May 31, 2004

Freedom Wall

Inspired by the original:

Within a commemorative area at the western side of the memorial is recognized the sacrifice of America's WWII generation and the contribution of our allies. A field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives. During WWII, the gold star was the symbol of family sacrifice.


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Memorial Day

You can view the original online here.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

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May 30, 2004

Paying Respects

The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration maintains a web presence for our National Cemeteries, most of which are holding services this Memorial Day. Go here to visit the site, and here to read the list of Memorial Day ceremonies.

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May 29, 2004

WWII Memorial

The World War II Memorial, which will be officially dedicated at 2 PM EDT today, has a presence on the World Wide Web. Visit it here.

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I'm home for a spell, getting reacquainted with family, house, office and yard. It's been a long several weeks of travel, and I'm already enjoying the bay-window view from our home office more than I typically would, watching the robins chase baby grasshoppers through the grass.

I flew home yesterday morning from Dallas, and on the plane managed to read both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Somewhere in the middle of these two publications of record is the Middle Position, and I enjoy reading them back-to-back.

In Friday's journal was a piece by Daniel Henninger, author of the regular OpEd column Wonderland. As we begin this weekend of remembrance, it's something I wanted to share. Enjoy; hope it makes you think.

The Ultimate Sacrifice Asks for One Day

CALVERTON, N.Y.—Here at Calverton National Cemetery, a place of sandy soil and quiet trees on eastern Long Island, workers are putting up American flags that will line the roads on this Memorial Day weekend. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will arrive tomorrow to place small flags on each of Calverton's 146,000 grave sites. This is Calverton's busiest weekend.

But on a rainy afternoon in midweek, Calverton was empty and calm. It was probably like this in all of the 120 national cemeteries around the United States, which hold the remains of American soldiers all the way back to the Civil War.

I saw an old man at Calverton park his pickup and head out with a bad limp across an expanse of white grave markers. He seemed to know where he was going. I stopped by two new graves, side by side, with very white headstones. They had fresh flowers and a votive candle still burning from morning visitors. Someone had left an unopened bottle of Bud beneath the flowers, meaning I guess that the soldier liked his beer.

Both of these men, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony S. Lagman and Sgt. Michael J. Esposito Jr., winners of the Bronze Star with valor, were killed the same day in Afghanistan in March. Sgt. Lagman's headstone says: “Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Afghanistan.” To the right of their graves lies Marine Lance Cpl. William Wayne White, who died last year, early in the Iraq war.

Most people don't seem to know there are more than 100 national cemeteries around the United States. Nearly every one will have public services this Memorial Day weekend. Most of the employees of the National Cemetery Administration, a relatively small agency, are themselves former veterans, who ensure that each of these beautifully landscaped and austere facilities is as impressive as the familiar photographs of Arlington Cemetery.

Memorial Day itself has been a holiday in decline from its original purpose, the honoring of the nation's war dead, an idea born in the internal sorrows of the Civil War. Memorial Day parades, though still held, are often not the bracing civic reminders they once were of the idea of national service. More recently, this day at the end of May has become a Monday off and a chance to prepare for summer.

The U.S. military itself contributed to the decline, concluding from the Vietnam experience that the draft was more trouble than it was worth. The military wanted men and women committed to service, not gripers coerced into it. It was popularly said that in place of a citizens' army we had created a professional army. That distinction is breaking down under the reality of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the deaths in service that have attended them. An old phrase, “the ultimate sacrifice,” is being heard again, and with it the idea of great honor for war's fallen fighters.

If you go to a national cemetery this Monday (the list is at, you will find people gathered for whom Memorial Day is as real now as it was in the 19th century. Last year at Calverton, some 2,000 people came for the ceremonies. The little, 0.3-acre cemetery at Danville, Ky., established in 1862, had 50 people. But 10,000 will likely come for the service in Riverside, Calif., 5,000 at Fort Custer cemetery in Michigan, 8,000 in Houston, 3,000 in Oregon, 1,500 at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and 2,300 in Puerto Rico.

There will be speeches, color guards, flyovers where possible and of course a bugler to play taps. Volunteer groups organize most of these ceremonies. Indeed at many of the cemeteries volunteers often provide the three-person color guard to which every veteran is now entitled at burial.

There are 16,897,000 living veterans, which makes for a very large band of brothers. At a big cemetery like Calverton on Long Island, they'll do 7,300 burials a year. Standing in this cemetery on a wet day, staring out at field after field of white gravestones in perfect rows, each marked with a name and a war, one frankly has the expectable, and welcome, feelings of gratitude and respect. Still, one can't help but feel overtaken by the awful, indiscreet largeness of war's claims on the living. Amid Calverton's stillness, the cemetery's director Rick Boyd offers without prompting: “Each one of these people had a particular service story, and I often wish I could know what they were.”

If you go to the Cypress Hills national cemetery in Brooklyn, you can see the grave of Sgt. John Martin, trumpeter, Seventh Cavalry, killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. He was born in Italy as Giovanni Martini. Yesterday coming to work past the September 11 World Trade site, I encountered about 200 very young Marines outside the fence, dressed in simple training fatigues—green T-shirts, pants and boots—standing in formation, at attention, stock still at an awards ceremony. We don't see this sort of thing in Manhattan very often, and when they marched off—their stern, impossibly youthful faces reflecting the modern American melting pot whence came Giovanni Martini, bugler—the commuting office workers began to applaud.

Much of the politicking around Iraq is rather nasty just now. And there will be more of it. For a minute this Memorial Day weekend, ponder the simple individual nobility held forever in those 120 national cemeteries.

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May 27, 2004

American Colossus

The Atlantic Monthly has an interesting interview with British historian Niall Ferguson, the 40-year-old Herzog Professor of Financial History at New York University's Stern School of Business. Ferguson has recently authored a book (his seventh), Colossus: The Price of America's Empire, in which he discusses American imperialism and argues for its role in the world as a force for establishing functioning governments in places of chaos.

Unfortunately for us, it’s a role Ferguson feels we don’t play all to well:

It's an empire that has all the functions of military empire, if you like. It has the capacity to project itself in terms of force over vast geographical distances. It's an empire that is remarkably adept at spreading its culture globally. In that sense, it's an empire with almost unrivaled military and cultural power. But when it comes to what might be called imperial governance, it is an empire which, precisely because it doesn't recognize its own existence, consistently underperforms.

Ferguson offers many other observations worth reading, including his parallels between current American foreign policy and 19th century British liberalism, and his multiple parallels between the Bush and Nixon administrations. He also notes:

Right now in Iraq, the reliance on the military is almost complete. The British operation a hundred years ago was much more evenly divided between military and civilian administration. And indeed the civilians predominated. There aren't that many Jerry Bremers. This country doesn't produce people like him in large numbers. And you need to have hundreds of them to make a success of something like this. What's interesting is that in 1945 through to the early 1950s, when Germany and Japan were the targets of American quasi-imperial nation-building, the talent was there. And the reason the talent was there was the draft. By 1945, the American armed services were full of all kinds of diverse talents because of the sheer scale of World War Two. That meant you could turn to the army in Germany in 1945 and find economists and lawyers and people who had an understanding of business. In today's volunteer professional army you don't have those skills at all. You have people who are tremendously good at being soldiers and Marines. But they're not really trained to do the sorts of thing that you have to do once you've won a war. And they're the first to admit it. They're quite candid that they are practitioners of offensive military operations—killing bad guys is what they're trained to do. The business of constructing the rule of law and a functioning market economy is about as far removed from their expertise as you could get.

Reading that, the parallel with Tom Barnett’s call for a System Administrator force struck me as less than casual.

I look forward to reading the book; it’s worth your time to read the article … not just for the items above, but for the closer at the end: Ferguson’s argument that the American Colossus has feet of clay … not because of our foreign policy, but because of the enormous Medicare and Social Security shortfalls we face down the road.

The operation itself—conquest of Iraq—is cheap. The defense budget is still going to come in comfortably under its Cold War average this year. I think a lot of Americans don't quite see that—they assume this is costing a huge amount of money. In truth, the real financial problems lie at home.

Update: Turns out Barnett has a POV on this as well

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Survey Says

Even the folks on the turnip truck realize that foreign policy will be a salient issue in this year’s presidential election, likely more so than in any election since 1980. So what do the bulk of Americans think about the issues? Foreign Policy magazine has drawn on a range of survey data in constructing a composite interview about foreign policy issues with a fictional John Q. Public. While the premise is a bit contrived …

FOREIGN POLICY: How did you feel about going to war with Iraq?

John/Jane Q. Public: It's complicated. When President George W. Bush said that Saddam Hussein was making weapons of mass destruction and might give them to terrorists, I found that argument pretty convincing. So I was all for trying to get into Iraq to find out if Saddam had those weapons, and to take them away from him if he did. Survey Results

FP: So did you think immediate action was necessary?

JP: Not really. I thought we could take time to build support at the United Nations. Besides, we had plenty else to worry about, like al Qaeda. And once the U.N. inspectors were in Iraq, it seemed like we should give them a chance—not that I was all that optimistic that they were going to find the weapons. But Saddam was contained, so I thought we should keep trying to find some consensus at the United Nations. Survey Results

… and while you can always argue methodology and intent, the composite does allow you to augment John Q’s answers by viewing the actual survey data.

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Economic Inefficiencies In Professional Athlete Valuation, Or Why Stanley Needs A Tan

Is this a sign of dysfunction? There I was in Aruba, Carribean climate and ocean all around, and I spend the better part of Saturday night (after cocktail hour, of course), in an island casino, drinking Balashi and smoking a Siglo V, watching our Flyers be out skated, out shot, and (gasp!) out hit, by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay! Tampa!!! Land of beaches, palm trees, and hurricanes … land where ice shall not last!!

How could this happen?

Easy … they’re a better hockey team, just as Calgary is a better hockey team (at least this month) than anyone in the West.

But the location isn’t the kicker, this is: Calgary and Tampa do not pay a lot of money for their players. Indeed, a review of the statistics indicates that Calgary has the 20th-highest payroll in the league, at $35 million, and Tampa Bay has the 22nd-highest, at $34 million … both well below the league average of $44 million.

What’s more, the teams they beat, Calgary over Detroit and Tampa over the Flyguys, are first and fourth highest, respectively (Detroit: $78 million, Philly: $65 million).

So what gives?

Same thing that gives in the remarkable success of the Oakland A’s and Florida Marlins, which happen to have two of the lowest payrolls in baseball: Baseball and hockey coaches, scouts, and general managers do not know how to accurately evaluate the value of athletes in their leagues. If these guys were stock brokers, they’re consistently picking the wrong stocks.

But wait? They’re the experts, right? They know more about their sport and what it takes to win than anyone else, yes?


Read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, and you’ll understand. Moneyball is Lewis’ treatise on Billy Beane, manager of the Oakland A’s and architect of one of the most successful cheapskate franchises in sports history. His secret? Impassionate statistical analysis. Billy and his Harvard Law educated minions have nailed the statistical relationships between baseball statistics and the only statistics that matter in team performance: run production and wins. And their analysis indicates that many of the things scouts and GMs use to identify good “Baseball Men,” statistically, simply don’t have predictive relationships with run production or wins.

Like, for example, defense.

Beane knows that fielding percentage is meaningless in baseball … a Shortstop lines up two feet to the left, or a hit ball bounds two feet to the right, and an out becomes a hit or a hit becomes an out. Same with errors … meaningless. One error here or there simply means nothing across 162 games.

What does matter? On base percentage. The most important number in baseball is “3.” Outs are the only fixed quantity in baseball … three outs, and you can no longer score in an inning. 27 outs, and you can no longer score in a game. Burn your 27 outs and have fewer runs than the other guy, and you lose. So you need people who can get on base. A man on base is not an out. This also means that anything that risks outs … like hit-and-runs, sacrifice flies, or stealing bases … is foolish, as the odds of those gambits succeeding without an out are far lower than the odds of a man reaching base by working the count. Not coincidentally, the Oakland A’s do not hit-and-run, sacrifice, or steal.

Similarly, the statistic that matters in pitching is the production of outs. Strikes are good, but the ability to create outs … even if it’s on ground balls or flies … is most important.

What Beane knows, and why he’s succeeded, is that traditional Baseball Men don’t make impassionate, objective statistical player valuations … they make subjective ones. They look for other Baseball Men … guys who have “the look,” guys who might have one magic game that a scout sees, and that causes him, even in the face of poor statistics, to say “that guy’s a player … he just has ‘the look.’” Or, they believe mythology around baseball statistics that just don’t matter … like base stealing, or fielding percentage. Because that’s what Baseball Men have always done.

Beane believes none of that. He doesn’t care if a guy is fat or short or slow or old. If he has the right statistics … if he gets on base or gets outs … he’s an Oakland A. And because no Baseball Man wants to sign Mr. Fat Short Slow Old guy, Billy gets him for a steal. And then lo and behold, Mr. Fat Short Slow Old guy turns out to be Jason Giambi, at which point the A’s win lots of games, and once Jason’s a free agent, Billy trades him to the Yankess for a $120 million, thereby enriching the A’s and empowering Billy to continue investing in Harvard graduates, analyses, and the search for undervalued players.

The market for baseball talent is an inefficient market. Like any other market, it reflects personal biases and assumptions, many of which are founded in subjectivity, and many of which have become institutionalized as conventional wisdom. Bad wisdom, but conventional wisdom nonetheless.

There are two lessons here. The first that you shouldn’t kid yourself … the stock market is just as imperfect a market as is the baseball athlete market, so, yes, your suspicions are likely correct: your stock broker probably doesn’t know shit.

The second brings us to Stanley Needs a Tan. That’s a slogan many Tampa fans had on placards during game 7 of the Flyers series: “Stanley (as in the Stanley Cup) Needs a Tan.” And while the Flames scorched the Lightning in game 1 of the finals, those Tampa fans just might be right, because like Calgary, their team is damn good … good enough to beat everyone else in their division.

But I see more. I watched game 7 and I saw Billy Beane. I saw a team that was uglier, shorter, fatter, and less-famous than the Flyers, and they were skating rings around the Black and Orange. Tampa and Calgary have proved for hockey what Billy has proved for baseball: there are inefficiencies in the pricing of hockey players. I don’t know what those are, but I wager some Harvard grad, working in the depths of Tampa’s stadium, is huddled over a laptop at this very moment, running his latest predictive model of hockey success. Maybe it’s penalty minutes, maybe it’s shots on goal, maybe it’s plus/minus … but whatever it is, it would be great if the Flyers figured it out, too.

Until then, the city’s hopes ride with Smarty.

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May 25, 2004

Fist Full Of Dollars

Back home for a bit. Aruba was nice, but truth is that I spent all of some 30 minutes outside and engaged in typical Caribbean-type activity. Still, as I noted before, it beats Detroit.

This entry is more of a Public Service Announcement than anything else … on the flight home I had occasion to see Paycheck, with Ben Affleck and Uma Thurmond. It was, I am certain, the worst film I have ever seen.

Be warned.

Of course, it's SO bad that it qualifies as comic relief … for, perhaps, a Paycheck Party where everyone drinks each time there's a non-sequitur, an abjectly ridiculous use of technology, or trite utterance. You'll be drunk before the first twist in the tale.

Here's what some of the professional reviewers thought:

“The amazing thing about John Woo's steely, impersonal adaptation of this Philip K. Dick sci-fi story … is how it vanishes in front of our eyes even as we watch it.”

“A story that doesn't make a lick of sense, even on its own coherence-mangling terms.”

“You've seen Roadrunner cartoons with more suspense than this entirely predictable hash.”

“This is cinematic cotton candy at its most caloric, and could pass as worthy yet inconsequential entertainment if it only had a tenth of a brain.”

And, of course:

“Desperdiça uma ótima idéia em prol da ação descerebrada.”

Aptly named, this film … the paycheck is the only thing that could have attracted someone of Uma's talents.

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May 23, 2004

Trip Report

Wish you were here.


But you're not.

And since you couldn't come to Aruba this week, as a pitiful replacement I've decided to help Aruba come to you. So … go to the kitchen and make a rum drink. Then, visit the photoblog, where I've posted a non-artsy-fartsy shot of the beach to help you visualize the ocean. Take a sip. Good. Now, open this link, and hear what I heard when taking that photo.

Again, it's a poor replacment, but here's hoping it's better than nothing.

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May 22, 2004

Pretty, But Stupid

I’m in Aruba for several days on business. (I know, I know … it’s not a vacation, but as business trips go, it beats the hell out of Detroit.) Aruba is large enough—over 100,000 residents—to have several daily news publications, so this morning when I sat down to breakfast after an early swim in the Caribbean, I spent some time browsing Aruba Daily (not online) and Aruba Today. Both have a helping of local news, heavily fortified with stories from the international wire services.

(As an aside, Aruba Today’s comics page is of particular interest. The page offers Foxtrot, Cathy, Garfield, The Boondocks, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury, all of which are clearly JPG images downloaded from the web. What’s fun is that each strip is from the first week of February … indeed, in today’s Aruba Today Doonesbury Alex is considering “back up” candidates should Dean falter. Hope she had one. Perhaps there’s a very brief copyright on comics, after which you can steal them from the syndicates? Just wondering …)

Regardless, as I’m reading Aruba Daily I come across an AFP profile of Laura Bush, posted online here at Channel NewsAsia. The article begins typically, noting her recent appearance on Leno, and offering some standard backstory on when she married George, etc. Then the author writes:

Small, full-figured, with sparkling eyes and an engaging smile Laura Bush lacks the solid and reassuring substance of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, herself an American First Lady from 1989 to 1993.

Nor does she possess the intellectual reknown wife of former president Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, who went on to be elected US senator from New York.

Born and raised in the south Texas middle class, wife of the former governor of Texas who became president of the United States, Laura Bush is a study in contrast with the wife of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Bush's Democratic opponent for the White House.

Teresa Kerry, born to a Portuguese family in Mozambique, is a billionaire heiress who speaks at least five languages.

Ladies and gentlemen, Laura Bush: Mother, wife, teacher of children, keeper of books, First Lady of the United States, and in the eyes of the AFP, pretty, but stupid.

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May 21, 2004

How To Write The Lead

In journalism schools across the globe, professors, early in the development of pre-emergent journalists, labor to teach their studious pupae how to write a “lead”—the first paragraph of a story … the paragraph meant to introduce the story, present its thesis, summarize what’s to come, and provide a compelling hook drawing the reader off the sidelines and into the rest of the piece.

Average leads are easy to write; great leads are difficult to write. And even with all the highfalutin education journalist students have these days, it seems the art of the lead is increasingly receding into the textual mist. Just look at two above the fold leads from today’s papers:

  • NY Times: Fierce fighting erupted today between American forces and insurgents loyal to a young rebel cleric near two shrines in this holy city, killing at least 21 insurgents, American military officials said.

  • Washington Post: Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.

Someone wake me. Yawnsville, both.

A great lead has punch. It is clear, it is concise, it says “here’s the story, and why you need to read the rest.” And in this month’s New Yorker, it has the voice of Seymour Hersh:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

Two sentences, one helluva lead. Politics aside, that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done, and the sands of Washington are shifting as a result.

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May 20, 2004


We're beginning to use wikis in our office. Like weblogs, they're a relatively new medium that, to the unexposed, at first elicit sort of a “huh … so, like, what is it again?” Well, if weblogs let you publish an online news source our journal, wikis let you publish an online reference document.

Like an encyclopedia, each page in a wiki is about a particular topic. But here's the catch: any user can edit that page over time, and you can link to other topics within each page. As a result, high levels of collaboration create references that evolve with time, increasing in relevance and currency as more and more people improve and edit the page.

Example: Imagine if your encyclopedia's entry on NASA, rather than being written and edited by one or two people who were only marginal subject matter experts, was instead constantly being edited by hundreds of people who were all subject matter experts. And imagine if you could instantly link to other entries on topics mentioned in the NASA entry (like “Mars Odyssey” or “Russian Aviation and Space Agency”). You'd end up with an awfully robust NASA entry.

And that's how the largest wiki in the world is used: Wikipedia. Here's the NASA entry, and if you think it needs something that you can contribute, feel free to edit it … anyone can. Compare its free, layman-produced content to that of World Book, and draw your conclusions … oh, wait! That's right! You can't … because World Book requires a fee to use their encyclopedia. Ok then, compare it to the Encarta entry, and draw your own conclusions. And to learn even more about wikis, visit the Wikipedia entry for wiki.

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The Philadelphia Horse

Today from from Bill Lyon:

Horse people unfailingly remark of Smarty: “He just looks like he knows he can kick your ass.”
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May 19, 2004

More On Iranian Nukes

I just returned from a few days in Chicago and Minneapolis. The airports were packed … especially for a Wednesday afternoon. Say what you will about the economy: by my experience the world is taking summer vacation, and it’s not waiting until Memorial Day.

As I pushed through the crowds with my rollaboard, I kept chewing on my Iran post of earlier today. When it’s all said and done, the questions we’re asking about Iran and its proliferation doesn’t seem to be the correct question. As it’s being framed publicly now, the question is: “Do we want a fundamentalist Islamic state to control nuclear weapons.”

And the answer to that, everywhere expect Iran, is “No.” Too destabilizing … too much opportunity for WMD to reach a terrorist network … too much of a catalyst for continued proliferation of nuclear technology through that part of the world. And we use the threat of Iran joining The Club as one (of many) reasons to drive toward regime change there.

But if you take Nick Kristof at his word, it’s not just the Mullahs that want Iran to have nuclear capability—it’s the Iranians themselves. So the question I keep coming back to is: “Why would that change with a change in regime?” I can’t see how it would, unless we were to extract concessions from the new regime that they wouldn’t stride further down the atomic path. And frankly, even if they did, how realistic is it to expect they’d honor that commitment … joining The Club is the single greatest symbol of having arrived on the global political-economic stage, and it comes with all sorts of trappings and honorifics. That’s why they call it a “club.”

If anything, we should expect a liberal, democratic Iranian regime to be even more strident about proliferation because they could call our bluff on any barrier we might construct to their entry: what are we going to do, bomb the power facilities of a peaceful, liberal democratic trading partner? Look to history: What do the members of the Nuclear Club do when other economically and (generally) politically liberal nations develop nuclear weapons? If we take Pakistan, India, and yes, Israel, as precedent, the answer is: “Nothing.”

I raise all this because it seems to me that the members of the Nuclear Club have no real answer to the question of proliferation among non-totalitarian states other than the good assurances of the NNPT. If anything, the North Koreas and Irans make it easy for us … as rouge nations, it’s easy to respond to proliferation with force, bombing their capability back into the last century. But a connected, liberal North Korea or Iran (or Syria, or Brazil) with nukes … that’s a different story.

And is the world any more secure? Using my prior criteria: Too destabilizing … likely. Too much opportunity for WMD to reach a terrorist network … possibly. Too much of a catalyst for continued proliferation of nuclear technology through that part of the world … likely as well. Take the case of nuclear oversight in Russia (please) as an example, and see if you sleep any better.

All told, in the long run the prospect for proliferation among “friendly” nations doesn’t make me feel much more secure that it does among “unfriendly” states, and for the former, I believe we have no response at all. And perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of liberal democratic states with nukes now, and as much as the Brits may want to bomb the French (and vice-versa), no one’s pushed the button as yet. It may be that between the promise of MAD and economic interdependence, nuclear weapons among an increasing number of liberal states is no big deal … except, of course, for the increased likelihood of WMD-related destabilization, terrorism, and proliferation that comes with each additional member of the clique.

I’d be interested in Tom Barnett’s take on this (hey, there it is), as well as anyone else with a two-bit opinion (same price as mine).

Posted by Avocare at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

Iranian Proliferation

Today in the Times Nick Kristof notes that Iran continues to push for nuclear weapon capability, and that our response is likely to get increaslingly tough with the regime. He also writes:

A tougher approach toward Iran isn't partisan, and a President Kerry might also pursue a more confrontational, albeit more multilateral, approach to Iran.

But that would be a mistake.

He goes on to note that doing so would only make the Mullahs stronger with their street, and that UN-backed sanctions also will not work. His solution:

We should vigorously pursue a “grand bargain” in which, among other elements, Iran maintains its freeze on uranium enrichment and we establish diplomatic relations and encourage business investment, tourism and education exchanges.

“What would destroy the conservatives [in Iran] would be a money flood” of American investment, says Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of the American Iranian Council. “In just a few years, the conservatives would be finished.”

Ok. But are these two things—proliferation and connectedness—mutually exclusive? If anything, I would expect greater connection to the global political economy would increase the desire for nuclear capability as a marker of global legitimacy. So for me, the real question is: do you rest easier knowing the world has a liberal and open Iran that also has nuclear weapons (along with Pakistan and India, just across the way)?

Posted by Avocare at 09:12 AM | TrackBack

K Street

From Roll Call:

A firm that includes several high-profile Democrats has been hired to run a nationwide promotional campaign for filmmaker Michael Moore’s controversial new documentary “Fahrenheit 9-11.”

Those would be Washington lobbyists, folks. Coming to a theater near you.

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Kasparov On Moral Equivalence

You may not think of Garry Kasparov as a political observer, but in fact, he is, as evidenced by his Op-Ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. In it, he writes:

The Islamic public-relations offensive is focused on proving that the West is corrupt and offers no improvement on the despots in charge throughout the Islamic world. At the same time, Al Jazeera isn't examining Vladimir Putin's war against Muslims in Chechnya. All of Chechnya is one big Abu Ghraib, but the Islamic world pays scant attention to the horrible crimes there because Mr. Putin shares their distaste for liberal democracy. The war is not about defending Muslims; it is about Western civilization and America as its representative.

You have to admit, he does have an uncommon ability to think seven steps ahead. When not battling Deep Blue or writing for the Journal, Kasparov is Committee Chairman of Committee 2008: Free Choice, a Russian political organization devoted to the ouster of Putin in the 2008 election.

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May 18, 2004

College Rivalry

Villanova and Penn. Two Philadelphia-area private, elite, Big 5 rival schools.

How do you think that affects recruitment?

Posted by Avocare at 08:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

The Narrative Form

Mother Jones asks, “Stories make the world go around. So how come liberals can’t tell one?” Well, that's a bit strong. But consider this:

It’s plain why this [the Bush] story works as well as it does. It presents a classic hero and a journey that reaches down through the brain into the gut. And Republicans can translate it into simple, clear lines of action: Wage war and don’t stop. Cut taxes. Put bad guys in jail, or to death.

Many on the left harbor the delusion that Republicans can be dislodged by criticism of this story. There are two main styles of critique. The first is ironic and humorous (see Al Franken). The second style is serious and raging, bordering on caustic (see Tim Robbins' “Embedded.”)

But, by definition, critics are at the margins. However loud they shout from the sidelines, they’ll never get in the game. The game is for those who can tell a story.

Rush Limbaugh knows this. He’s no critic. Sure, he rips into Democrats and liberals, but his point is always to describe the enemy — cowardly and pessimistic — in order clarify the attributes of his hero — courageous and optimistic. Every anecdote, every opinion, feeds into his story. That’s why he convinces so many people and that’s why he makes so much money. And that’s why he has helped engineer a profound change in the culture of the country’s government.

On the other hand, the advent of “Air America” illustrates the left’s deluded love affair with criticism. The debut ad campaign features photographs of right-wing bugaboos, with smart-ass lines plastered over their faces (“We Pump Irony” over Schwarzenegger and “All the Caffeine and None of the Oxycontin” over Limbaugh). These are clever, but 100% content-free. The most revealing of the ads is a picture of Ralph Nader. “Mocking the Far Right and When We’re Tired of that The Far Left.”

The network is all criticism, all the time. Franken’s show is hilarious and brilliant. But it’s one thing to convince me that the right is full of big fat idiot liars. It’s quite another task to articulate the character of a movement, which can show itself in times of opposition, and in times of leadership.

The essence of the narrative form: setting, sympathetic hero, unsympathetic antagonist, conflict, resolution (one in which, typically, the hero changes in a fundamental way). You’ll notice that critique is not mentioned … and when you’re criticizing the other guy’s story, you’re not telling your own.

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How Much Do You Know About TV

Take this quiz from the Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting and find out. I'll help you get started:

6. How many hours per year does the average American youth spend watching TV?

ANSWER: d. 1,023 hours. Compiled by TV-Turnoff Network for New York Times Magazine, February, 16 2003.

7. How many hours per year does the average American youth spend in school?

ANSWER: d. 900 hours. Compiled by TV-Turnoff Network for New York Times Magazine, February, 16 2003.

I also recently heard that in coming years the average American, by the time of his or her death, will have spent nearly 11 years of their life watching television.

Now … if you got to death's door and were offered another 11 years, (1) would you take it, and (2) would you spend it watching reruns of West Wing? That's what I thought …

Posted by Avocare at 11:05 PM | TrackBack

Indian Market Crash

Interesting that the day after I find and link to Tom Barnett's The New Core pillars at risk (India) post, (which he authored on May 14th), the Indian stock market crashes.

According to Indian news outlet Rediff the exchanges have been closed and trading halted:

The Mumbai police soon arrived on the scene with three vans and feared that the situation would get out of control as the brokers were only shouting on top of their voices against Congress and arguing with reporters.

The policemen cleared Dalal Street after telling the brokers and reporters to get out from the BSE building.

Ramesh Bhojwani, another broker, was more angry with the capital market regulator — the Securities and Exchange Board of India — as it “did not intervene or do anything to stop the market from falling heaving, leading to suspension of trading twice.”

“Since morning Rs 3 lakh crore (Rs 3 trillion) has been lost and the government could not do anything. Everybody here wants to quit and run from this market. The Congress has senior leaders like Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram. They understand the markets but still they have not made any statement to prevent the fall of the Sensex,” cried Bhojwani.

And from Dr. Barnett's post:

There's nothing wrong with campaigning on behalf of the little people and making the case that they have to share in the opening up of India to the outside world as much as the high-tech and service-industry people have. But a return to the protectionism of the past would be a disaster for India, killing a lot of great economic connectivity built up with the outside world over the past decade.

India is a such a bell-weather state for globalization, so a close eye on this development is warranted.


Posted by Avocare at 07:36 AM | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Tom Barnett & The New World Order

You have likely not heard of Tom Barnett. He is a professor of warfare analysis at the Naval War College and a Defense Department analyst. He’s also the man who in 1998 worked with senior executives at Cantor Fitzgerald to study how globalization was changing national security. More recently, though, he’s been briefing the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon staffers, and the intelligence community his view of the future of US national security and the military it will require, and he appears to be shaping their thinking.

His central tenet is that the world is divided into nation states that are either part of a global community linked by trade, migration and capital flows, or nation states that either refuse to join the mainstream, or can’t because they have no central government or are debilitated by crisis. And for us, Community:Good, Non-Community:Bad (as in the breeding ground of terrorism, disease, and economic imbalance).

Given such a world, Mr. Barnett believes the US military should include two forces: “Leviathan,” which would be a hard-hitting force capable of quickly overwhelming conventional foes, and “System Administrators,” which would focus on bringing dysfunctional states into the mainstream through nation-building operations, and which would travel the world during peacetime building local security forces and infrastructure.

His thoughts, currently captured in a 3-hour PowerPoint presentation he’s developed, are perking ears in the military, intelligence, and government community. He’s delivered the presentation more than 150 times, and recently to the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff. His is an interesting and important argument … the most readily available account of which is this article he wrote for Esquire in March, 2003. You can get a more recent take in this WSJ article, reprinted on Dr. Barnett's website.

And finally, if you really want a glimpse of the man behind Leviathan, you should visit his weblog. A recent post: The New Core pillars at risk (India). (What, you're not surprised he's a blogger, are you?)

Posted by Avocare at 11:18 PM | TrackBack

John Sack

John Sack, legendary war correspondent for Esquire Magazine, has died. Esquire has his most acclaimed work, the 33,000-word October, 1966 Vietnam dispatch M Company, from Fort Dix, New Jersey to South Vietnam, online and free for your reading. It is, especially now, a fascinating work of journalism.

MONDAY MORNING for thirty gay minutes, for the first time in its corporate history, M could experience pleasant weather. The temperature at M's altitude was 70, and through the sides of its swift helicopters there came one of those summer-in-a-sports-car and hair-rumpling breezes. With its whole silent battalion and three battalions more, M was in combat clothes and being lifted out toward the Michelin rubber plantation, a forest where the communists, all busy little beavers, had been whittling bamboo stakes for several days, dipping them in buffalo dung, urinating on them, putting them in punji pits, in foot-traps, in mad little Batman traps in trees, whiz! out of bushes, pop! out of ferns—aargh! and burying mines, and hiding grenades, and step on the wires and “Look out!” grinning old Foley had told M back in its infantry training, two weeks earlier, “Look out! here it comes! five whole gallons of flaming gasoline!” Through some diabolical means, the communists at the Michelin plantation had learned of the Operation the week before, although it was classified SECRET.

Take the time and read the rest.

Posted by Avocare at 07:27 PM | TrackBack


He rumbled down the stretch like rolling thunder, running on air and running all alone, the others already having abjectly surrendered, thoroughly cowed by this mighty machine, and the only remaining question was how much would he win by.

The city is crazed for this horse. Read the rest of the local Philadelphia take on the city's most recent hero, from Bill Lyon.

Posted by Avocare at 07:09 PM | TrackBack

I Got Bored

I did. The old Avocare design just wasn’t working for me anymore, and the Photoblog (the most recent post of which, incidentally, is over in the right-hand column) is the outlet for most of my touchy-feely creative energy these days, and the Avocare travelblog idiom wasn’t working for me either. So I’ve made a change in design, which, I expect, will be accompanied by a change in posting philosophy.

We are, after all, our context. So we’ll see what happens.

This look also includes some fancy behind-the-scenes coding tricks that most of you would never see but of which I’m quite proud, one of which is getting the post title and post entry to be on the same line. If you’re curious as to how I pulled that one off, send me a note.

I also know some aren’t fond of the orange-blue combo look. I’ve always liked it … a bit non-traditional, it works artistically, and it’s been very good to some. The great thing about CSS is that I can change it on a whim (and I just might).

So I hope you like it … and I expect that in a year or so, I’ll change it again.

Posted by Avocare at 06:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

It Was A Good Week

Click to see biggie size, and thanks to all who gave.

Posted by Avocare at 12:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Strengthen The Good

I was disgusted and revolted by the beheading of Nick Berg. I suspect you were, too. I've decided an act of Evil requires a response that streghthens something Good, so I'm doing this. Please give.

Posted by Avocare at 08:25 AM | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

On The Photoblog ...


Also, I've entered Mist in the Photo Friday contest. Visit Photo Friday and see all the pretty pictures, and while you're there, cast a vote for my submission (you'll see the name “Avocare” in the left-hand column, entry #301).

Posted by Avocare at 06:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack