March 25, 2003

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary additivity I direct you to this page at's summarization and trending of the major 2004 General Election polls.

Posted by Avocare at 06:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2003

Gore In 2004?

It may be that the fat lady hasn't sung just yet. Today the Draft Gore 2004 Committee released a Zobgy poll in which Gore polled only nine points behind Bush (42% to 51%), even with his absence from the national political scene. Point of comparison: the other Democrat candidates lagged 12 to 33 points behind. You can read more about the poll here, and you can visit Draft Gore 2004 here.

Also of note: Non-candidate Hillary Clinton ranked second behind Gore, with 39% to Gore's 42% and Bush's 51%. But of course she's not running ... right?

Posted by Avocare at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

Latest Sign Of The Impending Apocalypse:

Holy smokes! According to this, Al Sharpton is now favored over all other 2004 presidential hopefuls among New York City Democrats:

"In New York City, Sharpton was the strongest [Democrat] with 13 percent of the vote, followed closely by [Sen. Joseph] Lieberman (12 percent) and [Rep. Richard] Gephardt (11 percent),"

Presumably you can see for yourself at the Zogby International web site, but the thing wouldn't load when I tried to visit ... overwhelmed with disbelieving fact-checkers, I'll bet. But hey, it's like P.J. says: Democracy is its own best form of punishment.

Posted by Avocare at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Another Friend Of France:

Zimbabwe President Mugabe, recent guest of Jacques Chirac, apparently doesn't appreciate the loyal opposition:

Forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe hunted down government opponents after a national strike, beating them with iron bars and whips, hospital officials and human rights groups said Monday.

The Zwakwana human rights monitoring group said at least 250 people have been treated in emergency wards of Harare since Thursday for broken bones, bruising and sexual assault in the attacks. At least one person has been killed, the opposition said.

Posted by Avocare at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

So That's The Gambit:

Today William Safire offers a very interesting analysis of Turkey's role in the Iraq war and what consequences they might ultimately face. The piece is worth reading for his analysis, but also for this aside at paragraph three:

The missions of these coalition forces are to prevent Saddam from torching the Kirkuk-Mosul oil fields and to engage Iraqi troops that would otherwise join the defense of Baghdad. Top Baath Party leaders tell my Kurdish friends that Saddam's strategy is to use guerrilla tactics to give France and Russia two weeks to negotiate a truce.

This makes an awful lot of sense given what we've seen in recent days. And the French and Russians would love nothing more than to broker a peace to international acclaim. We'll see how it plays out ... but does Saddam have two weeks to spare?

Posted by Avocare at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to this map of the current strategic force disposition in Iraq. (Link via Steve.)

Posted by Avocare at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

UPDATE: Because of a heads-up comment by a reader, I've removed the photo that was here. The reader was absolutely correct.

Posted by Avocare at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

It Must Be March:

Regular readers know I don't post much about sports, even though Kate and I often watch two games (of whatever) simultaneously. But today my Utes have a tourney match with Kentucky for the fifth time in eleven years. God help our team. Majerus notables:

"Ashley Judd came over and gave me a big hug. I think she felt sorry for me. That was the story of my sex life for the next two or three years."

"I like Kentucky people ... They're always nice to me. I guess it's easier to be nice when you're someone's doormat."

UPDATE: Alas, Utes lose again. At least some things you can count on ...

Posted by Avocare at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2003

Argumentation 101:

I'm sorry I missed this on Thursday ... it's been posted by others as well, but it's simply too classic for me to ignore:

In a unique form of opposition, some protesters at the Federal Building staged a "vomit in,'' by heaving on the sidewalks and plaza areas in the back and front of the building to show that the war in Iraq made them sick, according to a spokesman.

Posted by Avocare at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

A View From Baghdad:

This article, from the latest New Yorker and posted on their site just five days ago, is the most recent in a series of dispatches from Iraq by reporter Jon Lee Anderson. It discusses at some length the history of British intervention in Iraq, and implies how people may respond to the latest wave of western intervention. I strongly encourage you to read the piece. Also, Anderson writes:

Later, in a situation without minders or translators, I told a man who is highly placed in Baghdad that I had seen trenches and foxholes on the road to Kut, and he laughed. That was just to keep people busy doing things, he said. It was obvious that the regime did not intend to defend anything but Baghdad itself. The Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard had been pulled to Baghdad from the south and the north and had been dispersed throughout the city, in civilian areas. This seemed like a foolhardy policy to him, but there it was. “If everything else is gone,” he said, “then why fight for Baghdad? What is the point in that?”

Two days into the war, this certainly sounds like what we're seeing, no?

UPDATE: As a compliment to Anderson's article above, the New Yorker is also hosting this 1952 article by Joseph Wechsberg entitled Letter from Baghdad. It is a fascinating account of pre-Saddam Iraq, especially as a point of contrast. Example:

We cruised along Abu Nuwas Street, which is Baghdad's Broadway and skirts one bank of the river. As it grew dark, strings of colored bulbs were lighted up, and there was juke-box music in the cafés—noisy, bad jazz. The terraces of the cafés were crowded with men—only men, and thousands of them. (Like all other Moslems, Iraqi men feel that the place for women is in the home.) They were sipping coffee or soft drinks and carrying on vigorous arguments—most of them probably about local politics, my companion said. The river was full of boats and on one of them some men were holding a muzgoof—an open-air fish roast at which quantities of shabbut, a Tigris fish that is highly rated locally, are consumed. In the "Notes for American Visitors to Baghdad," published by the American Embassy, I read that, according to many connoisseurs, fish at a muzgoof "is enjoyed most when eaten with the fingers." (Other practical hints for visiting Americans: "In the movie houses Americans usually sit in box seats. . . . There are various Arab-style cabarets but it is recommended that you visit them in the company of Iraqi friends. . . . Baghdad taxis have no meters, and you should bargain with the driver regarding the fare before you get into the cab.")

Posted by Avocare at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

Road Dispatch:

My most recent week of travel, Monday to Friday, was Philly-Detroit-Philly-Washington DC-Philly-Minneapolis-Philly. I posted Road Dispatches from Detroit (which included conversations with an Iraqi cab driver) here and Washington (which included observations of how DC residents now think about sirens) here, and have some final thoughts from the Minneapolis trip.

For the most part, Minneapolis was an experience of the war as a non-event more than event. Shock and awe more appropriately described the looks on the faces of leisure travelers as they saw the very long security lines at the airport ... longer than usual due to the beefed-up efforts of the TSA ... than it did our air campaign. Otherwise, life in the airports was completely normal save what was on the TVs, which served a steady diet of war-hoops-war-war-hoops-war.

One highlight: another cabbie experience, this time an Ethiopian ... who was beside himself that the American public and the world did not fully support our efforts. "Saddam is a criminal, a madman," he said. Interesting, in all my travels, I have yet to speak with a single immigrant from the Middle East or Africa who does not support our action ... is it possible they have a perspective in coming to America that others (including many of our own citizens) do not?

Posted by Avocare at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

Tom Ridge M&M Update:

FedEx tracking information says that my Homeland Security Alert System M&M Pack was delivered to Tom Ridge's office, safe and sound. What they've done to it since (presuming that it comes from some nutcase, I'm sure), God only knows. But maybe, just maybe, on Tom's desk sits a bowl of M&Ms bursting with green, blue, yellow, orange, and red.

Posted by Avocare at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Posted by Avocare at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

Comments Update:

I disabled the comments several days ago because of server drag, and today I've launched a new comment tool ... so spin away.

Posted by Avocare at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Blair's Influence:

This article from the Telegraph claims that Tony Blair played a key roll in stopping President Bush from attacking Iraq immediately after 9/11. (Thanks to Colin for the tip.)

Posted by Avocare at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2003

And You Thought O'Hare Was Rough:

Jim forwards an amazing link: the Kuwait International Airport. Yes, they are still in action. You can check arrivals here, and departures here.

Posted by Avocare at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

Impulses To Duty:

Meetings and travel all day ... for your regular blog fix, please see The Command Post, which is updated by the minute.

Posted by Avocare at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

World Editorial Roundup:

A summary of Op/Ed stories from the world's papers:

The Times of London says that protesters should be careful not to overplay their hand

The Sydney Morning Herald writes of A Steady, Sure War In Iraq

The Toronto Sun takes Chretien to task (good!) in an Op/Ed headed Chretien Breaks Ranks

Frankfurter Allgemeine writes of Cold War

The Times of India wonders about an economic War Boom

The Taipei Ed page leads From Baghdad to Taipei

Ha'aretz writes of the balance Between Anxiety And Routine in Israel

The Baharain Tribune writes that This Is A Shameful War

Posted by Avocare at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the American Press Institute's Journalist's Toolbox.

Posted by Avocare at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

The Latest Sign Of The Apocalypse:

Monica Lewinsky has her own TV show ...

Posted by Avocare at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2003

Out Of Pocket:

Going to be away from the blog for a few hours. If you're looking for news and updates, visit our other project, The Commad Post. It's could be the best source of current info about the war running ...

Posted by Avocare at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

M&M Homeland Security Alert Pack:

They're in. Wonder if Tom Ridge has recieved his set yet ...

Posted by Avocare at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Except, This Just In:

How's this for a headline: Bin Laden Chose 9/11 Targets, Al Qaeda Leader Says

Posted by Avocare at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

Three Last Words:

Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Posted by Avocare at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2003

A Respite:

For those visiting for the first time because of links from Michele, Lesley, and others: Welcome. If the page took some time to load, my apologies ... being hosted at BlogSpot, I remain at the mercy of their server infrastructure which, at times, sucks. Tonight, when every blogger in the free world is posting about our "decapitation" strikes, is undoubtedly one of those times.

Look around, read some posts, follow some links. Poke around the archives (there aren't many ... this blog is only two months old), vote in the Right Column poll, or explore the fascinating lessons of the M&M Doctrine. I hope you come back often.

That said, when Condi Rice goes to bed, I go to bed. And she has, so I will. Let's all hope for good news in the morning.

Posted by Avocare at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

More Madness:

Lesley is hosting a bragging-rights, no cash NCAA pool over at Plum Crazy. You think you got game? We'll see if you got game ...

Posted by Avocare at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

And So It Begins:

"The opening stages of the disarmament of the Iraqi regime have begun. The President will address the nation at 10:15."

Posted by Avocare at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to ReefBase, a fascinating "global information system on coral reefs."

Posted by Avocare at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Update From Salam:

For those who do not use blogrolling or another auto-ping blogroll tool, Salam has posted another update from Baghdad.

It is even too late for last minute things to buy, there are too few shops open. We went again for a drive thru Baghdad’s main streets. Too depressing. I have never seen Baghdad like this. Today the Ba’ath party people started taking their places in the trenches and main squares and intersections, fully armed and freshly shaven. They looked too clean and well groomed to defend anything. And the most shocking thing was the number of kids. They couldn’t be older than 20 ...

Posted by Avocare at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

Homeland Security M&M Update:

Today M&M Colorworks notified me that the M&M Homeland Security Pack I sent to Tom Ridge has shipped. Track the package as it makes its way to Secretary Ridge! Click here, and enter this tracking number: 621837716701.

Posted by Avocare at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

Road Dispatch -- Washington, D.C.:

Today I find myself in Washington. Surprisingly, things in the District don't seem as orange as I expected. Several things did, however, stand out:

The police presence has certainly increased in the train stations ... more evident in Philadelphia than in D.C. 30th Street Station had significantly more Amtrak police than usual walking about, and two K-9 teams with burly German Shepherds on short leashes (one of which decided it wanted to play and started barking at the other ... which made all the nervous types in the station jump and spill their coffee).

A number of government officials were making their way to the District on "special business" ... my train had at least two politicos/bureaucrats on-board (members of the New Jersey congressional delegation, perhaps?) who were heading to (my presumption) the Hill, one for some type of intelligence briefing.

I sat next to a Navy Captain from New Jersey who was also heading into the District ... "for some stuff," he said (after telling someone on his cell that he had "responded to that email on the secret website." I remember thinking, "I hope he means 'secret' as in 'for classified information only' ... otherwise, how much of a secret could it be?").

Another Amtrak first on the way back ... an armed and very burly Amtrak police officer made his way through the length of the train as we left the station ... just walking the isle, checking out the passengers.

With the exception of these notables, the District itself was remarkably normal ... more so than I thought it would be. In retrospect I'm not certain what I was looking for. I just expected a different vibe ... more tense ... more coiled ... than I felt.

There was one exception. At one point during lunch, the peal of sirens rang out as an ambulance made its way down H street. As it did, many people stopped, or dropped their conversation an octave, and made a side-long glance out the window. Sirens in the streets of Washington are not unusual ... this collective pause at hearing one was. I remarked on this to my colleague, who's worked in the District for 40 years.

"Yeah," he said, "Now when you hear a siren, you expect to look out that window and see a column of smoke."

Posted by Avocare at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2003

Impulses To Duty:

Forgive the light posting Wednesday a.m. ... duty calls ... but I can forecast that tomorrow Tracking The Candidates will turn it's harsh and blinding light upon Joe Biden.

Posted by Avocare at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

A View From The Front:

Jeff forwards this link to a blog from a soldier at the front ... Lt. Smash.

Posted by Avocare at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

Nuts Among The Nuts:

A tractor in the reflecting pool ... but how do you tell this guy from the residents? (Thanks to Todd ...)

Posted by Avocare at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

A New Perspective:

As I watch CNN coverage of today's demonstration in the streets of Baghdad, I listen to Iraqi citizens posture ... "Let him come here ... we will fight with sticks," they say.

And I immediately think of my cab driver today ... "... in Iraq, if I mention anything, they would kill my family” ... and I'm sure these Iraqi camera-mongers are anything but sincere.

Posted by Avocare at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

Dispatch From Baghdad:

Salam checks in with the latest from Baghdad. If you've read his blog, I'm sure you'll hope for his safety in coming days.

A couple of weeks ago journalists were exasperated by that fact that Iraqis just went on with their lives and did not panic, well today there is a very different picture. It is actually a bit scary and very disturbing ...

Posted by Avocare at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

Tony Blair Defines Leadership:

Today, Tony Blair exemplified leadership for Britains, democracies, and the world. His speech lasted 55-minutes, was rational, and was impassioned. It was, I my view, one of the great examples of executive discourse in modern history. Eloquent. Bold. Clear. He opened with:

This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course we have set.

I believe we must hold firm.

The question most often posed is not why does it matter? But: why does it matter so much? Here we are: the Government with its most serious test, its majority at risk, the first Cabinet resignation over an issue of policy. The main parties divided.

People who agree on everything else, disagree on this and likewise, those who never agree on anything, finding common cause.

The country and Parliament reflect each other: a debate that, as time has gone on has become less bitter but not less grave.

So: why does it matter so much?

Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people, for so long brutalised by Saddam. It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st Century; the development of the UN; the relationship between Europe and the US; the relations within the EU and the way the US engages with the rest of the world.

It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation ...

And he closed with this:

And if this House now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, that British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning, and that is what it means - what then?

What will Saddam feel? Strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states who tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, what will they take from that? That the will confronting them is decaying and feeble.

Who will celebrate and who will weep?

And if our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the MEPP, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence?

This House wanted this decision. Well it has it. Those are the choices. And in this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no cause ideal.

But on this decision hangs the fate of many things.

I can think of many things, of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century and beat it, of the Iraqi people groaning under years of dictatorship, of our armed forces - brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear - of the institutions and alliances that shape our world for years to come.

To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest, turn the United Nations back into a talking shop, stifle the first steps of progress in the Middle East; leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events on which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better.

Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered. I will not be party to such a course. This is not the time to falter. This is the time for this House, not just this government or indeed this Prime Minister, but for this House to give a lead, to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing.

Courage indeed. Do yourself a favor: go here to read the entire speech, or here to watch in in RealPlayer, or here to watch it in Media Player.

Posted by Avocare at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

Road Dispatch & My Time With An Iraqi Ex-Pat:

This is a bit rushed, and I hope it comes across as at least semi-lucid. I write this from Detroit, Michigan – home of the largest Arab-American community in the United States. Things here are, for the most part, distinctly more orange than they were yesterday.

Security at the office building where I spent most of the day was certainly tighter than normal … the guards made a closer inspection of my ID, and for the first time in 10 years of running in and out of office buildings, actually asked that I return my temporary badge as I left the building. Outside, as I waited for my cab, I noticed another guard – this time checking the credentials of vehicles (vans, mostly) idling out front.

As I watched, it occurred to me in a sort of detached way that I was standing in a place where people were looking for car bombs. A first for me.

More interesting was the cab ride to the airport. I usually try to strike up a conversation with cabbies … my father taught me it was the best way to predict local elections … and as I started talking to this gent it was clear he was an immigrant from the Middle East.

I asked him what he thought of the war. In broken English, he first said he felt sorry for the Iraqi people, and for the American soldiers. He hated to see harm come to them. ”I love humans,” he said, ”but this is the only way. I do not want this war, but he is a madman. A criminal.”

I asked him where he immigrated from. He answered Iraq.

We talked about his views for the next 20 minutes. For me, it was a very important conversation. Through the course of those twenty minutes, the cab driver told me that he moved to the States after the Gulf War. He told me of his quick acceptance into his local community, and of his view on America: ”I love America, and the people … they have shown me great hospitality. This is a great land … in Iraq, if I mention anything, they would kill my family.”

He still has a brother and sister in Baghdad. He would return to Iraq, though … if he could. If Saddam was gone. ”I love it here, but it is not easy … I must learn the culture, and the climate, and the law system, which is important … but this country has given me legitimacy.”

He also very much disagrees with fundamentalists … ”they are not religious, they are politicians and criminals,” he said. ”they are the worst people in the world … people who kill innocents are not religious.” And he’s not concerned with constructing a legitimate post-war government in Iraq, even with the different views of Shias and Kurds … ”there are good people,” he said.

Finally, he told me that 99% of the people in his community support the President. And he is grateful for our resolve: ”America does not deserve this war, and I hope for the American soldiers.”

It was time to pay my fare. As we pulled up to the terminal, I asked if Saddam would ever accept exile. His answer: ”No … I don’t think so. He is a madman … a criminal. He kills his own people, his own family … he would not do what you or I would do. I think this (war) is the only way.”

It was a fascinating 20 minutes. I was good to hear the perspective of at least one Iraqi ex-pat in person. And on the whole, we agreed ... but on this last count, I hope he’s dead wrong.

Posted by Avocare at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

The World Reacts:

A brief summary of reactions from the editorial pages of world newspapers:

The International Herald Tribune notes Abandoning efforts to secure a United Nations resolution, the United States is about to go to war in the name of a largely disappointed, reluctant and critical world.

The Times of London discusses Tony Blair's prospects under the headline Air Of Resignation

Haaretz (Israel) writes of An Inevitable War In Iraq

The Japan Times posts an article headlined UN Still A Valuable Forum

The Prague Post offers the thoughts of an Iraqi ex-pat under the headline Ex-Prisoner Says Hussein Ouster Justified

The China People's Daily writes American Empire Steps Up Fourth Expansion

Pravda wonders "If Iraq has not followed its obligations, why can't the world see proof?"

The Nation (Pakistan) writes Attack Will Be Immoral

Posted by Avocare at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2003

Send A Word Of Support:

John Hawkins of Right Wing News and Scott Ott of Scrappleface have started posts where you can leave messages to our troops abroad (many of whom read both blogs). Further, Michele at A Small Victory plans to print and include a full set of both comments in the TroopTrax packages she's sending. If you're of the mind, offer your thoughts to the troops here for RWN and here for Scrappleface. To learn more about TroopTrax, go here.

Posted by Avocare at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

I'll Skip The Spin:

I'm sure blogs everywhere are pinging with commentary about the President's speech ... commentary that is hopefullly slightly less breathless than that in the popular press. Me ... I don't think I'll comment. As Pejman wrote today, I feel we've all said enough. This, however, is still worth saying: I am deeply proud to be an American citizen, and I feel a profound respect for our troops overseas. I reserve all hope for a peaceful, miraculous resolution in the next 48 hours, and should one not come, all hope for the well being of our troops, our citizens, and the people of the region.

Posted by Avocare at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

A Master Of The Form:

Rachel Lucas has just posted a rant about Michael Moore that is not only funny, but which should be in the Blogger Encyclopedia entry for "Rant." Go, read, and learn From. A. Master.

Posted by Avocare at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

The Latest From Baghdad:

Fellow blogger Salam checks in from Baghdad:

impossibly long lines in front of gas stations last night, some even had two police cars in front of them to make sure to no "incidents" occur ... the cities of Rawa and Anna are so full of people now you wouldn't find a hut to rent, it was pretty safe to be there during the first war and people who have the money are renting places there hoping that it will be safe this time ...

Posted by Avocare at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

Daily Laugh:

Ricky West ... like school in the summertime.

Posted by Avocare at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

Helen's "Bias":

There have been a number of blog entries recently regarding whether White House press corps Grande Dame Helen Thomas does or does not reflect a distinct anti-conflict media bias when reporting on Iraq. I won't weigh in ... rather, you read this exchange between Thomas and Ari Fleischer during last Friday's White House press briefing and draw your own conclusions:


Q Will you ask -- Ari, will you ask the President for me and for many, many others, has he really weighed the human cost on both sides, starting a war to go after one man?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, this is not a war to go after one man. This is a war, if there is a war, to go after one regime led by Saddam Hussein that possesses weapons of mass destruction that can take the lives of millions. That's why the United Nations called on Saddam Hussein to disarm. It is because Iran

-- Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and that is the core of the issue. They have not disarmed.

And we'll presume, for now, that Fleischer's invocation of Iran was nothing more than a Freudian slip.

Posted by Avocare at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

Blogs As "Mainstream" -- Are We There Yet?

The Annenberg Online Journalism Review asks the question (for the 258th time), "Have weblogs gone mainstream?"

So Dr. Pepper using blogs for marketing isn't mainstream enough, huh?'s Erik Hesseldahl doesn't mince words when he introduces Forbes' picks for Best Tech Blogs: " the Internet sensation of the moment." Forget that Forbes chose Slashdot, more of an online community than weblog, as its top pick in technology. The fact that itself is choosing the best blogs at all is a sign of mainstream success, folks.

Posted by Avocare at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

It's About The Reconstruction Contracts!

Get ready for Round 2 of the "Bush is persecuting this war to support vested capitalist interests" argument ... this time about how the government will parse out reconstruction contracts to insiders. The press is already sewing the debate ... today Malaysiakini reports:

Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a division of the Houston-based oil services company Halliburton, has won a Pentagon contract to assess and rehabilitate possible damage to Iraq's oil infrastructure, in case Saddam Hussein sets his oilfields ablaze following a US military strike.

... while Page 1 of today's Wall Street Journal offers significantly more detail. As the WSJ requires registration, I'll provide the highlights:

The Bush administration's audacious plan to rebuild Iraq envisions a sweeping overhaul of Iraqi society within a year of a war's end, but leaves much of the work to private U.S. companies.

The Bush plan, as detailed in more than 100 pages of confidential contract documents, would sideline United Nations development agencies and other multilateral organizations that have long directed reconstruction efforts in places such as Afghanistan and Kosovo. The plan also would leave big nongovernmental organizations largely in the lurch: With more than $1.5 billion in Iraq work being offered to private U.S. companies under the plan, just $50 million is so far earmarked for a small number of groups such as CARE and Save the Children.

Within weeks of a war ending, the administration plans to begin everything from repairing Iraqi roads, schools and hospitals to revamping its financial rules and government payroll system. Agencies such as the U.S. Treasury Department would be deeply involved in overhauling the country's central bank, and some U.S. government officials would serve as "shadow ministers" to oversee Baghdad's bureaucracies.

The White House is expected to ask Congress for as much as $100 billion to wage a war in Iraq and pay for the aftermath. Included in this would be a request for $1.8 billion this year for reconstruction and about $800 million for relief assistance. However, the U.N. Development Program estimates that reconstruction alone could cost $10 billion a year over three years.

Chris Patten, head of the European Union's external relations, has slammed the Bush plan as "maladroit," and suggested in a speech last week that the EU wouldn't contribute to rebuilding unless the U.N. led the effort. A German official said the U.S. should be "magnanimous" in an expected military victory, enlisting European partners in the cleanup.

Senior U.S. administration officials say problems in rebuilding Afghanistan -- including work on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway, a pivotal project that is proceeding slowly -- prove that a multilateral approach only slows postwar assistance. "At least to start, we intend to handle the big jobs ourselves," said one Bush official closely involved in the postwar planning.

Much of the heaviest work will fall to U.S. companies through a growing web of contracts with the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID is expected this week to pick the prime contractor for a $900 million job rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, including highways, bridges, airports and government buildings. The agency is also contracting for five other large jobs, worth a total of between $300 million and $500 million, administering Iraq's seaport and international airports, revamping its schools and health-care system, and handling large scale logistics such as water transport. The Army Corps of Engineers is also taking bids for work worth up to $500 million for building projects such as roadways and military barracks. Additional contracts to refurbish Iraq's neglected oil industry would likely be handled through the U.N., which currently administers Iraq's oil exports.

Four groups of U.S. companies are competing for the $900 million contract, which was put out for bids in secret last month. The companies were picked under rules that allow U.S. agencies to skirt open and competitive bidding procedures to meet emergency needs. All have done government work for years and have deep political ties to Washington. Vice President Dick Cheney once served as head of Halliburton Co., whose subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root is part of one bidding consortium.

Other big bidders are Bechtel Group Inc.; Parsons Corp., which has allied with Brown & Root; and Louis Berger Group and Fluor Corp., which are bidding as a team. These companies made political contributions of a combined $2.8 million between 1999 and 2002, more than two-thirds of which went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group. Bechtel was the largest single donor, having given $1.3 million in political contributions. Another bidder is Washington Group International Inc.

Posted by Avocare at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

Noonan, Bush, And Palestine:

Peggy Noonan posts this today at OpinionJournal (no registration required). The article discusses the Bush administration's announcement last Friday that the US will soon broach a new Palestinian/Israeli peach initiative. The article is typical Noonan, eloquent, direct, conservative ... and also a bit surprising, especially for her foresight in this analysis:

Mr. Bush's move seems to acknowledge and bow to the vague desires of the world regarding a broad new peace plan, without doing anything to blunt his arguments for removal of Saddam Hussein. Calling for an end to Israeli settlement activity, and announcing increased international support for new Palestinian representatives, is probably meant in some degree as a palliative to Europeans, who feel the United States is harsh toward Palestinians and blindly loyal to Israel. And Mr. Bush's remarks implicitly acknowledged that Iraq is not the only piece in the Mideast puzzle, that the administration has no illusions that once Iraq is settled peace will break out. All the parties in the Mideast have their claims, and the United States does itself no harm in reminding the world it is aware of this.

Maybe most important at the moment, references to future Mideast peace moves helps people--not only the major players in the area but others--think about the future. Because it reminds them there is a future. In a world in which half the people of half the countries on the planet seem to have constant upset stomachs from war tensions, the announcement of future plans for future moves for a future peace seems a relief. So is the fact that Mr. Bush in his remarks seemed to be reminding the world that no, his administration is not actually the Washington wing of the Likud Party.

And she's right. Tomorrow we may be at war, and there is some comfort in knowing the administration is thinking about addressing problems closer to the root of the issues ... even if that thinking is coming along later rather than sooner.

Posted by Avocare at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

Daily Distraction:


As seen on TV. (Link from Tony.)

Posted by Avocare at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to DefenseLINK, the official web site of the US Department of Defense.

Posted by Avocare at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2003

Tracking Howard Dean:

The focus on this week's Tracking The Candidates subject, Howard Dean, continues with this position summary (via MSNBC):

The economy: Believes that the "reckless" 2001 tax cuts should be repealed, that the budget should be balanced and new spending focused on health and education.

Energy policy: Believes U.S. energy policy should stress "conservation and renewables, including wind, biomass, ethanol and solar." Says U.S. dependence on foreign oil is "one of our biggest security threats" but is opposed to exploration for gas and oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Foreign policy: Points to the post-World War II Marshall Plan as "the greatest advance in American foreign policy in the last century" and says that U.S. foreign policy "ought to embrace nation building, not run from it." He opposed the congressional resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

Terrorism: Supports the administration's war on terror but believes America "has withdrawn from the world" in ways that make it vulnerable to terrorists. "We have to get populations to stop supporting terrorists. And what I’m interested in is changing Afghanistan, changing what’s going on … among the Palestinians, so that there is no base of support for those terrorists. And that involves more than just military action."

Social Security: Would use some of the money saved by rescinding the Bush tax cuts to shore up the Social Security system.

Thumbnail sketch: A physician and the son of a stockbroker, the former Vermont governor fashions himself as a plainspoken outsider who is running in the mold of Jimmy Carter. He trumpets as his chief accomplishments solving his state's debt crisis and enacting sweeping health care initiatives and vows to focus on those issues if he is elected president.

Posted by Avocare at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

The M&M Doctrine:

Hmmm ... while poking around the M&Ms site I came across a map of how the world voted in the latest "pick the new color" contest ... and I'll be damned if it doesn't mirror current UN entrenchment. Get a load of this:

Selecting Purple
United States
Czech Republic

Selecting Teal
North Korea

Selecting Pink
Saudi Arabia

Think I'm joking? See for yourself. Now, any thoughts regarding what this tells us about the dynamics of international diplomacy? Could we be on the precipice of the "M&M Doctrine?" You know ... No nation selecting purple has ever waged war against another nation selecting purple?

Posted by Avocare at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

Pick Your Color:

Lesley is hosting a poll where you can cast your vote for the new Homeland Security Threat color. Me? I like Mauve.

Of course, taking Lesley's poll gave me and idea -- why not have the threat levels match the current M&M colors? Or better yet, why not have the M&M colors match the current threat levels?

So that's what I did. Go to the M&M Colorworks Site and you can pick and buy your own colors. So I created a new M&M set: The Homeland Security Pack: Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, and Red. I figure it will look a little something like this:

I placed an order for myself, and then thought "You know, I bet some M&Ms would really brighten Tom Ridge's day!" So I sent some to him, too. I'll let you know if I get a thank you note in return.

Posted by Avocare at 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

We've Started Early:

Don't know how y'all are spending your Sunday, but here in Berwyn we've decided it's already St. Paddy's day. The weather is beautiful, I've washed the car, and of course, Cassidy is thrilled. For the rest of the afternoon Kate and I have settled in for the ACC Final and NCAA selection show. And to add authenticity to the moment, we're enjoying Kate's homemade Irish soda bread and my green beer, with corned beef, cabbage, coleslaw, and potatoes to follow tonight.

We're having a great time, and y'all are welcome over ... I can't vouch for the company (excluding Katie, of course), but the beer's cold. (Green, but cold.)

Posted by Avocare at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Current Commission Chair: Libya, an appointment to which you can read the official US reaction here. (Thanks to Colin for the inspiration and link.)

Posted by Avocare at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

Ahead Of The Curve:

Garry Trudeau rips off Michele.

Posted by Avocare at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Primer On Halabja:

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Iraqi use of chemical weapons in Halabja, a Kurdish town in Northern Iraq. As I've talked with people about Halabja, it's become clear that while the popular press has fostered a general appreciation that the Hussein regime has used chemical weapons on its own people, few appreciate the scope or the consequences of the campaign. Indeed, few people know that Hussein killed over 5,000 of his own citizens in Halabja, and that in the larger Anfal campaign over 200 villages and nearly 25,000 people were victims of chemical weapons.

Accordingly I'm offering a brief primer here. First, the basic facts:

Halabja is a small town in the governorate of Sualimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan. It lies 250 km north-east of Baghdad and 11 kilometers from the Iranian border.

The attack on the town, which had roughly 45,000 residents at the time, occurred in the early hours of March 16, 1988.

The attack still stands as the largest use of chemical weapons on a civilian population in history.

The Iraqis used a "cocktail" of mustard gas (which affects skin, eyes and the membranes of the nose, throat and lungs), and the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX. The chemicals to which the people were exposed drenched their skin and clothes, affected their respiratory tracts and eyes and contaminated their water and food. Many people simply fell dead where they were, immediate casualties of the attack.

Casualty estimates stand at 5,000 dead, 10,000 injured, although these estimates to not account for long-term health effects on survivors, which many estimate to be severe (see the Christine Gosden link below).

The web offers a large volume of material on Halabja, but here some links I recommend:

The Kurdistan Regional Government presents a good overview of Halabja here, which includes a link to a slide show of photos of the aftermath which I'll note as difficult viewing.

Human Rights Watch offers a report on the Anfal Campaign, of which Halabja was a part, here. In addition to documenting examples of chemical weapon use in the Appendix, the report also documents numerous mass killings and disappearances by Iraqi forces.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party offers an overview of Halabja here, including poetry and songs about the attack ... but note that the page includes a number of graphic photos of victims.

Christine Gosden, a professor of medical genetics, went to Halabja 10 years after the attack to explore the long-term consequences on the population. The Washington Post published her chilling story shortly thereafter, which you can read here. In it, she notes:

What I found was far worse than anything I had suspected, devastating problems occurring 10 years after the attack. These chemicals seriously affected people's eyes and respiratory and neurological systems. Many became blind. Skin disorders which involve severe scarring are frequent, and many progress to skin cancer. Working in conjunction with the doctors in the area, I compared the frequency of these conditions such as infertility, congenital malformations and cancers (including skin, head, neck, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, breast and childhood cancers) in those who were in Halabja at the time with an unexposed population from a city in the same region. We found the frequencies in Halabja are at least three to four times greater, even 10 years after the attack. An increasing number of children are dying each year of leukemias and lymphomas. The cancers tend to occur in much younger people in Halabja than elsewhere, and many people have aggressive tumors, so that mortality rates are high. No chemotherapy or radiotherapy is available in this region.

She also published a follow-up article in the Post one year later, which you can read here.

In 1989 the Physicians for Human Rights issued a report of a medical mission to Turkish Kurdistan, titled Winds of Death. You can view the full report here. This is an excellent summary; required reading. There is also a documentary about this mission, also titled Winds of Death, but I was unable to learn much more about the film on the web. If I find it, I'll post an update.

It shouldn't pass unnoticed that it's these same chemical weapons for which Iraq has been unable to evidence destruction or disarmament. Indeed, the only thing Iraq has been able to demonstrate, is their use.

Posted by Avocare at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2003

World Heath Alert:

The World Heath Organization has issued a global travel advisory fearing a severe form of pneumonia that has killed eight may be spreading. You can read the story here, and read the advisory at WHO here.

Posted by Avocare at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

Photos Worth Seeing:

In finding an image for the Working Girl post below I found this site by photographer Mark Dahmke. It's a collection of WTC shots he took between 1974 and 1981, many from the observation deck. Windows On The World (the restaurant and bar at the top of the towers, for those who don't know) was a special place for me ... a place I'd go to celebrate business victories when in the City. Even with all it's kitsch, the place always excited my Salt Lake sensibilities, and I never tired of going there. Looking at Mark's shots, I felt I had again, if only for a moment.

Posted by Avocare at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the USA Freedom Corps, where you can find a volunteer opportunity near you.

Posted by Avocare at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

A Wonderful Moment:

In looking to have some background for my blogging I asked the TiVo to start playing Working Girl. I'd forgotten how the film starts ... with a tight shot of the face of Lady Liberty, slowly rotating out and panning wide, until ultimately, the screen fills with a shot of the Staten Island Ferry steaming straight toward lower Manhattan, the twin spires of the World Trade Center rising in the distance, all set to Carly Simon's "Let The River Run."

It looks just as I remember it: majestic, awesome, bold.

It's a great intro ... almost worth the rental all by itself.

Posted by Avocare at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2003


You have to love Betsy ... here she is using John Fund to stick the double-standard sword into the heart of celebripundits.

Posted by Avocare at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

Hey! I'm A Ram Fan!

Not that this is of interest to most, but I'm honor-bound to note that Colorado State has just upset BYU in the Mountain West semi-finals. As people who know me know, my favorite teams are Utah, and whoever plays BYU. And tonight, I'm the biggest Ram fan in the world.

Quick ... what's the difference between a BYU coed and Bigfoot?

One weighs 586 pounds and sweats, and the other has big feet.

UPDATE: And it's a good thing I'm a Ram fan tonight ... 'cause the Utes sure as hell didn't get it done against UNLV ...

Posted by Avocare at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

The Amber Behind AMBER:

First, thank you to Rachel Lucas for linking to my AMBER post. I don't care what you think about Rachel's politics: Rachel rocks. Second, it turns out that this issue is close to Rachel's heart ... Amber Hagerman, the young girl whose death inspired the AMBER Alert, was from Rachel's hometown -- indeed, was from Rachel's neighborhood -- in Arlington, Texas. Rachel posts a very poignant account of Amber's story, which you can read here.

Posted by Avocare at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

AMBER Alert -- How You Can Help:

With all the talk of war everyone keeps saying they want something to feel good about.

Request granted.

Elizabeth Smart's homecoming again brought to national attention the AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert Plan. Under this plan, immediately after a child has been kidnapped and is considered endangered, law enforcement officers launch an Amber Alert by informing broadcast media of critical details, including a description of the suspect and his or her vehicle. Radio and TV stations then use an Emergency Alert System to interrupt their programming with the emergency information.

And there's a way bloggers and blog readers can help: CodeAmber offers a Java ticker that provides streaming updates of AMBER Alerts nationwide, with information about the abducted child and abductor, updates, numbers to call, and the ability to email the alert to others.

As you can see, I am sporting the ticker above.

If you're of the mind, please get the the ticker and post it prominently. You can get the ticker here.

CodeAmber also offers some banners and buttons, but in my mind the buttons don't do the job ... if any artists out there are willing to gin up some .gif button ideas, that would be ideal. You can email .gifs to me at avocare at comcast dot net.

You can also learn more about AMBER Alert here and here ... this last site also provides updates on efforts to institute the AMBER Alert process on a national scale, an effort currently being politicized in the US Congress.

UPDATE: I've contacted CodeAmber to explore posting their "Make A Donation" button as well ... will let you know what I learn.

UPDATE: CodeAmber is happy to have other sites host their donation button. As their site notes: went live on August 23rd, 2002. Since that time we have grown rapidly ... to help defray the server and administrative expense associated with providing the CodeAmber ticker we are accepting donations through PayPal. Every little bit helps.

If you wish to host the donation button, email me and I'll forward the code.

Posted by Avocare at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the blog of the Australian Libertarian Society. Not only of interest for libertarians, the site also offers a down-under perspective on the US and global affairs. Via Samizdata.

Posted by Avocare at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2003

Tracking Howard Dean:

Dean Week continues with this article in The Nation. Highlights:

Dean takes pleasure in being an odd duck--ardently pro-choice; opposed to new, federal gun control; in favor of expanding the social safety net; and fiscally conservative. He slams the Bush tax cuts for making no economic sense and for having little stimulus effect. But what would this balanced-budget hawk do to rev up the sluggish economy and help the jobless? "What we should be pushing for," he says, "is a public works situation in which we invest in water and sewers and roads and rail and airport and schools..."

But wait, that's not all!

Pro: The Howard Dean 2004 Blog

Con: Republican Nat. Committee on Dean

Posted by Avocare at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

Another Sign Of The Impending Apocalypse:

Norman Lear to co-write South Park. Possible episode titles:

Cartman And Son

All In The Family, Too!: The Life And Times Of Archie Garrison

The Jeffersons: Movin' Out West!

Oh My God! They Killed Maude!

Link via Asparagirl (who lives here)

Posted by Avocare at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

Leadership, Character, And The Pursuit Of Noble Ends:

Most people misunderstand Machiavelli -- they know him for his general advice to leaders: that the ends justify the means, and that in considering those means, an effective leader must, at times, choose not to be “good.” What people miss is that Machiavelli argued that the ends any leader must ultimately secure are the well-being and security of the people he or she leads … as such, at the end of the day, the ends must be noble.

I was thinking about this nuance of political theory last night at dinner … considering this turn of interpretation in light of what we’ve seen from the players on our current diplomatic stage.

The fact of the matter is that, from a position of real-politick, I’ve not disparaged Chirac for his stance or his maneuvering. It’s clear to me that his interest in peace is likely genuine, but that it’s a thin veneer. He’s also motivated by a desire to position France as the counter-pole to the US in the global political dynamic, and also likely by an economic interest in trade with Iraq. And he should indeed pursue those ends … he represents the people of France, not the US, and his ends should reflect what he considers to be their best interest.

We’ve almost been browbeaten with bloggers considering the same issues with Bush – what are the ends that justify his means? Here the positions are more deeply entrenched (and further apart). Many don’t trust the arguments of the administration and believe it’s “all about the oil”; others believe this is about a change of regime inspired by humanitarianism and a belief in each human being’s right to basic human freedoms and self-determination.

Tony Blair is a more difficult case … an initial glance suggests that he may not be doing what’s in the best interest of his electors … that the means of a war in Iraq justify no obvious ends for the average Britain … and this is why he’s likely near the end of his political career.

Kofi Annan may be the most simple case … he must simply play the role of arbiter. His means are set forth in the administrative charter of the United Nations, and his constituents are its principles. For him, justification lies in ensuring the member nations follow the process, and to the greatest extent he can ensure, embody those principles.

And Saddam Hussein is the misinterpretation of Machiavelli embodied in flesh. He believes his ends always justify his means … ends of self gratification and power. Ends that are in no way noble.

Which raises the point: what are the noble ends? Because I believe the answer to this question has now changed for all of these leaders. War in Iraq, should it come, is a global consequence to a global diplomatic failure. The possibility of further regional destabilization, the effects on the Israeli / Palestinian peace process, the ability to further deter nuclear proliferation … for Chirac and Bush and Blair and the others, the universe of outcomes they must consider involves consequences that now extend far beyond the traditional evaluation of what’s in the best interest of their constituents.

These are global consequences, and these leaders must now act with global leadership. Their constituency is not their electors, it is the world. And it is in this light that they must consider which means the most noble ends justify. Some, I think, appreciate this more than others … Blair certainly does, and I believe Chirac most certainly does not. But the time for more selfish national self-interest has passed … and these men must now act as leaders of the world.

And so it comes to this.

Increasingly, it appears we are at the precipice.

The old saying is that adversity does not build character, it reveals it. We will learn much about our character in the coming weeks …

… Kofi Annan, who when all is said and done, will oversee a world body that either moves forward in fostering international security, or which sinks further into irrelevance …

… Bush and Blair, who will raise from their beds in several days knowing with certainty that they have condemned loved fathers, sons, daughters, and innocents to death, and that they will soon see the coffins returning home because of their choices …

… Chirac, who will ultimately resolve for himself whether his actions embodied leadership or Napoleonism, and whether the ends he secures were worth the consequences he has wrought …

… each of us, for this war or against: in several weeks we will look in the mirror and know we endorsed a course of action that was the right or wrong decision in the end, and at least half of us will know consequences we did not foresee …

… but not Saddam Hussein. A man without character, without conscience, is incapable of self evaluation … is capable only of monstrosity …

… and most certainly the US, British, and Australian soldiers who will keep their word, and independent of their opinions or their politics, rise up and charge once more into the breach.

I support action in Iraq. Regardless of position, we all pray the ends will justify the means. But those means will soon be very real … on CNN … in our work … in our homes in the form of consequences we all will feel. This is a global conflict. It will have global consequences. It will reveal the character in us and in our leaders. And as the matter runs its course, my hope is that our leaders will rise to the occasion of global leadership, and appreciate the ends they must secure are the ends of the world.

Posted by Avocare at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today’s auxiliary activity I direct you to the United States Holocaust Museum.

Posted by Avocare at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

The Six Tests:

The UK has set out six conditions that Iraq must fulfill to avoid war, calling for them to be attached to a new UN Security Council resolution. You can read details at the BBC here, and at the Times here. The six new tests of disarmament are:

1 A public statement by Saddam admitting that he has concealed weapons of mass destruction and a pledge to disarm

2 A commitment to allow at least 30 Iraqi scientists to travel with their families and be interviewed outside Iraq

3 Surrender all anthrax and produce credible evidence of their destruction

4 Complete the destruction of all al-Samoud missiles

5 Account for all unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), including details of any testing of spraying devices for chemical and biological weapons

6 Surrender all mobile chemical and biological production facilities

The UK is, correctly, doing whatever it can to solve the diplomatic problem and give Blair some much needed relief. All this list of six tests says, of course, is "do what you've committed, but failed, to do since the first UN resolution 12 years ago."

Posted by Avocare at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2003

Is This The Golden Handshake?

Arab news sources ... such as this article in Ha'aetz -- are reporting that the Arab delegation heading to Baghdad this Friday for talks with Hussein will go forth without the participation of Syria and Lebanon. The delegation claims:

The proposals would not range outside the resolutions of the Arab summit, which called for more cooperation from Iraq and more time for UN inspections of the country's weapons sites ... the delegation would not discuss the proposal that Saddam go into exile - an idea endorsed by several Arab Gulf states.

Really? I've believed for some time that as war became more likely, the likelihood of Hussein accepting either a "golden handshake" in the form of exile, or a "silver bullet" in the form of assassination, would also become more likely.

Are we to really believe that a delegation of Arab ambassadors could spend time in Baghdad on the eve of war and not offer Hussein the first in strong contrast to the second? We can only hope not, and that Hussein can find a role model in Idi Amin.

Posted by Avocare at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

Something I'd REALLY Like To See:


Posted by Avocare at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

The Occasional Photo:


Posted by Avocare at 06:07 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the web site of Tony Blair and 10 Downing Street.

Posted by Avocare at 05:57 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2003

The Perspective Of Kofi Annan:

Today Kofi Annan outlines his perspective on the U.N.'s deliberations in a Wall Street Journal editorial, which you can read here at OpinionJournal (registration NOT required). His central thesis:

The United Nations, founded to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," has a duty to search for a peaceful solution until the last possible moment.

Has that moment arrived? That is the decision that the members of the Security Council now face. It is a grave decision indeed. If they fail to agree on a common position, and some of them then take action without the council's authority, the legitimacy of that action will be widely questioned, and it will not gain the political support needed to ensure its long-term success, after its military phase.

If, on the other hand, the members of the council can come together, even at this late hour, and ensure compliance with their earlier resolutions by agreeing on a common course of action, then the council's authority will be enhanced, and the world will be a safer place.

Arguing for the legitimacy of his organization, as we would expect. He is less articulate, though, in commenting on the consequences to the U.N.'s legitimacy wrought by 12 years of a member state flaunting Security Council edicts.

Posted by Avocare at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

Tracking Howard Dean:

This week's focus on Howard Dean continues with a link to this Feb 25 NewsHour interview between Dean and Gwen Iffil. Much of the interview focuses on Dean's Iraq-related policy stance, but Dean speaks to a balanced budget as well. He also says this about North Korea:

GWEN IFILL: Pardon me. So if you say that if you were president, you would back-burner Iraq and put North Korea on the front burner?

FMR. GOV. HOWARD DEAN: My strategy for dealing with Iraq, as president, would be to contain them, to continue to push the United Nations to disarm them, and then to open talks with North Korea with the impetus... I have a four-point plan which I outlined last weekend at Drake University, and it essentially includes beginning bilateral talks, having an interim solution where both parties agree that, "A," the United States will not attack North Korea, and "B," that the North Koreans will not develop nuclear weapons during the talks; and then beginning the process of the five-power talks including South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States to deal with this threat. That is a very serious threat. Under no circumstances can North Korea be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, and they are about to do it because this president isn't paying enough attention.

There's also this piece on a speech Dean gave at NYU that outlined his proposal for universal healthcare. Highlight:

His proposal calls for Medicaid, a federal program administered by the states, to cover citizens under the age of 25, while placing seniors directly in the hands of the federal government.

“It is dirt-cheap to take care of people under 25,” Dean said. “This is how we did it [in Vermont]. It doesn’t cost much.”

Adults under 65 will be insured through the current, employer-based system, Dean said. Vouchers should be given to benefit the self-employed and those who are not given health benefits from their employers, he said.

Posted by Avocare at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

Too Funny:

Just found Cox & Forkum's blog, thanks to my daily Rachel Lucas read. Blogging and editorial cartoons: two great tastes that go great together.

Posted by Avocare at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

Frontline Yes, Nightline No:

Betsy has a great post linking to a Brent Bozell story about Ted Koppel's media bias. Go read the post in full, but I'm interested in this line from Koppel:

It has been called a secret blueprint for U.S. global domination....A small group of people with a plan to remove Saddam Hussein, long before George W. Bush was elected President....And 9-11 provided the opportunity to set it in motion...Tonight, 'The Plan.' How one group and its blueprint have brought us to the brink of war.

This Nightline episode aired earlier this month. What's so striking -- and funny -- and sad -- is not only how obviously sensational the Nightline story is, but also how FAR behind the curve it is. PBS' Frontline aired the story of Paul Wolfowitz and the other neo-Reaganites in an episode, The War Behind Closed Doors, on February 20th. Not only is the Frontline piece a more balanced account of the story that is Nightline's, it's also infinitely more astute in it's analysis.

Posted by Avocare at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

Tracking The Candidates -- Howard Dean:

If you visit this site often, you know I try to balance posts that reflect my opinions with posts that can help inform you about the issues as you consider your own opinions. In this vein, I'm launching Tracking The Candidates. With Tracking The Candidates I'll supplement each week's posts with content that reflects the views and activities of a particular Democratic presidential candidate (while keeping my smartass opinions to myself). In doing so I'll try to present unbiased information that can inform your (and my) opinions, and where I do link to criticism, I will try to balance that link with one from the other side of the fence.

This week's lucky candidate: Howard Dean.

We'll start with the February 21 Dean speech to Democratic National Committee winter meeting. This speech generated a lot of press coverage, not only for its policy content, but also for the very enthusiastic response it produced among the audience and Democratic pundits nationwide, in part because of these lines:

What I want to know . . . is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the President's unilateral attack on Iraq?

What I want to know . . . is why are Democratic leaders supporting tax cuts? The question is not how big the tax cut should be -- the question should be: Can we afford a tax cut at all with the largest deficit in the history of the country?

What I want to know . . . is why we're fighting in Congress about the Patient's Bill of Rights when the Democratic Party ought to be standing up for health care for every man, woman and child in this country?

What I want to know . . . is why our folks are voting for the President's No Child Left Behind bill that leaves every child behind, every teacher behind, every school board behind and every property tax payer behind?

I'm Howard Dean. And I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!"

Indeed, on Face The Nation the following Sunday Bob Schieffer said:

It is a long way from knowing who the Democrats' nominee will be, but if I were one of those other candidates, I'd start keeping an eye on Howard Dean.

You can read the text of the speech here, and you can visit the "Dean For America" website here. More to come ... the Dean Watch has begun.

Posted by Avocare at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

And In Case You've Forgotten:

Rwanda was truly one of the great failures of the U.N.'s policy of humanitarian intervention (and in my mind, of U.S. humanitarian policy as well). 1994 was a long time ago. We can debate the efficacy of U.S. intervention in Rwanda until we're as tired of it as we're becoming tired of debating intervention in Iraq ... but at the end of the day, what really matters is remembering this:

KARUBAMBA, RWANDA - Nobody lives here any more. Not the expectant mothers huddled outside the maternity clinic, not the families squeezed into the church, not the man who lies rotting in a schoolroom beneath a chalkboard map of Africa.

Everybody here is dead. Karubamba is a vision from hell, a flesh-and-bone junkyard of human wreckage, an obscene slaughterhouse that has fallen silent save for the roaring buzz of flies the size of honeybees.

Go here to remember why we must thoughtfully consider our and the U.N.'s policy of intervention in sovereign states.

Posted by Avocare at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

Intervention and State Sovereignty:

In the Winter 2002 edition of NATO Review, Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and co-chair the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, authored a very interesting article about how and when states and intergovernmental organizations should intervene on humanitarian grounds. The piece is one of the most prescient overviews of the issues regarding intervention in the affairs of sovereign states I've yet seen. He also accurately forecasts the central issue the U.N. now faces:

The first message is that if the Security Council fails to act, other states may act — and get it wrong. Such interventions, without the discipline and constraints of UN authorisation, may not be conducted for the right reasons or with the right commitment to the necessary precautionary principles. The second message is that if the Security Council fails to act, other states may act — and get it right. The ad hoc coalition or individual state may fully observe and respect all the necessary threshold and precautionary criteria, intervene successfully, and be seen to have done so by world public opinion — with this then likely to have enduringly serious consequences for the stature and credibility of the United Nations itself. That is pretty much what happened with the NATO intervention in Kosovo, and the United Nations cannot afford to drop the ball too many times on that scale.

Given the proximity of action in Iraq, I recommend the read to anyone who wants to thoughtfully consider either side of the Act / Inspect argument. You may also want to review the full ICISS report, which you can find here.

Posted by Avocare at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to the home page for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Posted by Avocare at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2003

The Occasional Photo:

Who knew ... my screen saver photos produced so many kind responses that I'm going to supplement the news, commentary, and site recommendations with the occasional photo from my travels. Enjoy, use as a screen saver, or ignore ... whatever your pleasure. The first is for anyone who appreciates "Ski Utah" (click the snap to enlarge) ...

Brighton Eve

Posted by Avocare at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

Daily Digest:

Here they are ... where to spend your time for the rest of this hour (because we all obviously have so much time to spend):

Jane Finch has had it ... and justifiably so

Kathy Kinsley links to a disturbing article about what may face US troops in Iraq

The Happy Fun Pundit is having yet more fun with captions

Kos adds his two cents to handicapping the Democratic nomination

And (how the hell would I know ... I was on a desert island for chrissake) ... RACHEL LUCAS RETURNS

Posted by Avocare at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Internet Porn, Libraries, And Free Speech:

Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will help shape the degree to which free speech prevails in cyberspace. Libraries have challenged a law that requires them to block access to porn sites if the libraries are to qualify for federal funds. The libraries contend that this law coerces them into denying access to constitutionally protected materials (which I believe it does).

As bloggers, the Court's ruling is important to us, and as someone using the web for information, it's important to you. Regardless of your position, inform yourself ... some background:

The New York Times states their view in this op/ed.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has an FAQ here.

The Internet Free Expression Alliance has the text of the act here.

And the FCC has a primer here.

Posted by Avocare at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

Children, TV, And Violence:

NPR ran an interesting spot this morning about a recent study exploring the links between childhood exposure to violent television and violent behavior later in life. It is one of the only empirical studies of its kind, and the results were compelling:

People who watch violent television as children behave more aggressively even 15 years later ... the effect appeared in both sexes and regardless of how aggressive a person was as a child.
Further, the pattern of later behavior appears to stem from children watching violence used by positive, charismatic characters (such as the Six Million Dollar Man) to do good, rather than antagonists to do evil.

I typically try to debunk this type of conclusion, preferring to believe that other factors have a much stronger influence over human behavior than exposure to media. Having a background in research methodology, however, I can say that this study appears pretty solid.

The Washington Post has a good overview here, and you can read the abstract from the Journal of Developmental Psychology here.

Posted by Avocare at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to Afghanistan Online. In a related item, you may also find interest in this article in today's Wall Street Journal about the country's efforts to secure the ".af" domain.

Posted by Avocare at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2003

Hey ... Free Stuff:

I've recently taken a number of digital snaps I want to share as desktop backgrounds. Click on the thumbnail, right click, and "save as" (they are 1024 pixels and around 100 K in size). Enjoy.

Clouds 25,000 feet over Texas

Caribbean shallows

Caribbean sunset

Caribbean evening sky

Caribbean dusk

Caribbean vista

Posted by Avocare at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

Just When You Think It Can't Get Any Better:

The Raelians are stripping to their thongs in LA to demonstrate opposition to war in Iraq. If that thought weren't disturbing enough, consider this:

"Whenever everybody undresses, the ego goes away and then we can make decisions," said protester Nadine Gary. "Imagine President Bush nude addressing the state of the union. Imagine Saddam Hussein nude."

The horror ... the horror ...

Posted by Avocare at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

The Latest Line:

New odds for the Democratic nomination (see the latest line in the right-hand column). Notable changes:

The odds have improved for Hillary, Graham, Kucinich, and Sharpton (from 1,000 - 1 to 500 - 1 for Sharpton ... big deal).

They have gotten longer for Wesley Clark, all his analyst time on CNN notwithstanding.

Carol Moseley-Braun is a new listing at 200 - 1.

They're no longer making book on long-shots Bill Bradley, Russ Feingold, and Gray Davis.

Hmm ... even with all the denials, Hillary's official odds just keep getting better and better ...

Posted by Avocare at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Sponsor:

For today's auxiliary activity I direct you to Where Is Raed, a blog published by Baghdad resident Salam Pax. Some bloggers read and link to Raed regularly; many others don't know the blog exists. If it's not already part of your regular reading, it should be. (And I owe a tip to Kathy for introducing me to Salam's site.)

Posted by Avocare at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

Background On Paul Wolfowitz:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has been a very influential advisor of Republican foreign policy since the Gulf War, and in his current role, is a central advisor to the President and in many ways an author of the administration's stance on Iraq. He is also unknown to most Americans, working in the shadows of the more visible Rumsfeld and Powell. Given his influence on the administration and distinct philosophy regarding foreign policy, In the public interest I want to offer a brief Wolfowitz web profile:

Here is the Wolfowitz bio at the Department of Defense

Here is the transcript of a foreign policy address Wolfowitz made at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York on 23 January 2003. The content of the address is interesting as a summary of the Bush position, but reveals nothing new. The Q&A that follows, however, is very interesting, especially in some of the questions Wolfowitz fields from the New York press. Also interesting is this statement about how the Bush approach to Iraq influences its approach to North Korea:

We have not one, but 17, U.N. Security Council resolutions to deal with the problem of Iraq. We're at a point of real decision, and if we lose that point, the credibility not only of the United States but of the entire world body is going to go down the tubes. We haven't yet even been able to bring the North Korean issue to the Security Council, much less have a resolution. When we do -- and I think we will, and I think we should, and I think we're going to -- our credibility and the credibility of the Security Council will be greatly increased if we have managed -- peacefully or, if necessary, by force -- to enforce the will of the U.N. expressed in 1441.
Here is the transcript of an interview Wolfowitz gave PBS' NewsHour on 14 September 2003, just three days after the WTC and Pentagon attacks. It reflects how early his perspective was shaping the Bush counter-terrorism policy, as does this statement:
The policies of the last 20 years, whether you think they were carried out effectively or ineffectively, obviously don't work. This is not going to be a problem solved by locking somebody up and putting them in jail. It's not going to be solved by some limited military action. It's going to take, as the President has said and Secretary Rumsfeld has said, a broad and sustained campaign against the terrorist networks and the states that support those networks.
Again, he made this statement only three days after the attacks.

There is also this general profile from (also in Time).

Frontline has this interview with Wolfowitz regarding the administration's stance on missile defense ... it also reflects much about his overall perspective toward U.S. foreign policy.

And finally, in January 2002 Wolfowitz offered this interview to the New York Times, in which he offers thoughts on pursuing terrorism across a much broader range of countries and regimes than just Iraq and North Korea.

If you are serious about understanding Bush foreign policy, you have to better understand Wolfowitz. And if you want to better understand Wolfowitz, each of these links is worth the read.

Posted by Avocare at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2003

He Loves The Little Man:

An important element of understanding the French desire to counterbalance U.S. unilateralism is understanding French Foreign Minister Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, Chirac's chief foreign policy advisor (and a major pain in Colin Powell's ass). Today's New York Times offers this profile of de Villepin -- one with a teenage crush feel, and that casts de Villepin as a swashbuckling, daring-yet-sensitive dynamo.

An interesting perspective on the man, but almost celebrity-page material. The important nugget, however, is in these two paragraphs:

If Mr. de Villepin has a vision, it is to revive the greatness of France — a romantic view he articulated in his book, "The Hundred Days," the first published volume of a biography of Napoleon that tells the story of the emperor's return from exile, his triumphant march across France and his final defeat at Waterloo.

Describing Napoleon's philosophy as "Victory or death, but glory whatever happens," Mr. de Villepin added, "There is not a day that goes by without me feeling the imperious need to remember so as not to yield in the face of indifference, laughter or gibes" in order to "advance further in the name of a French ambition."

And now the picture becomes a bit more clear, doesn't it. De Villepin is a Napoleonphile. It's certainly an interesting philosophical touchstone for a man doggedly arguing for military restraint.

Posted by Avocare at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

Like Doug McArthur, But Not:

I'm not going to blather on about the splendor of my vacation or the profundity of the introspection it afforded ... because the facts are that regardless of it's splendor I'm now subject to the same crummy weather I left last week and I spent absolutely no time in introspection. Indeed, the truth is that I'd really rather still be there than here, but that's why last week was a holiday and my returning to Philadelphia is not. (For those voyeurs who may be curious about the trip, I'll be posting a short photoblog soon.)

So let's just say I'm back, I had a remarkable and relaxing time which most would envy, and I'm eager to begin catching up on all that's new in the blogosphere.

Thanks to Jeff for posting while I was away! Jeff, you did a great job, and allowed me to use the holiday as an opportunity to appropriately distance myself from my new obsession hobby. Some great links and observations ... although I think one can see that as the week wore on, the posts began to increasingly reflect your ... uhh ... unique worldview. And all without a single "indeed" or "heh." Again, thanks.

And now, on with the show ...

Posted by Avocare at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

Daily Digest:

Al will return from vacation tomorrow and resume his blogging duties...assuming he decides to continue, even after checking the stats and determining that, after one week with me, his entire readership has abandoned ship. (That karaoke post was the last straw, wasn't it.)

Which means I'll go away and refocus my energies on:

Trying to pick up goth chicks by hanging around the Six Feet Under message board and worrying, like this guy, that subsequent episodes this season will ask us to follow narratives in multiple parallel universes.

Hating the French (oh yeah, the Germans, too).

My deep and abiding love of dance.

Posted by Avocare at 06:55 PM |