Friday, September 15, 2006

We are losing Iraq

I hate to sound grim but the recently "essential" part of the war on terror, Iraq, is being lost by the US. We lack the forces, the understanding and the strategy to win.

Regarding forces, see this analysis to understand why. It isn't a matter of manpower, its a matter of equipping the troops. At the current rate, we are maintaining the forces currently there at the expense of forces and stockpiles elsewhere. Were something to erupt elsewhere in the world, we'd have a lot of trouble responding effectively. Hey Rumsfeld, thanks a lot, now kick yourself out and let someone else clean up the pile of shit you left.

The understanding is, well, tough to understand. Our cultural differences and lack of bother to study mid-east culture leaves us unable to comprehend why the iraqis can in one breath say "thanks for getting rid of Saddam" and "get the fuck out" in the next. The arabic sense of honor is a peculiar thing, they need to do it themselves in order to feel worthy of it. In a way, the only steps we can take to secure the nation are the very things that will increase the bloodshed. If we leave, there will be chaos, but at least we won't be in the middle. Maybe the predictions that once we're out of there, the Iraqis will turn on the foreign insurgents will be true but more likely, the factions will use them as mercenaries.

Strategy, or lack of it, is an issue that has been a talking point during campaigns since the 2004 election. Apparently, Democrats didn't have one and it contributed to the Republican victories. What no one bothered to ask was, what was the Repub strategy? Stay the course comes close but isn't a plan, it's a mantra. Truth is, no one knows what we should do about Iraq. Until someone figures it out, we'll be stuck in that sandpit losing men and equipment for no imaginable cause.

Monday, August 28, 2006

American Greed, part 3

This news story will probably go unnoticed by most americans but should be on the front page in order to provoke the most outrage and get people to start caring.

On its own, the news is not very noteworthy but in the context of Ken Lay and Enron as a cultural phenomenon, not an aberration, it is important. That his name could be cleared and he is declared innocent is not just a perversion of justice but an insult to decency. There are many people who have declared him innocent despite the conviction (see the previous post), having him officially cleared would only encourage the sort of greed that he exemplified.

In other news, I have recently taken to reading the NYT sunday business section. I scan the headlines, read Ben Stein's column and read whatever interests me. They seem to have an article every week on runaway executive compensation which is either a sign of obsession on their part or of a serious problem in our society. I think a little bit of the former, a lot of the latter is about right. This week's perp was the ceo of InfoUSA who was playing fast and loose with options and is being investigated for it. Among his "perks" was having his yacht, his various homes and luxury cars underwritten by the company. I guess if you're only a millionare but want to live like a billionare, you just get the shareholders to pick up the slack. Asshole.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

American Greed, part 2

This article describes the memorial service for "Kenny Boy" Lay, the former Enron exec who died last week. You may recall that he was found guilty for his part in the implosion of Enron which, among other things, cost most of the employees of the firm their retirement funds. Perhaps you'll also remember that Enron traders likely engineered the California energy crisis a few years back. When he died, Lay was on "vacation" after his conviction, awaiting his sentence.

If it wasn't for the scandal, Lay and his buddies at Enron would have been stupidly rich. as it turned out, they were only ridiculously rich. Don't you hate it when malfeasance gets in the way?

So, back to the article. The reverend giving the eulogy compared Lay to Jesus and Martin Luther King jr. adding that time will show his innocence. Umm, no. Unless these were extremely contrasting comparisons, that it utter crap. What is sad here is that not only was this man a symbol of the overboard greed we're seeing in this nation, but that there are those who apologize and glorify it, invoking the name of God to do so. What sick culture can produce these words from a Christian reverend?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

global warming and wine

The article linked to above concerns recent studies that indicate how the affects of global warming will render most of the finest wine producing regions in the US incapable of growing grapes. For the last 5 years I've been making a joke that I'm going to find some suitable land in Maine for a vineyard and wait for global warming to make it viable. Now my stupid joke may become a sad reality. That may be the worst result of my sense of humor since the last date I went on...

Oh, and this is the first post to be posted both on this blog and my other one. Congratulations to me for finding common ground.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

soccer, futbal, footie, calcio etc.

I am in the midst of world cup fever. Thought I'm usually at work during the matches (stupid time zones), I'm DVRing the important ones and trying to remain ignorant of the result until I get a chance to watch it later. Today however, I got to work and the owner was already there with the gamecast going on the internet. We tracked the England-Portugal match via the play by play update when there were no customers around and did the same for the first 60 minutes of the brasil-france match. Then he found a live video feed from espn and we watched the last 20 minutes or so on his laptop. The feed kept getting broken up but we got the gist of it from the audio and the tension was certainly building up as both of us were pulling for the French.

I've been a fan of the French team since 1998 when they won it all on their home turf. Zinedine Zidane is an amazing player so I think that's a large part of it. My most brilliant moment on the soccer field was inspired by one of his plays in the '98 final. Also, you gotta love their coach, he looks like some drunk existentialist writer on the sideline; very French, very appropriate (see attached photo). I was very happy to see le bleus win this afternoon but it could have been anyone; as much as I like any team, I hate brazil more.

So now we've got an all Europe final four teams. I think the Germans have a good shot as the home team but Italy has been shutting down opposing offenses very well and have some good forwards so they could easily make it to the finals if they score early. Portugal has played well but they seem to lack a certain something to push them over the edge. France can easily ride their momentum past them to the finals. With Zidane retiring after the tournament, you can tell he's pushing the team to wine and they are happy to oblige their capitain. I guess my two favorites would be Italy and France for purely culinary and enotecnical reasons but I'm really just happy that it won't be Brasil.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The worst is could possibly get

From a newspaper report on the flooding in the mid-atlantic region:
"Then there was the house that was spotted drifting down the north branch of the Susquehanna in New York State — on fire for a while, it seemed.

"When the house was torn up, the gas was still on," said Mr. Maurer, the spokesman for the state emergency office.

"And it ignited.""

This is a serious matter, people are dying and thousands of homes are being destroyed but sheesh, at least you know things can't get any worse if your house is not only on fire, but being swept away by a flood at the same time. From that point, things can only get better.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What, that old thing?

The controversy over the media coverage of the leak about the SWIFT program is out of control. Congress and the prez are hyperventilating, the press is becoming (more) indignant about their freedom and the pundits have escalated their screaming match a few decibels.

Here's the lowdown:
Someone in the gov't leaked a story about a monitoring program the feds are using to track the movement of potential financial support for terrorist organizations. Sounds like a good idea, don't it? Several news outlets, the NYT among them, ran articles on this program on the angle that it is potentially another program that without oversight could spiral into severe privacy rights violations. The republicans are now charging the paper with treason on the grounds that this information helps the terrorists. One congressman went so far as to say that it directly put our troops in danger. (the WSJ ran a similar article, also on their front page the same day, but the repub's are specifically calling for charges against the Times. Hmmm)

Here's the problem with this phony furor; the program was not a secret. Details were publicly available years ago. Even if Mr. Terror didn't have the exact details, he probably heard Bush mention just such a program in a speech back in 2002 and moved to better cover his tracks. Shit, I knew about this in a general manner and I'm an idiot. If the asshole terrorists didn't know about it already, then they aren't paying attention. If they aren't paying attention, they wouldn't have read the article and found out about it. It would have taken something like a major flipout on the part of the president and his party's elected officials yelling and screaming about it to make them notice...oh wait...