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Thursday, June 30, 2005

I Give Up

I do. I freakin' give up. I was willing to accept when the History Channel was actually the World War II channel. It's not my favorite part of history; but it is important, there's lots film to work with, and I imagine it suits their demographic to a "T".

But that was then, this is now:

8:00pm UFO Files TVPG, CC
9:00pm UFO Files TVPG, CC
10:00pm Modern Marvels (ET Tech) TVPG, CC
11:00pm Alien Abductions TVPG, CC

And this is by no means unusual, every night this week the 8:00 show is UFO Files.

Don't get me wrong, there are reasonable arguments to be made that intelligent, non-human civilizations exist elsewhere in the universe. The odds for it are suggestive, though not indicative. Last week and the week before, NOVA showed a four part series called, Origins, which included an episode on the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence. But that's a world away from abduction stories about E.T. with an anal probe.

Is it too much to ask that the History Channel be about - I don't know - History?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Thoughts on the Democratic message

EMILY's List has just released their most recent Women's Monitor poll, and the news for Democrats in it is heartening. Since the 2004 election there has been a massive shift(about 20 percentage points) in the attitudes of women against the Republican party. While this is good news, it's important to remember that the mid-term election is still 16 months away, and in politics that's a lifetime.

Digging a bit deeper this poll, as well as other recent ones, gives Democrats running for Congress some useful themes around which to craft their message. Here are a few thoughts that I in exploring these themes:

  • Abortion rights needs to be subsumed into an overarching support for privacy rights. I am by no means suggesting that abortion rights should be abandoned or curtailed; however, while most people (including most women) support some controls over abortion, general privacy rights are viewed much more favorably.

    [W]omen...believe that Republicans have overstepped the bounds on issues of privacy and on the relationship between religion and science. Even women who are uncomfortable with abortion rights do not believe strongly that government should dictate morality or that scientific progress should be proscribed by religion.

    I would suggest framing the issue like this:

    The government should not be forcing the morality of a small minority on the whole nation. If a person honestly believes that embryonic stem cell research is immoral, then let them choose to forego the benefits that may come from it; but don't impose on the rest of us a ban on potential cures for a range of devistating diseases, from Parkinsons to Alzheimers to cancer, and many more.

    If a person believes that medical care and life support should be continued in all circumstances, even beyond all hope for recovery, then let them decide that for themselves; but others who believe differently and tell this to their spouse and family, or put this in a Living Will, should be allowed to decide for themselves when their life should be allowed to end naturally and peacefully.

    If a person believes that birth control is immoral, no one is forcing them to use it. However, when a woman and her doctor decide that birth control is right for her, no one should be allowed to step between them and insert their own morality instead.

  • The war in Iraq and terrorism are currently polling at a lower priority than they were in the Presidental election. It's important to remember that this can change on a dime. In addition, I would recommend having a strong position on this because Rove's Rule does have validity - attack your opponent where he is strongest.

    The Democrats have consistently been on the losing side of this issue and there is no reason for that, we need to reframe the debate on this issue: The war in Iraq has made us more vulnerable to terrorism, not less; more vulnerable to rogue nations, not less.

    The administration has gotten us into this awful mess in Iraq: making us less safe, costing the lives of our brave military men and women, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, and decimating our credibility around the world - credibility that necessary for cooperation to prevent international terrorism. We now need people in Congress who are willing to clean up that mess.

    As we have become increasingly aware over the past several months, the Bush administration lied to the country, and lied to Congress, in order to drag us into a war that makes us less secure against international terrorism. Instead of continuing the hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida we diverted resources to attack a country that was a long-term threat at best. Our country faces many threats around the world, but the Bush adminstration lied so that we would wastefully attack a minor threat while leaving several greater threats un heeded.

    The administration ignored military advice, went in with too few troops, and didn't plan for the occupation that we are now stuck in. Because we didn't have the manpower, hundreds of tons of high-explosives kept by Saddam's regieme could not be secured and are now being used everyday to kill our troops, Iraqi security forces, and thousands upon thousands of civilians.

    As Afghanistan was in the 1980's, Iraq has now become the training ground for a whole new generation of terrorists; and when this war is finally over they will spread around the middle east and the world practicing their deadly trade against civilians everywhere.

    And we, the country that should be a shining beacon of justice and hope, have decended to the depths of torturer and pariah.

    As will be pointed out, many current Democratic members of Congress voted in support of invading Iraq. There is no need to equivocate. The Bush adminstration lied. That is why we are there.

  • Under the guise of "values" issues, the Republicans will try to bring up gay marriage. The focus has to be changed to civil unions. Personally, I support gay marriage. I absolutely believe that it is right. However, the majority of the country disagrees with me. What the majority does support is civil unions and the focus on gay marriage is hurting that middle step.

    Last election, in every state in which an "anti-gay marriage" amendment was on the ballot, that amendment passed. What is worse is that in most cases, those amendments not only banned gay marriage but also eliminated civil unions. At the moment in most places, gay marriage is too much to ask, civil unions are not.

    I would suggest using language like this:

    Around the country, loving couples are unable to visit one another in the hospital. Around the country, loving couples are unable to leave their worldly possessions to each other. Around the country, loving couples are discriminated against in a thousand small ways. This is not right. This is not how we should treat each other.
  • Healthcare is an issue that plays well for the Democrats. We are trusted on this issue more than Republicans. We should take our strength and increase it by playing up the fact that Healthcare reform is pro-business, as well as pro-family.

    Right now, Healthcare costs are a huge drag on the companies that employ us and drive our economy. General Motors, for example, has announced that they are laying off 25,000 workers in no small part due to the rise in healtcare costs. So not only are each of us having to pay higher and higher prices for healthcare, but many of us are also losing our jobs because of this problem putting the health and security of our families in ever greater risk.

    In addition, because of the Republicans, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate with drug companies for the best prices. Who pays for this windfall for the drug companies? You do. I do. Our parents and grandparents do. It is more important to the Republicans that drug company money continues flowing into their campaign coffers than the fact that our seniors are being bled dry by these corporate pirates.

  • Social Security is currently a significant strength for the Democrats and the Republicans are beginning to shun it.

    As long as the status quo remains superior to any of the Republicans attempts to gut the our social saftey net, there is no need to change our strategy. To the extent that comment on the issue is necessary, I'd suggest something like this:

    The Democrats have sworn to protect Social Security from the predations of this administration, and we will continue to do this until the Republians finally realize that our saftey net to protects all of us. It needs to be strengthened, not removed.
  • And finally the issue that Democrats are most trusted on: the Environment. We need to call out the adminstration for being environmentalists in name only.

    The Bush administration has not only ignored the advice of their own scientists, the administration has rewritten those scientists' conclusions to suit their corporate donors.

    They call themselves environmentalists but this administration's Clear Skies bill eviscerates pollution controls and lead to more lung disease, more deaths. They call themselves environmentalists but they increase the amount of mercury that is allowed in our drinking water. They call themselves environmentalists but the Healthy Forests Initiative gifts our national forests to private businesses. They are not environmentalists, they have never been environmentalists, and until they realize that our life, our health and our world demand good stewardship on our part, they will never be environmentalists.

These are my suggestions. I am a Democrat. I know that our positions are better for our country than what the Republicans are trying to foist upon us, but unless we stop bearing our throats and fight back, issue by issue, we will never be able to prove it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The New New Torture

Fred Clark says it better than I could. Again.

Here's what I believe:

I believe that torture itself is dishonorable. I believe that failing to condemn torture is dishonorable. I believe that condoning the practice of torture empowers our enemies and puts American lives at risk. And I believe that by embracing the immoral, counterproductive and utterly un-American practice of torture we make America more closely resemble the kinds of infamous and evil regimes we ought never to resemble in the slightest.

I believe that those who defend the practice of torture lessen America. I believe that the condemnation of those who condemn torture lessens America. I believe that Joseph Darby is a great American and that Jeremy Sivits is not.

But I can't believe that we've fallen so far that I actually have to say all these things. I can't believe that we have reached the point where statements like "Torture is bad" and "It is good to condemn torture" are seen as controversial.

A United States Senator spoke the truth. He condemned evil and called it un-American. And then he was forced to apologize.

Jesus God.

His whole post is worth a read and he follows it up with a post explaining what you can do about it.

I've just written to my Representative and Senators in support of the respective bills. I would encourage everyone else to do the same.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Random Ten - now with new grading action

The latest variation on the Friday random ten is to grade the coolness of the songs that are on your list. Amanda at Pandagon does it following up on posts from Norbizness and Lauren at Feministe.

I argued in the comments on Pandagon that one cannot judge how cool one's own music is, that can only be done by others. So feel free to grade my random selection on the Feministe Scale of Coolness (1 being wack and 10 being bitchin’). Top and bottom scores for each song will be dropped and the average will be how cool I am this week.

Let 'er rip:

  1. Aimee Mann - She Really Wants You (download from linked page)
  2. Peter Mulvey - Here In the Going Going Gone (couldn't find a copy, sorry)
  3. The Duhks - Death Came a Knockin' (Real Audio format)
  4. Miss Tammy Faye Starlite - Highway 69 (clip from eMusic)
  5. Leo Kottke - Busted Bicycle (clip from eMusic)
  6. Anaïs Mitchell - I Wear Your Dress (mp3 download)
  7. John Doe (with Dave Alvin and Grant Lee Philips) - Heartless (clip from eMusic)
  8. Kaki King - Happy as a Dead Pig in the Sunshine (couldn't find a copy, sorry)
  9. Natalie Farr - Little Girl (Real Audio format)
  10. John Fahey - The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick (couldn't find a copy, sorry)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My Sunday morning story

Over at Pandagon Amanda Marcotte has written several highly commented posts on the way that society blames rape victims ( and ). As part of this she mentioned that she has read many woment bloggers posting their experiences, but no men. This is what I put in the comments to the second post:

Okay, here's my story.

I was probably around 12 or 13, but I was always small for my age so I looked younger. On Friday and Saturday nights, my friends and I would converge on one of our homes and play D&D, or some similar game, until the sun came up. It was about a five mile walk back to our respective homes in the morning and three of us, who lived near each other, would take the walk back together.

I can't remember why, but one Sunday morning I had to walk back by myself. By the time I was two-thirds the way home I was tired and bored and when some guy I'd never met before asked me if I wanted a lift, I said yes.

At first everything seemed okay: I was a bit nervous and realized that I probably shouldn't've accepted the ride, but he seem okay. Then he takes a wrong turn. I point this out to him, and he makes another turn into an industrial park and pulls over.

He then exposed himself and asked me to expose myself as well. I refused and he pulled out what appeared to be a gun. He asked me again and I refused. He last asked me what I would do if he shot me.

Different people react to stressful situations in different ways. I dont' believe that there is a single right way for people to react. I tend to become hyperfocused. There was a gun in front of me and that's pretty much what I was paying attention to. Perhaps there were people around who could have helped if I yelled. I don't know.

What I did say was that, if he shot me, I would probably die. That turned out to be the magic phrase. I impressed him enough, or it had just been an idle thought for him and he didn't expect resistence, or whatever; he let me go. My resistence could have just as easily angered him and I very likely could have died.

As he unlocked the door, he said that the gun was only a cigarette lighter. I don't know, it looked real to me.

Did I do something foolish? Yes, for me to walk the five miles along a busy highway at 6:30 Sunday morning wasn't among the brightest things I've ever done. But it shouldn't have been foolish. I should have been able to make that walk without worrying about pedophiles, rapists or whatever. Anyone should. And at any time one of the people involved in any physical situation says, "no," then that's where it should end.

Maybe we could resurrect FDR?

Various Republican members of the House have introduced a joint resolution to repeal the 22nd amendment to the Constitution. The one which limits Presidents to two terms.

The timing is interesting since Bush's numbers are lower than they've ever been. However, it's always good to remember that those fluctuate and it's never too soon to prevent a third term for Bush Minor.

Thanks to Sisyphus Shrugged for the heads up.

Baby steps

An Alabama State Representative has asked his attourney general to look into money that was funneled into the state, in particular to Ralph Reed's firm, to fight a proposed lottery. The money was initially reported to have come from a Washington DC group, but it has recently been revealed that that group was just a channel for money from Indian casinos.

According to Rep. Hinshaw this is a violation of Alabama state law which prohibits making donations in someone else's name.

The story is here.

For those who don't know, Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and now running to the post of Lieutenant Governer of Georgia, is smack dab in the middle of the Indian Gaming scandal that is threatening to sink certain members of the Republican party.

Bull Moose tends to be the go-to source for information on this particular scandal, with this post being the most recent on the topic that I've found.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Strange Fruit (revisited)(revisited)

In an update to yesterday's post about Chambliss' failure to co-sponsor the Anti-Lynching resolution.

Turns out he decided to ask for a do-over and had his name added to the list of co-sponsors after the resolution had pass.

It makes one proud to think of one's Senators skating by with a good D-.

What's so (honkin') funny 'bout peace, love and understanding

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that nude dancing is a form of protected speech. So isn't it just common sense that honking your car's horn in support of a weekly protest should also be protected? Not only is it making a statement (support for the protesters) but since the statement is political (protesting against the war), the honking is worthy of the greatest level of protection that we give to speech under the first amendment. Unfortunately the police in Tiburon, CA have different ideas.

"We have been picketing for a long time. All of a sudden the police are out there trying to stop the honks," said peacenik Melvin Fiske, a corporal in the Marines during World War II. "We assume honking is as American as (apple) pie. If people want to applaud our actions it is their right to do that."

Tiburon Police Capt. Dave Hutton said excessive honking is an "unlawful use of horn" and officers are simply doing their job.

So, any bets on how long it'll take before the court throws these tickets out?

I know a bit about Biology

Well, it looks like the Georgia Board of Education can do something right after all. As reported in the AJC, the board rejected a Parental Notification rule that would have required parents to sign permission slips before their child could join a school club; in effect it would have required gay, lesbian or simply confused kids to either out themselves to their parents or not seek help and support from their peers.

The 10-3 decision cheered opponents, who felt the policy would deter gay students from joining support clubs.

Beth Littrell, a staff attorney with the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said public schools have no right to prohibit students from joining clubs, even at the request of parents. "In our opinion, [it's] a violation of the student's First Amendment rights," Littrell said.

Those who have been keeping up with Zach's plight know all too well what can happen when a teenager comes out to a parent, and the parent is monumentally unsupportive.

Kudos to the GBE.

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles...

I was staying up late last night when I realized that Turner Classic Movies was showing 20 Million Miles to Earth as part of their Science Fiction Films of the Cold War Tuesdays. When I was a kid I used to love this movie in a completely non-ironic, would watch it a hundred times, way.

But some time since then, my innocence was shattered. Oh sure, if you'd asked me then what I liked the most about it, I would have said, "the special effects," and, absolutely, Ray Harryhausen's work is great. But sometime between then and now I began caring about the plot, and the characters, and the dialog, and the acting - those little things.

Actually, I think I can date when I began to care. It was in '82 or '83 when Paul Mazursky's Tempest first came to HBO. Granted, I liked this film because when I initially saw it, I developed a huge crush on Molly Ringwald. To express my love for her, I watched the movie over and over and slowly started paying attention to the movie as a whole. I came to appreciate that movie for what it was, and learned that I could like many different types of films. Molly Ringwald took my innocence from me (of course, you could also say that Paul Mazursky took my innocence, but that just leads to a scary visual place).

So anyway, I was watching 20 Million Miles, and it occurred to me how bad - how truly atrocious - the movie was. Just as an example, about a third of the way into the movie Ymir, the monster from Venus, has escaped and is being tracked by Col. Calder and a few other people. They come across Ymir hiding in a barn just after it's killed a dog, and Calder says, "He's actually docile unless threatened." And just to prove his point, the Colonel proceeds to poke at the creature with a big stick.

A bit later I'm still sitting there watching, half laughing my butt off and half just agog that I used to think this was good, when the thought came to me that if I had any faith whatsoever in the talent of the screenwriters that the whole thing could be seen as a cautionary tale of Imperial hubris. Not just is everything bad that happens, everything, America's fault; but if we'd bothered for one moment to pay attention to the concerns of the locals, it could have been nipped in the bud.

First, we go to Venus without telling anyone. I'm not sure why our scientific leap forward should have been kept a secret, but there you go. However since it was classified, when the rocket goes off course during re-entry, we can't exactly ask for help locating it and, of course, we don't warn anyone about the potentially hazardous cargo it's carrying.

Surprise, surprise that hazardous cargo, the Venusian monster Ymir, escapes. Initially, the Italian authorities go along with the US' plan to capture it, but following the incident with the stick and the poking that I mentioned above, which ended with a local being mauled, the Italians say, "bugger that, we're killing the beast." They are reasonably concerned that this creature is going to go on a rampage and kill lots of natives.

The Americans though wheedle, argue and beg, until the Italians give in allowing the American's one last chance to capture it. The GIs do, but shockingly enough while they're studying it Ymir escapes again. Hello, the 20 foot-tall creature is only sedated by a precisely regulated electric current, and it doesn't occur to the government to keep a back-up generator around?

So, the monster's out again, killing Italians and tearing up ancient Roman architecture, before finally the Italians are allowed to do what they should have done in the first place and put the poor thing out of its misery.

All in all, this could be seen as a subversive critique of American arrogance. Unfortunately, I don't have faith in the writers and have to conclude that the story just sucks.

After 20 Million Miles, TCM showed The Blob, about which I have only two points:

  • This move has the absolute funniest theme song ever. I've never been a fan of Burt Bacharach (nor Mack David either, but who cares about him), but I figured, 'if Elvis Costello, one of the coolest people to exist on this planet, does a duet with him, perhaps he's worth a second listen.' Screw that. I don't care if he went on to become the next Norman Borlaug, saving the lives of a Billion people; to me he would always remain the man who wrote the Theme to The Blob
  • Steve McQueen is supposed to be a teenager? He makes Beverly Hills 90210 era Luke Perry look like a toddler.
  • Okay, I lied, I have one more thing. It looks like some idiot is shelling out money for (yet another) remake of this movie, and this time it's been written by the same people who penned this years regurgitation of House of Wax. Oh, joy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Strange Fruit (revisited)

Earlier today, Majikthise put up a list of the twenty US Senators who refused to co-sponsor the Anti-Lynching resolution that was passed yesterday, and what a shock, one of the ones from my state was on the list.

In the comments, one reader suggested that we bug these people until we find out why they weren't willing to take even this small step to atone for the Senate's failure to pass anti-lynching legislation half a century ago.

Well, here's me doing my little bit:

Dear Senator Chambliss,

I was wondering why you were only one of twenty Senators who not only refused to co-sponsor yesterday's anti-lynching resolution, but also refused a roll-call vote.

Granted the apology has come at least fifty years too late, but what is wrong with this small measure.

Yours,
Charles Smith

I'll let you know if I hear anything back.

I'm dreaming of a white Christian

If it's at all unclear about whom Dean was referring when he called the GOP "a white Christian party", Chris Hedges writes about them in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine.

In his article Soldiers of Christ II: Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters, Hedges reports on the most recent NRB convention in Anaheim, CA. Much of the article deals with the mundanities that you might expect from a convention of ultra-right wing religious types, but to provide a bit of context, Hedges includes a bit of background to describe these people and their goals:

What the disparate sects of this movement, known as Dominionism, share is an obsession with political power. A decades-long refusal to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian “dominion” over the nation and, eventually, over the earth itself. Dominionists preach that Jesus has called them to build the kingdom of God in the here and now, whereas previously it was thought that we would have to wait for it. America becomes, in this militant biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan. Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, Creationism and “Christian values” form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Aside from its proselytizing mandate, the federal government will be reduced to the protection of property rights and “homeland” security.[When George W. Bush was first elected, Pat Robertson resigned as head of the Christian Coalition, a sign to many that Bush was the first in an expected line of regents that will herald the coming of the Messiah.] Some Dominionists (not all of whom accept the label, at least not publicly) would further require all citizens to pay “tithes” to church organizations empowered by the government to run our social-welfare agencies, and a number of influential figures advocate the death penalty for a host of “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and witchcraft. The only legitimate voices in this state will be Christian. All others will be silenced.

The traditional evangelicals, those who come out of Billy Graham’s mold, are not necessarily comfortable with the direction taken by the Dominionists, who now control most of America’s major evangelical organizations, from the NRB to the Southern Baptist Convention, and may already claim dominion over the Christian media outlets. But Christians who challenge Dominionists, even if they are fundamentalist or conservative or born-again, tend to be ruthlessly thrust aside.

These are a group of people who have a guiding voice in Republican politics and want to remake the U.S. into a Christian Fascist state.

After the Schiavo mess earlier this year, I read many people saying that these people had finally jumped the shark, and indeed Kevin Drum is predicting that their over-reaching will work for us next Presidential election. It is way too soon to make an accurate prediction about what will happen to this movement and that race, and to the extent that such expectations encourage complacency they are dangerous.

* * *

Also worth reading is the first article in the series Soldiers of Christ I: Inside America's most powerful megachurch by Jeff Sharlet, and the follow up story by Non-Prophet about how questioning Pastor Ted of the New Life Church with respect to Sharlet's article got a congregant excommunicated.

Here a geek, there a geek, ...

So, following up on my last post in which I said that John Adams was a geek, I've decided that as I read through the American History series, I'm going to create a list of Presidential Geeks.

Just to state, being a geek is not a bad thing, in fact I wear it as a badge of honor; however since gladhandling has generally been considered both manditory for a President and anathema for a geek, I think its worthwhile to make a list of those people who have broken the mold.

As a preliminary list, I'm inclined to include both John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, as geeks; as well as Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Wilson, Nixon, and Carter. I'm sure they're more and some of my initial suggestions might be knocked off the list.

If you have any suggestions, or feel that my preliminary list is in error, let me know. I'll discuss each one as I come to him in my reading before I develop any sort of final list.

Monday, June 13, 2005

What I did on my vacation (for the last ten years)

My Summer reading list:
  • The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of It's Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
  • Page Smith's American History series:
    • A New Age Now Begins : A People's History of the American Revolution, V. 1
    • A New Age Now Begins : A People's History of the American Revolution, V. 2
    • The Shaping of America : A People's History of the Young Republic , V. 3
    • The Nation Comes of Age : A People's Hisotry of the Ante-Bellum Years , V. 4
    • Trial by Fire : A People's History of the Civil War and Reconstruction, V. 5
    • The Rise of Industrial America : A People's History of the Post-Reconstruction, V. 6
    • America Enters the World : A People's History of the Progressive Era and World War I, V. 7
    • Redeeming the Time : A People's History of the 1920s and the New Deal, V. 8
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Mismeasure of Woman by Carol Tavris

Many of these books I aready have and, since I'm currently sans work, among the few that I don't have the new Harry Potter is the only book on the list that I'll be buying new.

I'm almost fininshed with The Bible Unearthed and I'm about half-way done with volume one of A New Age Now Begins, but I decided to cheat and include them on the list anyway.

And here's a list of books that've been recommended to me but, being broke, I cannot currently afford:

  • Creating Born Criminals by Nicole Hahn Rafter, which was recommended by Mnemosyne
  • Wild Minds by Marc Hauser
  • Demonic Males by Richard Wrangham

If you have any recommendations to add to my "when I have money" list, feel free to let me know.

***

As I've been reading A New Age, the thought occurred to me that most of our country's founding fathers were dyed in the wool geeks. Here's an example. To set the stage, future President John Adams and most of the other members of the Massachusetts delegation to what would later become known as the First Continental Congress are travelling to Philadelphia, stopping in various cities and towns along the way, in this case New York:

New York turned out to be a round of elegant dinners, of meetings and discussions with patriots of all ranks and persuasions. "The Way we have been in," Adams observed ruefully, "of breakfasting, dining, drinking Coffee, etc. about the City is very disagreable on some Accounts...it hinders us from seein the Colledge, the Churches, the Printers Offices and Booksellers Shops, and many other Things which we should choose to see."
A New Age Now Begins, Vol. 1 p. 421-2
So he goes to New York, talks to pretty much everybody who is anybody among the patriot circle, is the guest of honor at numerous parties, and what's his reaction? He complains because he didn't have time to stop by the bookstore. This is a man after my own heart.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Okay, so this is my new blog. I have many interests, from music to history to science to movies and on and on. One of my interests though is politics and I think it would be wrong not to address the single most important political issue of the day in my inaugural post.

I can't say that my basic thinking about the U.S. being in Iraq has changed significantly, however in the past several years the reality on the ground has quite obviously changed and that should be reflected in my current thoughts as what we should do.

I initially opposed going into Iraq, primarily because I believed (and still believe) that doing so would make us less safe. Our primary goal should have been reducing terrorism. Before we went in, I argued that an invasion would end up increasing the number and stridency of terrorists with a hatred of the U.S. As the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and specificly the CIA trained and armed mujahadeen fighters, led to the current leadership of al-Qaida; so I maintained that invading Iraq would be organized terrorism's greatest recruitment and training tool. In addition, invading Iraq would (did) draw off forces that were needed to locate and eliminate al-Qaida.

Once we were there however, my belief was that we needed to say and finish the job leaving the Iraqis with a viable state - sometimes known as Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule, "you break it, you bought it."

Over the past nine months or so though, I have become increasingly more convinced that, with the current force structure and within any sort of reasonable time frame, it is not possible to secure the country much less help them develop a viable, unified government.

The Bush administration has already stated an unwillingness, if indeed it even has the capability, to increase the number of forces in the region to a number that would be necessary to effect a rapid stabilization (something on the order of 1,000,000 military persons in the region). In addition, it is looking highly doubtful that the military has the resources to act decisively if there were a major flare-up somewhere around the world - a fact which has not gone unnoticed by either Iran or North Korea.

Without such numbers estimates on the time necessary to complete the mission in Iraq vary from 5-25 years, in other words god only knows. The most recent poll numbers show that support for the war is around 40% and there's no reason to assume that a protracted deployment will do anything but shrink these numbers. As well, the military is facing massive problems in recruiting new soldiers and Marines, while the administration has ruled out a return to the draft; and given that the current manpower crisis is directly related to the war in Iraq, the longer the unpopular war continues the more serious the personnel shortage will become.

If we don't have the resources to solve the problem in the short term, and we don't have the resources in either manpower or popularity, to stick it out long term; the question becomes, "when and under what circumstances should we withdraw?" There are no easy answers to this question. If we leave prior to completing the mission, it is highly likely that Iraq will devolve into civil war and fracture into three separate states upsetting the balance in the region that was in place prior to the invasion.

I'm willing to listen to any ideas that are presented about the best way to extricate ourselves from a bad situation, but if my calculus about our ability to succeed is correct, staying the course is not helping and is only costing the lives and health of our military personnel.