two homers in one game, I remember Joaquin Andujar taking a line drive off his knee and coming back and winning Game 7, I remember the Cards scoring two runs on a sacrifice fly. But that's about it. My memories of 1985 and 1987 are more vivid and less pleasant. It's been a long time.

I also remember the Sox playoff history, and there's no need to recap any of it.

But now one of them is going to win the World Series, after *each* was down 3 games to 2. Ahhhhh, life is good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Why not us?

Why not, indeed?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Rule 2.00:

(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. In the event the batter runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Another item in the Things I Don't Care About department:


Apparently they're on strike. Presumably the hockey season is being affected. I don't notice a bit.

I've been to one NHL game, a San Jose Sharks game. It was pretty dull, made worse by the absolute emptiness all around the arena. The University of Michigan has a great atmosphere for college hockey. The crowd is loud and obnoxious, the band (!) is deafening, the arena is ancient, with a low ceiling and brick walls, and the team is good (two national championships while I was in law school). I went to a couple of games. And was bored. Hockey doesn't interest me at all.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Every loss by Ohio State makes me more nervous. I sleep well when Ohio State is undefeated. I was at Michigan in 1995 and 1996, when Ohio State had two vastly superior teams and we won both years.

The last thing I want is to play a .500 Ohio State team. That prospect really does scare me.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I'm not sure why Kerry has pretty much forgot about the environment as a theme.

There can be no doubt that this administration is atrocious on the environment. I'm not sure, off the top of my head, that I can think of a single thing it's done that's friendly to the environment. In spite of the fact that the American people are generally in favor of preserving the environment, Kerry doesn't seem to emphasize this. I dunno why.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The report of the commission investigating the attacks of September should be required reading for every adult American. One familiar name is Richard Clarke (the former counter-terrorism guy the Bushies tried to smear after he pointed out that attacking Iraq made us more vulnerable to terrorism).

It's unambiguously clear that Clarke (and to a lesser degree George Tenet, director of the CIA) absolutely understood the danger posed by Osama Bin Ladin as early as 1998. In Clinton's White House, he was effectively a member of the Cabinet, and he was completely obsessed with killing Bin Ladin (Chapter 4 of the Commission's Report). He was ridiculously focused, probably to the point of annoying people. But he was right all along. He sent a memo to Condoleeza Rice: "[A]re we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat? . . . Is al Qida a big deal? . . . Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG [Clarke's group in the White House] has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, includig the US. What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time." This memo was dated September 4, 2001..... (p. 212 of the Report)

Blame goes to Louis Freeh (and to the extent she was his boss Janet Reno), who did a poor job at the FBI on fighting terrorists. FBI agents were confused about what they were allowed to share with each other and they ended up erring on the side of not sharing information.

Blame also goes to Rice, an expert on the Soviet Union, who demoted Clarke as soon as the Bush adminstration took over (p. 200) and stopped listening to him.

More blame should go to John Ashcroft, who speechified about how important it was to fight terrorists, but didn't make them a real priority (pp. 209, 265). [Of course, Ashcroft did make it a priority to make sure he was never seen in a picture with the statue of a woman's breast. Whew! Good job!]

Essentially, the Bush administration just didn't make Osama Bin Ladin a high priority--arguably he was a higher priority for the Clinton administration than for the Bushies. Oops.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I went to Atlanta last week for work for a conference. I got in early enough to go for a quick run before the reception, although once I started I got a few odd looks--"What's this crazy white yankee [I was wearing a Michigan shirt] doing running in the middle of the afternoon in Georgia?" I unwittingly ended up on the Georgia Tech campus. At first, it looked roughly similar to the other campuses I've lived on. Then I ran past a dorm. On the first room on the corner, however, I saw a big confederate flag on the wall. Suddenly, the campus was much less like any I'd ever lived on...

Anyway, on the way to the airport, I talked with the shuttle bus driver guy. His son's a Marine presently stationed in Iraq. I'm always interested in trying to figure out what's going on in Iraq, as opposed to what we read about here. According to this guy, things in Iraq are much worse than we hear. Which is bad.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Another good sports day. Sox win, Cards win, Yankees lose.

But it's only the first game. One year ago I sat in the Oakland Coliseum and watched the Sox lose two heartbreaking games (Game 1 on a bunt in the 12th!). I figured it was over.
But after those two games I also got to see the Sox win in Game 5, the most fun I've ever had at a baseball game. My conclusion? I'd rather be happy after Game 5 than Game 1.....

Monday, October 04, 2004

For some reason, yesterday I inexplicably decided I wanted to make myself chili for dinner. I've never made chili, never really thought much about making it, but I figured I'd give it a try.

It turns out that I'm an absolute natural. I make fantastic chili, especially for a first attempt. Or maybe all chili made with ground buffalo is good. Who knew I had this gift?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

It was a good day in college football, Michigan won, and looked good (although that's somewhat easier when one plays Indiana); Notre Dame and Ohio State lost.

I've long believed that the coaches poll should be ignored. For one, head coaches don't actually do the voting in the poll, they have better things to do. It shows that coaches are good at coaching, but not at ranking. For instance, this week, Northwestern got a vote in the coaches poll. This is preposterous. Granted they had a good win against Ohio State, but they are 2-3. How can a team with a 2-3 record (losses to Minnesota, Arizona State, and, uh, TCU) be one of the top 25 teams in the country? If they win the rest of their games and finish 8-3, they deserve to be ranked, but how can anyone vote for them?

Another problem with the coaches poll is that it's anonymous, so no one knows how they vote. So whoever made this miserable choice will not have to face public ridicule.

Some day when I have time, I'd like to go back and compare how the two polls actually do at predicting game results. But not tonight.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

If I were John Kerry (or, perhaps more importantly, his speechwriter), I would have ended the debate tonight as follows:

The President says he's resolute in this war. I believe him. The President says he will continue to be resolute. I believe him. The President says that we must be resolute to win. He is wrong.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was resolute. Richard Nixon was resolute. I know. I was there. I believed them. And because they were resolute, thousands of young Americans are dead. All those names on the wall from 1970 and 1972 and 1973 and so on are there because their presidents were resolute. In Vietnam, we could win battle after battle, and we could drop thousands of bombs, and we could burn away whole forests, and we could keep killing Viet Cong, and we did. But winning battles is not the same as winning a war. We were resolute, and we lost that war. The United States will win any battle it fights. But as president, I will never bring us to battle if we cannot win the war as well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The following was on the internet (so it must be true):

Family Chicken Feud Turns to Gun Battle
Associated Press

BLUEWELL, West Virgina - A family meal erupted into a gun battle after a father and son clashed over how to cook chicken.

The two men argued Sunday over the best way to prepare skinless chicken for dinner.

"It started out as a physical confrontation, but it escalated until both of them were shooting at each other," Detective Sgt. A.D. Beasley of the Mercer County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Beasley said each man fired a .22-caliber handgun at the other. Harley Shrader was struck by a bullet that went through the upper part of his right ear and lodged in the back of his head. He was treated at a hospital and released. The elder Shrader was not injured.

Jackie Lee Shrader, 49, was charged with malicious wounding and wanton endangerment. Harley Lee Shrader, 24, was charged with wanton endangerment.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

While some might see humor, and others might be saddened, I see opportunity. We just learned that Martha Stewart will serve her time in West Virginia. I'm certain that she has a nice recipe for skinless chicken (work with me here). Seems to me that justice would be well served by having Ms. Stewart serve her sentence with the Shrader family. Five months with them would be ample motivation to never lie to the SEC again (assuming she doesn't mess up Christmas dinner and get shot), and the Shraders would finally have a good skinless chicken recipe.

Am I missing anything? Where is the fault in this logic?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Playoff Rotation

Weeeellllllll it looks like the Sox are in the playoffs again as the wild card team. Five game series, on the road, probably against Minnesota. What's the rotation? In order, the best Sox starters lately have been Schilling, Pedro, Bronson Arroyo, Lowe, and Wakefield. I really like Wakefield. But I wouldn't start him.

The question is Game 1 (and therefore, if necessary, Game 5). Games 1 and 2 will be in that stupid Humptydome. They'll probably go with Pedro, but I'd start Schilling. I think you want your best guy to pitch the most, and lately that's been Schilling. Pedro hasn't pitched as well. Pedro Martinez is probably my favorite player on the Sox, but he hasn't been pitching so well lately. Then again, if Pedro starts Game 5, Schilling could come on in relief on three days rest....

As a sidenote Johan Santana, who they'll face in games 1 and 5, been absurd (he's run away with the Cy Young--I can't see any rationale for giving it to Schilling, unfortunately). Santana allowed one (1) run in September. That's right. One run. In one month. That's a 0.257 ERA over five starts. In September, opposing batters managed seventeen hits in thirty five innings. He's now won his last TWELVE CONSECUTIVE starts. It's astonishing, but after Tampa Bay beat him June 3, he was 2-4 with a 5.50 ERA. So naturally he's 18-2 with a 1.34 ERA since then. In August he faced Boston, Oakland, Seattle (ok, they're not that good), the Yankees, Texas, and Anaheim. He shut all of them down, won every game. Ugh. We're screwed.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It is somewhat unsettling to me to know that someone on Earth, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the guy who planned the attacks of September 11) sits in a jail cell, being questioned. Maybe he's being tortured. I cannot imagine he will ever be free, nor do I want him to be. Presumably, at some point he will be killed and his body dropped in the ocean or something. I doubt he'll ever be found guilty, probably he'll never even be brought to trial.

As if this were not uncomfortable enough, would I do anything differently? I'm not convinced I would. He's a bad guy. A really bad guy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Well now it looks like Iran will be getting The Bomb soon, unless Israel attacks first. This is very very bad, I think. In Charlie Wilson's War (see below), the narrative goes off on a side discussion about how there aren't really any moderates in Iran, at least in the mid-80s.

Perhaps the administration should have paid a little more attention to Iran, which was actually doing atomic weapons research and actually supports terrorists, as opposed to Iraq, which had no atomic program and which everyone knew had connection to terrorists. Too late now.

I wonder how many American soldiers will die in Iraq. It seems a long time ago, but when asked if Americans are prepared for a "long, costly and bloody battle," Cheney replied: "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way. . . . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. Thanks, Dick.

Less poignantly, I wonder how many billions of dollars we're going to spend there. Remember when Iraq's oil reserves were going to pay for the war?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The editorial page of the New York Times has proclaimed This Is Bush's Vietnam. I don't think that's quite right. One quandry of Vietnam was that those who had to figure out how to get us out (LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Ford) weren't the same ones who got us in (Eisenhower, JFK, McNamara). Nixon was dealt a crappy hand in Vietnam (and of course one could argue that he didn't play it well, but that doesn't mean he didn't have bad cards).

Here, those who got us into Iraq (W, Rumsfeld, Cheney) are the ones who are, or are not, trying to get us out. They're the ones who went in there apparently thinking it would all be wine and roses, uh dates and flowers. They're the ones who thought it'd be easy. They're the JFK and Eisenhower in this story.

According to what I've read (McNamara's book and others), our leaders didn't really know what they were getting themselves into when they went into and later escalated Vietnam. About all they knew was that communists were bad (correct), opposed to America (correct), and that they would be fighting communists (wrong--we were fighting nationalists, BIG difference). They knew very little about Vietnam itself, little about its history, little about who the players were, little about who we'd be fighting with, even less about who we'd be fighting against. Obviously, this is a bad way to decide to go to war, when you don't have any information.

Iraq is different. Iraq was not a mystery. Everyone knew that Iraq was a potential powderkeg. Everyone knew that Iraq was surrounded by distasteful neighbors. Everyone knew that Iraq was an artificial nation--three historically separate groups (Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds) thrown together by Europeans after World War I. Everyone knew that threse three groups had been warring enemies for centuries. Everyone knew that, in consequence, the actual governing of Iraq would be difficult, that it would be easy to win the war but tricky to win the peace. Everyone knew these things. Didn't they?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Global warming worries me. I think it's a real threat to America. Am I being absurd? I think we run the risk of appearing arrogent and gratuitously angering lots and lots of people. If we've learned anything from the attacks of September 11, it's that we shouldn't go around making enemies (i.e. maybe we should have spent a little more money reconstructing Afganistan in the 1990's instead of letting it all go to hell).

So. Sea levels are rising. This is very bad for New Orleans (which escaped, luckily--I love New Orleans) and worse for Bangladesh. Bangladesh is poor. And it has 141,000,000 people. 117,000,000 of whom are Muslim. (Sidenote, my pledge brother Zee is Bangladeshi, the only one I know.) I'm no expert, but I think Bangladesh has been fairly friendly to us. We should keep it that way.

But how would the people of Bangladesh react to rising sea levels that would swamp their country? They'd probably be unhappy. And they're not dumb, what if they noticed that the United States was both a cause of global warming and prominantly refused to do anything about it? I don't think it's a stretch to say they'd transfer that unhappiness to us. We don't need any more people ticked off at us, especially a large restive Muslim population with many underemployed and impressionable young men.

Or consider the people of, say, Tuvalu. There are only 11,000 of them, but their islands are about ten feet above sea level at the highest. What if one of them had the same thought process and became convinced that the destruction of their country was all America's fault? Ok, Tuvalu is a little farfetched, but still, my point is that there's no good rationale for making gratuitous enemies. Why manufacture enemies? Why should we hand people a great reason to hate us? It doesn't make any sense.

What's maddening is that there's no reason for us to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol and otherwise take action on global warming. We're irritating people and potentially creating lots of enemies for no reason. It's dumb policy and it may well get us in big trouble down the road.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I was briefly in Chicago last week and I had time on the way to the airport to have a ($8!) beer at a bar at the top of the Hancock building. It's really high up. According to the waitress, 1100 feet.

Which made it all the more strange that it's absolutely crawling with spiders. (On the outside of the building.) And I mean big spiders--bodies the size of a dime. In their webs. This brought up several questions in my mind:

(a) How do they get up there? Wind? Carried up by equipment?
(b) Does it ever get so windy that they blow off?
(c) In the winter, where do they go? (Do spiders hibernate?)
(d) Are there that many bugs flying around at 1100 feet that they can eat?

The waitress was very nice, but she was absolutely no help. Were I running the bar, I'd have at least one arachnologist on staff to answer burning questions like these.

As a sidenote, it's odd that when I wake up tomorrow, there's a small but nonzero chance that New Orleans will no longer exist. That's just strange.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm reading a marvelous book called Charlie Wilson's War, which explains why the Soviets lost Afghanistan. Turns out that an alcoholic, lecherous Democratic Congressman from Texas, Charlie Wilson, somehow ended up funding the entire thing from the Appropriations Committee (where he could dole out money without anyone knowing) and a chummy relationship with Tip O'Neill, who explicitly didn't want to know the details but who didn't like communists and made sure that no one got in his way. He somehow befriended a bitter, semi-ostracized CIA guy who somehow ended up running the whole thing to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars _A YEAR_ (i.e. far more than the CIA spent on any other of its covert operations, ever). He ran the whole thing more or less without the White House's input or even knowledge for years and years, dealing with various slimy regimes (Egypt, Pakistan, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia) on his own, setting up arms deals on his own, a *blatant* violation of how foreign policy is supposed to be conducted (though he appears to have been scrupulously honest financially at least).

It's a great tale. Lots of tidbits. Of of them relates to Richard Perle (lately known for (a) being an Iraq hawk--oops!-- who now seems to be shuffled under the rug and (b) being on maybe the worst board of directors ever).

Perle was hanging around the Pentagon in the 1980's too, and giving all sorts of "valuable" advice to the CIA about its war. He had the swell idea that the CIA should bring some Soviet prisoners back to America. It would be a p.r. coup. The problem was that there weren't any Soviet prisoners. None. Any Soviet soldier who surrendered to the mujahideen would likely be shot, hanged, castrated, gang raped and skinned alive (crude, but true). The Soviets knew this and, they never surrendered. But this well known fact didn't stop Perle from incessantly pestering the CIA to bring the prisoners over to the US. The mujahideen weren't interested in p.r. stunts, so they just killed any Red Army soldier they could.

It's good to know Rumsfeld listened to this wise counselor pushing the Iraq war so aggressively, having previously demonstrated his expert knowledge of foreign cultures. He's been flashing his foreign policy expertise for decades! Another win for him!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Michigan lost yesterday. And looked bad. I take Michigan football too seriously. While staring at the wall after the game, I was thinking that Michigan is in danger of having a failed season.

I'd say the following are the characteristics of a failed season:

-losses to two of these three games: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State;
-non-New Years bowl game;
or-four losses.

On the other hand, I'd say the following can be considered characteristics of a successful season:

-winning the Rose Bowl (duh)
-beating Ohio State, State, and Notre Dame; or
-winning a major Jan. 1 bowl game.

Any result between these two results in a "nondescript" season. Last year (Rose Bowl loss, three losses overall, victories against State, Ohio State and Notre Dame) was nondescript. If, for instance, Michigan had come back and beat Oregon, it would rank as a success, but three losses is tough to accept.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Thatcher (presumably no other Bowling Green fan reads this drivel), I'll root for them again this week. Better luck against, uh, Southeast Missouri State (had to go look that one up).

Schlamp (presumably), I always pull for the Bears. But not very hard.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

So Dick Cheney says (and I swear I'm not making this up, although it's hard to believe it):

"[I]f we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get his again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

This is outrageous. Why does he think this? Does he believe that W is some sort of protection from terrorist attacks? (If so, why did he not pay any attention to terrorism before September 11, 2001, even though they were expressly told to pay attention to al-Qaeda by the Clinton administration?)

Monday, September 06, 2004

I am an obnoxious Michigan fan. (This has meant that in the last decade I've largely ignored college basketball.) More importantly, the first game of the season was Saturday against Miami of Ohio.

Michigan looked ok. Defense was pretty good. I'm not happy about the running game, though. Michigan needs to be able to run the ball for more than 115 yards. For that matter, Michigan should also pass for more than 159 yards, but at least there's more of an excuse for low passing yards because our starting QB was a true freshman.

Friday, September 03, 2004

So why again did we attack Iraq? One of the most popular of W's reasons is something along the lines of we figured they were developing weapons of mass destruction, with the corollary that the world is now a safer place.

If this was our goal, what about Iran? We KNOW that Iran is on the verge of an atomic bomb. Upon its first test explosion, the world will undoubtedly become a far, far far more dangerous place. It appears to me that we attacked the wrong place....

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell Miller (W's favorite Democrat), describing Kerry:

My job tonight is an easy one: to present to you one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders—and a good friend. ... John has worked to strengthen our military. ...

Oh, that was in 2001. Back then, Kerry was an authentic hero who was strengthening our military. I wonder why Kerry's turned so wrong in the last three years?

(This is from's feature called "Whopper", where public figures are caught lying)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I think the government is doing a crappy job of protecting us all from terrorism. For instance, I'm not aware that it's doing much at all about the (high) risk of someone loading a shipping container full of explosives and/or a little nuke and blowing it up in a harbor. But to be fair, that's a hard problem.

BUT some things are easy problems, and the feds are failing at those too. I think Congress did well to bring all airport screeners into the federal government. But since they're all now under Tom Ridge, why is it still a disaster? I think an emblematic problem is the ongoing debate over whether one should take one's shoes off before going through the x-ray machine. Why is it that they can't come up with a rule? Either it is or it is not safe. Either shoes should or should not be passed through the x-ray machine separately. Why the ambiguity? If shoes should be x-rayed, they should be x-rayed every time. Period. Not at some airports, or only at big airports, or only if you tick off the guy who runs the machine (this seems to be the rule in San Francisco--if you're advised to take your shoes off and you don't, you're inevitably pulled aside, your shoes are removed, and they give you the Wand Treatment).

Granted that the shoes thing is a small issue, but it's also an ridiculously simple problem to solve. The feds have had three years since the attacks of September 11 to come up with a policy for an extremely simple situation. Why should I trust that they're making better progress in more complicated issues?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I'm in Phoenix for a conference. What an odd place. Why did human beings build a city here?

This is a big hotel. Surrounded by a donut of golf holes (it has an 18 hole course). And outside that is desert nothingness. I've gone running the last couple of mornings and there's sure nothing going on anywhere near here. It's a bizarre place and I won't miss it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Well, I think I can add another item to the list of things I just don't care about. The next thing I don't care about is gymnastics. I just can't make myself care. I gather there was some sort of controversy about the American guy who won. Whatever.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Generally, I like sports. Generally, I don't like sports coverage. I'm not a big fan of schmaltz, so obviously NBC's Olympic coverage leaves a lot to be desired from my perspective. Give me athletes competing! I don't give a crap about, say, competitive weightlifting, but every four years I want to cheer for some pipsqueak Turkish guy who can lift like 800 pounds over his head! And I especially want to see rowing, but that's just me.

But my point here ties together two other things I don't like about sports reporting. The first is the over-focus on race. The second is lazy reporting. I've been reading about how the US had this guy Aquil Abdullah in the heavyweight doubles (sidenote: a double is two people with four oars, a pair is two people with two oars) is . the first black US rower. That would surely be news to Anita DeFrantz. What's stupid here is that she's pretty damn prominant IN OLYMPIC CIRCLES! She's Vice President of the IOC! She probably sitting in the stands rooting for Abdullah! It's just stupid reporting.

(I'll stipulate that sports aren't all that important, and that it's more important for non-sports reporters to check their facts than for sports reporters. But still.)

Monday, August 16, 2004

In Year 1 PSS (post steroid scandal), Bonds is still dominant. Maybe he was clean after all. Giambi has been hurt, and Sosa has dropped off considerably.

Of course, there could be extenuating circumstances in both cases. Giambi has his mysterious illness and tumor--it's like the old time Kremlin over there, any pronouncement of his health is always guarded and very little information leaks (a suspicious person would suspect that the public isn't getting the full story and that something is going on, but I don't have any idea what). Sosa may be suffering the ill effects of a dearth of cork in his bat. That's enough to slow anyone down....

Saturday, August 14, 2004

I took some advice and requested half pound of buffalo last night for my burger. I kept a little of it for pasta sauce and made myself yet another fantastic burger for dinner. (Mmmm, buffalo.) The "point forty" butcher wasn't there so I didn't have a chance to try that.

...and a related three cheers for Whole Foods. I love it because it's half a block from my house, even if it is filled with the kind of ever-diligent liberal people (and foods) that I normally mock. But now they've started stocked Pabst, my favorite beer. Yes, in cans. Whoo-hoo! Pabst!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I'm certainly no historian, but I just have to think that today's press conference in which a married male governor resigned from office while admitting to having an affair with a man is fairly unprecedented.

I mean, has anything like this ever happened? Ever? In the world?

Monday, August 09, 2004

I read today that the administration is going to go ahead and keep buying oil for the National Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Now why are we, the taxpayers, buying oil when it is the highest price it's ever been? Why is this a good deal for us? I would submit that it is not. It is, however, a great deal for the House of Saud, who do better and better the higher oil goes.....

And finally, this is over-dramatic and doesn't tell us anything we don't already know, but it's also worthwhile as art, I think, because it makes one think.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

>Bush told the minority journalists that he opposed quota systems in college admissions but "I support colleges affirmatively taking action to get more minorities in their school."

W ought to notify John Ashcroft that he actually favors affirmative action. W might be surprised to learn that his own solicitor general argued against affirmative action in the Supreme Court in the University of Michigan case a couple of years ago. So which is it? Does he support it or not?

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I know that the second "anonymous" is Cho, but who's the first?

The reason i just get enough for one burger is that I walk past the grocery every day on the way back from work. If I want something, I stop in a get it. I store very little food at my house. This is the part of urban life that I love--walking to get things, especially now that there's a store near me (no thanks to Chris Daly, who opposed it because corporations are bad). I don't even make a weekly trip to the store. I just go whenever I need anything. (Right now, for instance, I'm going to get a cantelope for breakfast.)

Now, as for asking for half a pound of beef, that's an idea. I'll have to test the mechanics of a half pound burger (as they get bigger, it's tougher to make sure they stay together on the grill). I'm going to try the "point forty" idea first. Most importantly, they were out of ground buffalo last time. This is a more serious failing. I like the beef, but I love the buffalo.

As a sidenote to this sidenote, I don't eat as much as I used to. The days of a pound of linguini are over.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

More trouble at the butcher yesterday. I attempted to order "four tenths of a pound of ground beef". Apparently for a graduate of the US school system this is tricky.

"What, you want a quarter pound?"
"No, four tenths--for a burger."
(looking at me like I'm crazy) "Four tenths?" "That's not enough for a burger"
"Yeah, it is. Four tenths of a pound."

I think I figured out the right way to ask for 0.4 pounds of ground beef. One asks for "point forty". I'll try it next time.

The burger, of course, was delicious. I make fantastic burgers.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

This Google IPO thing is somewhat interesting.

I'm a bit of a simpleton when it comes to financial matters, but it looks to me like Google's trying to discourage small investors. And for the life of me I can't find a single article talking about this possibility. But everything points to them keeping the little guy out.

One must have an account at a specified brokerage (I think that, an E*Trade customer, I could, if I wanted to). This is a small deterrent. The big one is that they're selling shares for over $100 each. Now obviously, it's stupid to make one's decision based on that, but apparently people are in fact that stupid. I've seen all this criticism of this move, something about how it's too high a number (n.b. if you read the prospectus they're obviously in love with Warren Buffet). Well, yeah it's too high a number if that's what's going to be the deciding factor for you! If so, you're a dumbass, and you shouldn't be setting the market value of the company!

At the same time, the price shouldn't drop. There are going to be lots of people who could have got in if they'd paid just a little more, so presumably if the price drops these people are going to be ready to jump in and buy at the price they wanted.
Like I say, I'm a rube when it comes to all this, but it's interesting.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I'm starting to think the Nomar trade might work out all right. This season, I'm reading that he wasn't going to play, and wasn't happy. Next season, with an infield of Youkilis, Cabrera, Someone-at-Second, and Mientkiewicz, with Ortiz DH'ing. That looks pretty good to me. Pokey Reese is a fantastic utility player. Not too bad.

Now if Larry Luccino can stop his stupid sniping (it's detailed in the Globe). I'm really starting to think Luccino's an idiot. Don't snipe at Nomar. Wish him well. Say he's terrific. Never, never badmouth a guy. That's the Dan Duquette way of thinking. He was yapping in the offseason too. I don't know exactly what is entailed by being CEO of the Sox, but it seems to me that there's no reason he couldn't do his job and keep his damn mouth shut too.

And yes, I'm very proud of my hotlinking skillz.

Monday, August 02, 2004

It appears as if the insurgants in Iraq are going to emulate Robert Mugabe and chase all the Christians out. If they succeed, they might also end up copying Mugabe in other ways, as their country loses a large part of its economy. Not that Iraq will turn into Zimbabwe--it takes a special kind of person to do that!--but it could well turn into, say, Nigeria or Venezuela or (ha ha) Russia.

This is a problem I didn't anticipate (I was, and remain, fixated on the Kurds as the source of long term instability and ungovernability). But I suppose this is another good one. An it shows up the fundamental point that one really can't predict what's going to happen when one creates a new nation. Which is why we should be really careful and hesitate long and hard before doing so. Because it ain't going well. And Dick Cheney aside, there weren't any weapons of mass destruction there, and there was no reason to invade.

And perhaps another thought. Maybe it'd be a good idea to NOT assume the best case scenario, but prepare for the worst.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

I logged on to make sure that Randy Johnson didn't end up on the Yankees. Turns out there was plenty of other action.

Difficult to imagine the Sox without Nomar. Very difficult. I just can't imagine him playing for someone else. Dan Duquette gets a lot of (justifiable) criticism, but signing Nomar in 1998 was a great signing.

I hope Epstein knows what he's doing. I'm confident the rest of Red Sox Nation is hoping the same thing.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I listened to Kerry's speech tonight. I thought it was pretty good. Much better than Edwards last night, who I thought sounded like a windbag.

Will it be enough? I don't know, but I have to think that W is feeling some heat. Well, maybe not W himself, I should say the administration. I'm still not convinced W really cares much about being President. But he's surrounded himself with people who care very much about him being president, and they push him and push him hard.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I heard Big Bubba Bill's speech on the radio last night and tonight I listed to Gore The Bore speech from yesterday, archived by those helpful folks at the Democratic National Convention. I have to say, I thought Gore was better. If he'd shown that much passion four years ago, instead of droning on about putting Social Security in his beloved lock box, we'd be waiting for him to speak Thursday night.

Clinton was too rushed. Either he needed more editing (like his book, I've heard), or he needed more time, but he was obviously trying to cram as much in there as he could.

Didn't get to hear Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech, but I've read it and -DAMN- it looks good. Someone in the White House who can speak five languages! Too bad she's born overseas!

Monday, July 26, 2004

I'm going to vote for Kerry.

On national TV last night (go Sox!), he was asked what he thought of the DH. Right upfront, he said he didn't like it. Yes!

I never heard W complain about the DH, even though he was a former owner of an American League team and he actually could have done something about it. The DH is an abomination and should be ended immediately.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The commission investigating the attacks of September 11 came out with their report. I have yet to read it, so I don't yet know whether I agree with its substantive recommendations.

But it does seem that Congress is going to do something, even if it's all for show. They're going to have some hearings, and the leaders of the commission are going to testify. This is a good thing. We need to have a big debate about our intelligence agencies. And Congress is the entity to debate this. I do hope they keep talking about it. It's interesting, though. In the last couple of weeks, Congress has seen fit to diligently focus on the crucial issues of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, and flag burning. It seems to me that there are a few more important things to pay attention to, and maybe this will get them to do so. For all of our sakes, I hope so.

As a sidenote, it's interesting that W says he supports the commission's work, considering he fought like hell to keep them from ever meeting in the first place. Then he wanted to appoint Henry Kissinger---HENRY KISSINGER!!!--one of the dirtiest Americans alive!--to be its head. Can one imagine a less reputable choice? Forget the deaths in Chile, in East Timor, in Cambodia, (etc. etc. etc.) that he sanctioned (ok, don't forget them, but that's not my point...). Aside from these, he's directly responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of Americans (and Vietnamese, for that matter) because he gratuitously prolonged the Vietnam War. What if we'd pulled out in 1970? How many Americans would still be alive? How many of their children would know their fathers? As John Kerry said in 1971, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

I know this is a tangent, but every American, and I mean everyone, should read this:

Really, everyone should read this. And everyone should educate themselves about the issues, because Kerry was right then and he's right now. Vietnam was the wrong war, fought for the wrong reasons, and the wrong time. And all we got for it was a shiny black wall. And whether our spoils from that war were worth that shiny black wall.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A significant trend of the last few years is to shrink the Army (and by "Army" I mean the United States Military, but mainly the Army) by having outside contractors do things that Army guys used to do. In theory, this lets the Army concentrate on fighting, and the contractors do the support work. Supposedly, We The People save money.

But it doesn't work. And Iraq has shown why.

There are some times that it's good to have Army guys (and girls) driving the trucks. They can be ordered around, they already carry guns, they can always call up some Army choppers to support them if they're getting shot at, etc.

It's a sad irony, but this outsourcing ends up costing Us The People bigtime. Soldiers are cheap. They don't have much grounds to complain if they're getting shot at while they're driving the trucks. Not so with the contractors. They're understandibly not interested in being shot, so it naturally takes more money to entice them to face the risk. They're *more* expensive than the Army.

Yet another problem is that the truck drivers need some sort of security force. We're billed for that, but we're doubly screwed. First, we're screwed because these contractors are making $100,000 a year, where the regular soldiers get by on way less. Second, these contractors are none other than retired Army guys anyway. So the Army loses its best people (because wouldn't you rather make six figures than Army pay?)

It also perpetuates dishonesty. For instance, we've been saying that we have 130,000 soldiers in Iraq (roughly). Well yes, but estimates of the contractors (who We The People are paying for) run to about 20,000 more. Of course no one really knows. Obviously, it would be cheaper to use 20,000 soldiers (at, say, $40,000/year) instead of 20,000 contractors ($100,000/year). By my reckoning, that's 1.2 b-b-b-billion a year down the tubes. That's real money! And that's just salary! Not including the cost of replacing those experiences people who run off to by contractors.

Why do we do it? Why pay much more for less? Well, it looks to me like the only people who come out ahead are contractors. Like Halliburton.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I've recently taken to buffalo burgers. The store by my house has a butcher shop offering ground buffalo. Surprisingly, ordering is not a smooth process. I would have thought that butchers were very strong in fractions and decimals--seeing as all they do all day is sell meat by the pound--by I was wrong. It takes some time to persuade them that I don't want 40 pounds of meat, 4% of a pound, nor 4 pounds (these are all actual points of confusion from my last two trips there), but 0.4 pounds. Just right for one burger.

If you haven't had buffalo burgers, you really should. It's the best burger I've ever had. Imagine a normal tasty burger, but twice as flavorful. That's buffalo. It's delicious.

Plus, you're doing your part for the environment! As more people eat buffalo, there's more and more reason to take down the fences on the Great Plains and let the buffalo roam (instead of cows).

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I think the new Iraqi government is going to crack down hard. I would guess that they will take this too far, and someone (I have no idea who) will try to seize control. I hope I'm very wrong, because that would lead to lots of bloodshed and possibly civil war. So far, I've been surprised. There have not (yet) been outright fighting by the Kurds--instead just a low level insurgency between the Kurds and the Turkomen. If the Kurds are smart, they'll wait until the US withdraws, then declare independence.

I'm still predicting that we "find" Osama October 15. I'm open to other predictions, though.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Pitch counts addendum

More pitch count.

Cho, I would certainly not argue that 120 is an arbitraty number. My point is that until pitchers turn, say, 24, their arms are still developing. It would make more sense to gauge pitch counts, but we'll have to accept innings as a reasonable proxy.

For established guys, I'm all in favor of not enforcing arbitraty rules. Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, etc., guys who are established workhorses, their pitch counts are going to be different than for others. My point is more about young guys. As for Kerry Wood's injury, that's sort of my point. When guys are young, their arms aren't yet mature, so they're more prone to be damaged, especially by funky pitches. (I don't know why this is the case, it's just that the numbers seem to bear it out, and it makes some intuitive sense. Also I'm neither a doctor nor someone who plays one on TV.)

N.B. this debate started at a Giants-Cubs game last year when I criticized Dusty Baker for overworking Wood and Prior. I stand by my criticisms.

Just for kicks, lets look at a couple of prominent burnouts. Same format as the last post (that is, name, first number is age when he throws 100 innings, next is when he throws 200, next is when he throws 300--I track up to age 26).

Fernando Valenzuela: 20 21 (285 innings at age 21)
Steve Avery: 20, 20 (99 innings at age 19, 210 at age 20)

Fernando was effectively done at age 30, although he had a decent year in 1993 and another in 1996.
Steve Avery's last year with 150 innings was 1995, when he was 25.
Livan Hernandez--the jury's still out on how he'll do (and his age!)
I know I'm missing some good ones, but I can't think of them at the moment. Schlamp, who am I missing?

(Man I'm happy to talk about something other than how George Bush has destroyed our standing across the Muslim world by needlessly invading Iraq and then bungling it. Whoo-hoo! Here's to ignoring this great American disaster--"It's not Vietnam, it's worse!"--by paying attention to baseball)

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Pitch Counts

I've been having a dispute with Ed Cho about pitch counts.

Cho thinks they're given too much importance. I disagree. I think that for young pitchers, it's very important to keep a low pitch count. Pitching puts extreme stress on a pitcher's arm. I read an article once about how guys who pitch a ton of innings early in their career burn out. (Note, I'm using innings as a proxy for pitch count here.)

To test this, I looked at career leaders in wins. (Because the general consensus is that pitching these days is tougher than the 50's because the 7-9 hitters are so much better, I arbitrarily required a pitcher to start his career in 1960 or later to be considered.) I look at how many innings these guys threw. Because they are the career leaders, they are the most durable arms in baseball over the last 40 years. I assign an age based on that pitcher's age at the start of the season. I only look up to the age 26. The first number is the age the pitcher first threw 100 innings, the second number is 200, the third is 300 (if he pitched 300 before turning 27)

Carlton 22 23
Ryan 21 25 26
Sutton 21 21
Clemens 22 24
P. Niekro (a knuckleballer, he's obviously not too relevant)
Perry 25 25
Seaver 23 23
Maddux 20 21
Blyleven 19 20
Jenkins 22 23
Palmer 20 20 23
Glavine 22 24
Marichal 23 24 25
R. Johnson 25 26
Tanana 20 20
Tiant 23 26
Hunter 18 20

Note: Catfish Hunter's last season was when he was 33.

My point is, it looks pretty clear to me that pitchers who last a long time didn't throw a ton of innings when they were in their early twenties. This specifically came up with Cho when we were talking about the Cubbies. Kerry Wood threw 166 innings when he was 20. He lost the next year to injury, and surpassed 200 innings when he was 24 (which is about right, I think). We'll see if he lasts. Mark Prior threw 116 innings at 21, 211 at 22. To me, that's worrisome. Why take a chance?

Mulder 154 when he was 23, 200 when he was 24. Zito threw 92 when he was 21, 200 when he was 22, and he has arm troubles. Hudson threw 136 when he was 23, 200 when he was 24.

I don't know, but it looks like a trend to me. If I were a GM, I'd limit innings until a pitcher turned 24.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The White House is going to emphasize that Edwards doesn't have much experience. A fair point. He doesn't. I propose the following test of someone's competency to be vice president:

Ask the candidate to spell potato.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I remember reading that Ken Lay still is a leading fundraiser for W. If I were the Kerry campaign, I'd sure publicize that to high heaven.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Why does Dick Cheney keep insisting on a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida? It's well beyond debate that no such connection existed, other than perhaps they knew some of the same people. It's almost like arguing that the sun goes around the earth at this point. So why does he keep saying in?

(a) because he believes it?
-Surely not. Cheney isn't that dumb (W, maybe, but not Cheney). Or maybe he is.

(b) Because it makes political sense to say it?
-Maybe. I guess it keeps the red meat supporters happy, but I would think it's going to start driving (logical, noncommitted) voters away. The die hards don't need to be persuaded, do they, that invading Iraq was justified and a complete success?

(c) Because to do otherwise would be to admit that they were wrong
-Ahhh, maybe. Because the one thing this White House cannot admit is that they were wrong. Tony Blair edged closer to that under questioning in Parliament (though he refused to concede that there were no weapons of mass destruction). But the White House cannot ever be wrong.

(d) If there are other reasons out there, let me know. I can't think of them...

Monday, July 05, 2004

So who's Kerry gonna choose? I was a fan of Bill Richardson, but apparently he's out. I don't like Gephardt. He's too left-ish for me. And also a little oily. Edwards? This guy from Iowa, Vilsack?
So who's Kerry gonna choose? I was a fan of Bill Richardson, but apparently he's out. I don't like Gephardt. He's too left-ish for me. And also a little oily. Edwards? This guy from Iowa, Vilsack?

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Well it's certainly nice when the Bushies do something right. Handing over power early was a great move. Now my question is whether Iraq descends into civil chaos (or, so to speak, whether "domestic fury, and fierce civil strife shall cumber all the parts of [Iraq]").

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I've had one central concern all along about the war in Iraq. The Kurds. I've been wondering from the start about what happens if the Kurds declare an independent Kurdistan. What would we do if Turkey invades? What would we do?
Of course, if the Kurds don't declare independence, all my concern is for naught.

It's obviously difficult if not impossible for anyone to really know what's going on in Iraq via the internet. One can read all one wants, but one can't really get a sense of things. So I didn't know what was going on with the Kurds. Then, last week, I saw this picture on yahoo

I'd never heard of Ghazi Talabani, but he was apparently an official with the Iraqi oil company. And he was a Kurd. While his death is undoubtedly a tragedy for all who knew him, that's not what jumped out at me. Look at the flag, the one on top of his body. That's the key thing. I didn't recognize that flag, but I had my suspicions. It's the flag of Kurdistan (which doesn't officially exist as a country, mind you).

Seems to me that if the Kurds are burying their people under the Kurdistan flag, Iraq (as a united country) is in trouble. To me, that looks like nationalism and patriotism.

My problem is not with the Kurds. I'm rather impressed at what they've done. Personally I wouldn't mind an independent Kurdistan, if it could be worked out. The problem is that Turkey and Iran would be extremely unhappy, and would likely both try to invade Iraq. And if that happens, all bets are off......

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I was talking to some people about whether the Lakers should be hated like the Yankees should be hated. I say no. The Yankees are always competitive because they have the most money *by far*. Their payroll may end up being nearly double that of the second highest team in baseball. That's a ridiculous margin.

The Lakers are often competitive not because they have the most money, but because they have Jerry West. And there aren't a whole lot of people on earth who know more about basketball than Jerry West.

[As a sidenote, Jerry West may be the best front office guy in the NBA, but he better be careful, because Joe Dumars is looking like a pretty good judge of talent himself...]

Monday, June 14, 2004

Is Saudi Arabia going to become the French Revolution?

This is my understanding of the French Revolution: The extremists kept getting their way and chopped off the heads of those who were nominally in charge, but once they got their way, someone more extreme popped up, who chopped off the heads of the previous batch of extremists, but then someone even more extreme turned up, etc. etc. There was no central authority, so it all sort of slid downhill. Madness begat madness.

When viewed in these terms, the parallel to Saudi Arabia is worrisome, I think. The House of Saud struck a deal with, uh, the devil years ago. The Wahhabi clerics would espouse their ideology, but they would tacitly support the House of Saud as it got fantastically rich. The House of Saud would let the clerics spout off. The young men who'd been indoctrinated would go off to fight the in Afghanistan, or Bosnia, or wherever.

But what if the extremists start killing the moderates and take over? It's easy to imagine the next batch of extremists being much worse. What if they become nationalists, and decide to cut off the oil spigots? If the people of Saudi Arabia destabilize it, we're all in trouble.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

As I see it, there is one simple question now pending about Iraq:

Will Iraq dissolve into civil war?

I fear it will. Recent reports of government ministers being assassinated do not bode well.

As I have questioned before, what will we do if we are ordered by the "sovereign" government to leave? Would we dare walk away? Much as I was opposed to going to Iraq, I think that *someone* has to stay there.
I'm not sure that anyone else would be better--who else would go? Turkey? Laughable. The Kurds would revolt immediately. Iran? Ditto. Maybe a multinational force from the Arab League? Riiiiiight. Oh, what about the UN? Can't they take over? Well, they could, I suppose, but the UN doesn't have an army, and would have to round up 150,000 troops from somewhere? And remember that the UN was outgunned in Uganda ten years ago. This would make Uganda look like a (dry and dusty) picnic. How about NATO? Sending NATO would be functionally identical to keeping the US troops there.

I hope someone in our government has some good ideas, but based on what we've seen so far, I'm not optimistic... Unfortunately, we may be the best, and only, option.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I'm still against interleague play. Aside from the sentimental fact that it cheapens the World Series, it's not fair, now that we're burdened with three divisions. Different divisions play different opponents, which matters in the wild card.

For instance, the AL West is a tough, tough division. The AL Central is not as tough. The NL Central plays against the AL West, while the NL East gets a chance to beat up on the AL Central. In the wild card race, a team from the East is going to have an edge over a team in the NL Central, just because it's faced the Tigers and Royals instead of the A's and Angels.

It's not fair, but neither is the fact that Bud Selig's been pocketing the revenue sharing money himself instead of spending it on players. Commissioner Bud's never been about fairness.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Oh yeah, Chalabi is turning into a real ace. How many other ways has he screwed us? Where are his defenders now?

The sickening thing is that even a fool like me, who doesn't have any connections to anybody and whose sole source of information is the internet knew that Chalabi was a worthless ally. Granted I didn't think he'd be selling us out to Iran, an original Axis Of Evil Member, but it wasn't a big secret or anything that he was a bastard.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

As I noted April 21, we're running up against a significant issue is Iraq. What kind of 'sovereignty' are we going to 'turn over' on June 30? There's talk of whether the Iraqi government will have the ability to veto American troop movements. Tony Blair is hopelessly naive if he thinks that's the case. Our military has always been extremely leery of putting itself under the command of a non-American. I can't fathom they'd allow it here (giving the Iraqis a veto is, in essence, inserting foreigners into the US command struction), especially considering this administration's contempt of all things foreign. Ain't gonna happen.

No, the US military will do what it wants. That's about all I know. The rest is a mystery. I'm worried, though, about what happens when the Iraqis complain about what we're doing and/or where we're going. The last thing we need is more enemies in Iraq...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


I walk to to work from the train station. On the way into our building, on some mornings I notice that our walkway is sprinkled with snails. My guess is that the snails can't stand it when the sprinklers are turned on, so they retreat to the sidewalk. Snails were quite rare in Ohio, but perhaps the lack of cold winters allows them to thrive here?

Banana slugs are endemic to the native forests (i.e. redwoods). They're rather impressive, especially the first time one sees one of them. Typically they're about six inches long and brownish yellow. They're slimy, true, but the slime doesn't stick to your hand. They've very cool beasts, I think.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Today, W said, "I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American."

Funny, I remember when we sent American troops to Iraq because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Well now it turns out we don't like Chalabi so much after all. Interesting. I wouldn't have predicted this. But if you play with a snake, he bites. And Chalabi and Rumsfeld were both playing with snakes here....

Sunday, May 16, 2004

I saw Troy today. I liked it. It makes a few changes from the Illiad, but they didn't bother me so much. I figure that the "original" was just a loose set of poems that were eventually written down after being retold for centuries. Before they were written, though, the bards who continually retold the story would probably adjust it slightly to each audience. The modern day bards (i.e. the scriptwriters) were just doing the same thing--modifying a basic tale to fit what they thought a modern audience would like.

At the same time, it preserved the pettiness and the squabbles among the Greeks from the original. It also tried to make Hector (my favorite character--perhaps the only laudable man in the entire book) appear noble, although it did a much clumsier job of it than the original.

It was entertaining to read some of the movie reviews, which illuminated more about the reviewers than the movie. My personal favorite had two of main criticisms (at full snarky know-it-all movie critic mode). First, it complained of the deviations from the original text. Next it complained about the way that female characters were too passive. There was no indication that the reviewer had any idea of how idiotic these two statements are...

Saturday, May 15, 2004

If this is true, it is the most shocking, disappointing thing about the war in Iraq:

If true, it's proof that the White House didn't care about fighting terrorists. It wanted Saddam Hussein even if it meany letting known terrorists go.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

So who was in charge at Abu Ghraib, anyway? Seems to me that plausible contenders include
1) The Army
<1a) Military police>
<1b) Military intelligence>
2) CIA
3) Private contractors?

Maybe someone, and by that I mean Rumsfeld, should have decided that point before they started imprisoning people and torturing them...

Monday, May 10, 2004

So our troops were also using dogs against naked Iraqi prisoners. And Rumsfeld has known about this for *months*. For months, he's seen the pictures, he's known about it all. And W says he is "doing a superb job." No, he is not. He's been a terrible Secretary of Defense. He's demanded control over our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and BOTH have been poorly led. The problem is not with our guys on the ground. It is with the guys at the Pentagon. As the head guy at the Pentagon, does Rummy not have responsibility?

What if it was an Iraqi general who'd treated American POWs that way? Would he have done a "superb job"? How would W react? Correct me if I'm wrong, but Jessica Lynch had her wounds treated by a doctor, who then, at risk of his own life, got word to the Americans where she was being held, right?

Sunday, May 09, 2004

I've been thinking of civilian control of the military. Obviously, it's a good thing. But I suppose one underlying original motivation was, in a general way, the sense that the military couldn't be trusted. Without civilian control, the generals would get too aggressive and the country would be stuck with wars it didn't want.

Seems to me now that, oddly, the opposite has happened. It is the civilians who are more warlike than the military. I don't think the military would have made the decision to invade Iraq (obviously none of the various reasons given by the administration--weapons of mass destruction, connections between Saddam and Al Quaeda, etc.--have any military significance). But the civilians did, they interfered with the military's war plans (remember Rummy deciding that we didn't need so many troops there?), and now the military finds itself where it shouldn't be and, I think, in the kind of war it doesn't want to fight.

Friday, May 07, 2004

...and another thing.

The United States of American should not employ mercenaries. If the Army's too big, I'll pay for a bigger army. Don't hire mercenaries. They should all be fired.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Iraq is a complete disaster. In the Arab world, these pictures are going to be the defining image of this war. They are as powerful as the image of the Vietnamese monk immolating himself. But they're worse. If, as W was wont to say, you're either with us or against us, everyone is now against us. Because no one, and I mean no one, is with us. How on earth will anyone in Iraq trust us ever again?

Rumsfeld must go. I don't care if Bush likes him. He must go. Even if it were only a symbolic gesture, his head must roll.
But it isn't a symbolic gesture. He either knew about this and ignored it or he closed his eyes to it. It was staring him in the face. Regardless, the buck stops with him. If we are ever to have the trust of anyone in the Arab world, Rumsfeld must go. He must be held accountable.

And Bush must apologize. In public (not in private to King Abdullah and then tell us about it later), to the whole world. What possible grounds is there to equivocate? What is there not to be sorry about?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I spent last weekend in New Orleans for Jazz Fest. I highly recommend it to everyone. Lots of fun. I saw the best live performance of my life on Saturday night. Cowboy Mouth. They're like nothing I'd ever seen, and everyone should catch them. I'd advise against standing right up front, though. The lead singer, who's also the drummer, goes a little nuts. (I saw him literally foaming at the mouth twice in the show.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Man, it's hot (>90 in San Francisco). And San Francisco doesn't deal well with heat. My condo, for instance, has southeast facing windows, so it basically bakes all day. When I return home it's an oven.

In contrast, my office is cold. Always. We have lots of servers in one room and that room must be kept cool. But to keep that room cool, we must crank the air conditioning. Essentially I spend my days lowering my core body temperature in preparation for raising it all night.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

So W insists that we're going to turn over "sovereignty" in Iraq on June 30 no matter what. Am I alone in asking what, exactly, that means?

There will undoubtedly be many US troops on the ground there. Surely they will be under a US general. So if a civil disturbance starts, who will make the call on whether the US military intervenes? Will it be the "sovereign" Iraqi government? What if the Iraqi government, as sovereign, tells us to leave? What if the Kurds revolt and the Iraqi government orders us to go in and shoot them? What if Turkey then attacks? Will the sovereign Iraqi government order us to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity by shooting the Turks? (The threat of a Kurdish revolt followed by a Turkish/Iranian invasion has long been my single biggest fear about governing Iraq. I'm happy that it hasn't happened. Yet.)

Is the press going to ask these questions? Has the administration even thought about it?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

How sure is the president that Iraq isn't turning into another Vietnam? Does he wake up at night wondering? I sure hope so. Because when it started, Vietnam wasn't Vietnam either...

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bat Barry Second

I know this is going to be an extremely controversial post, but I just can't seem to shy away from volatile topics.

The issue is the Giants batting order, specifically Barry Bonds. Bonds is obviously the most dangerous hitter in the game these days. Bonds is batting cleanup. I think this is a mistake. I'd bat him second, behind Ray Durham. Here's why.

Basically, if I was the Felipe Alou [sidenote: when I was in high school I forgot Felipe Alou's name in response to a question at the national quiz bowl championship (I remembered Matty and Jesus, but forgot Felipe)] I'd want to get Bonds as many at bats as possible. The leadoff guy is going to be the last out of a game, oh, about 1/9 of the time. Same with everyone else. By moving Bonds up two spots in the order, he'd get an extra at bat in about 2/9 of the games, in the ninth inning. So in maybe 1/4 of the Giants games, Bonds is going to get an extra at bat if he bats second. And one additional at bat for him, especially coming in the ninth inning, would be huge.
Additionally, Ray Durham would hit about .340 in the leadoff spot--I mean the guy would see nothing but fastballs every first inning. The Giants would have a great chance at scoring in the first inning every game.
This wouldn't work for every team, but here it works because (a) Bonds is so dangerous and (b) the rest of the lineup stinks. When there's one guy who's so much better than everyone else, I think you need him standing at the plate as frequently as possible!

I've been saying this for years but the Giants *still* haven't done anything. Peter Magowan, are you listening?

Sunday, April 11, 2004

So I've now read the August 6, 2001 memo that the White House tried so hard to keep secret. A couple of points.

First, it's clear why they wanted to keep it secret. It isn't a map of what the terrorists were going to do, but it sure as hell had some good clues. But by all credible accounts they just weren't very interested. But thank goodness they were so focused on national missile defense (protecting against a threat that doesn't exist) instead of these terrorists!

Second, there was no reason to keep it secret for so long. It was trivial for them to redact the sources of the information. Once that was done, there was nothing sensitive in it. Makes one wonder what other non-sensitive documents are being withheld on bogus claims of secrecy (as a litigator, I'm well familiar with attorneys concocting preposterous reasons to keep documents secret--it happens all the time).

Stepping away from this specific document, has anyone else noticed what a terrible job Bush have done to combat terrorism, especially in comparison with Clinton? There was a plot to blow up LAX at New Years of 2000 (full disclosure: I flew out of LAX on Jan. 1, 2000, so I have a significant interest in the fact that it wasn't blown up). Clinton's cabinet had heard the same sort of vague rumors that something was afoot, and Clinton had daily meetings with the cabinet level secretaries to interrogate them about what they'd done to thwart this threat. When put under the gun, these people were forced to do things. In the end (and I'm not sure we know all the details, but the end is what matters), the plot didn't happen. In contrast, there were all sorts of rumors around in the summer of 2001 about a terrorist attack but no one did anything because W never had a meeting, much less daily meetings. It's a shame that 3000 people had to die to get his attention.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Iraq is a problem. Truthfully, though, I think that no one here can get good idea of the real situation there. One day I read about enterprise sprouting, see pictures of goods being sold in Baghdad, etc., and it's good. The next day there are our guys being burned. And now we have some sort of insurrection, but from here it's extraordinarily difficult to figure out what's really going on. It seems we are-right now!-going into Fallujah. To get the people who mutilated the Americans? If not, to do what?

And then this Sadr guy is stirring up all sorts of trouble. According to the Times, his private militias have taken over a whole city while the US forces say things like "We'll get him when we decide to." Do we want to? And is the Times right? What's really going on?

As a sidenote, wouldn't this be a swell time for Bremer to send in troops contributed from our close allies the Saudis? Surely the Saudis would be happy to help, seeing as we equip their air force, train their army, and saved them from Saddam, who was launching missiles at them. Surely they'd be happy to step in and keep thousands of Moslems certain death from fighting against us, right? Wait, huh? What? The Saudis aren't helping us in our hour of need? Shocking!

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I am angry about Iraq.

I am angry about what happened to those Americans. I am also very angry at our government. Why are we using these guys? Don't we have soldiers to do this? Why were they driving a Mitsubishi SUV and not an armored hummer? Oh, that's because the administration doesn't have enough armored hummers, and this page:
has a picture of GI's attaching a big BOX OF SAND to the back of one for "armor". I'm not making this up. WHY THE HELL ARE OUR SOLDIERS USING SAND FOR ARMOR? THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE BULLSHIT!

I'm angry that Donald Rumsfeld decided that we could rule Iraq with fewer soldiers than the Army wanted. We flat-out don't have enough soldiers there. Instead of admitting a mistake, the administration is now employing this Blackwater outfit. I'm sure they're very capable--the men who died are apparently either ex-special forces types. But we have to hire these mercenaries because we don't have enough soldiers there. And what other mercenary outfits are we hiring? I'm angry that we're not using soldiers, who must be better armed and at least are within some sort of command structure so they can more quickly call for help. We need more soldiers in Iraq.

I'm livid that this happened, because it's not surprising. We've managed to kill a hefty number of civilians in Fallujah. It doesn't matter how. Their fault, our fault, it doesn't matter. An elementary observation from Israel's nightmare is that killing people, even accidentally, makes things worse. Much worse.

I remember being physically ill when I saw the pictures from Mogadishu. And I'm angry because I'm not physically ill this time. I angry that I've apparently built a tolerance to seeing Americans burned and dragged through the street though cheering crowds. I hope this is the last time I see it, but I'm not optimistic. And that make me angriest of all.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Last night I made myself buffalo steak for dinner. It's tasty. I recommend it to everyone.

I suppose one should also support it because it's environmentally friendly, but in this case really it was all about a good steak.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Needless to say, I find this story pretty cool:

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Some people know that I'm virulently opposed to the White House's National Missile Defense plan. I didn't see the following story get much play (perhaps because of the Richard Clarke story) but I thought it was interesting:

I think national missile defense is a mistake. It becomes a gigantic mistake because it's so ridiculously expensive. We're spending lots and lots of money (how much did we spend on Reagen's Star Wars program?). It's certainly a nice idea--it would be great if we had such a system. But that doesn't make it good policy.

The basic problem is that it won't work. Why not? It's too hard. There's a reason we've walked on the moon but not on Mars. It's too hard. It won't work. Maybe it'll work in thirty years, but not now. The tests that've been done pretty much show that it's too hard (the "successes" happen in wildly unrealistic situations that do not in any way resemble the real world). Really, no other part of the debate matters. Because it's too hard, it doesn't matter whether we tick off the Ruskies, or what North Korea will do, or anything else.

But there are other reasons to not like it. Among them, there's no reason for it. Not to make an obvious point, but Mohammed Atta didn't attack Americans with missiles. There's talk of a "rogue nation" attacking us. Well, it's obviously North Korea, because if Russia wants to nuke us they could. North Korea may or may not be able to hit the west coast of America with a missile. (Obviously, it's a bit tough for them to test such a thing, so even if it's built, it's first run would be the attacking one.) But if they did, we'd invade immediately and crush them. It'd be a slaughter. There's no way they'd risk that. (Which is not to say that they couldn't hit Tokyo, but our system doesn't protect Tokyo.)

Next, if someone wanted to nuke San Francisco, why go to the trouble of sending a missile? It'd be far easier to stick a bomb in a shipping container, ship it here, and explode it in the middle of San Francisco Harbor. True, we're taking some action on tracking shipping containers, but not much. I don't know what the budget is, but we're not spending anywhere near the money we are on building a fancy exciting system (that won't work). Alternatively, they could drive it in from Mexico. These are real, legitimate problems. They present far more dangerous possibilities than Kim Jong Il signing his own death warrant. I fully support spending lots and lots of money to figure out how to track every single shipping container that ever enters the US. Period. But we're not devoting anywhere near the resources to these problems that we are to the impossible problem of shooting down missiles.

Finally, it's absurdly expensive. We're spending tons of money on a system that wouldn't do any good, that's unnecessary, and again WOULD NEVER WORK ANYWAY! IT WON'T WORK!!!!! If someone sticks a bomb in a minivan and nukes downtown New York City, it'll be small comfort to me that 49 retired generals and admirals agreed with me.