Sunday, February 27, 2005

Invading Iraq - revisionist history

One of my regular reads is Powerline. It's a fine blog, and I learn a lot by reading it. But one of the things I "learned" today made me sit up and take notice.

I always thought that the primary reason we invaded Iraq was to remove Iraqi WMD and to prevent them from using them on us or giving to terrorists to use on us. But according to Powerline's entry Feeling the Heat, "The principal reason for deposing Saddam Hussein, as articulated repeatedly by President Bush and others in his administration, was to begin the process of reforming the Arab world". That's a crock of crap and an attempt to make people forget the WMD fiasco.

Here is the email I sent them;

Contrary to your recent blog posting, the “principal reason for deposing Saddam Hussein, as articulated repeatedly by President Bush and others in his administration, was” NOT "to begin the process of reforming the Arab world”. Trying to head off Iraq using WMD on us or giving them to terrorists to use on us was the primary reason. To state otherwise is ludicrous. Only when no WMD were found did the reasons for the war “shift”.

Examples in his speeches leading up to the war are too numerous to mention. But let me cite two examples;

His 2003 State of the Union address contained numerous references to Iraqi WMD and that, if the U.N. did not act, we would act to remove the threat. Not one word about how liberating Iraq would lead to a renaissance of freedom in the Middle East. I quote;

“Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”

“If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”

And I quote from his speech on the day we invaded;

“…American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” The first and third reasons are WMD related.

"We have no ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.” The first reason is WMD related.

"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.” ONLY reason stated is WMD related.

"We will meet that threat now with our army, air force, navy, coastguard and marines so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.” WMD, once again.

"My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.” First and second reasons are WMD related.

Bush’s primary stated aim (and all the other big players in his administration primary stated aim) was to remove the threat of Iraqi WMD. To state otherwise is to practice revisionist history – Ward Churchill would be proud.

I spent 8 years in Saudi Arabia. I’m happy things are going well (relatively speaking) in the Middle East and that freedom appears to be gaining footholds in many places in that part of the world. I’ve said so on my own blog. And there is no doubt that this is due to the invasion. But it wasn’t the primary reason for it. You hurt your credibility by stating otherwise.
The tendency for Bush-supporters (like Powerline) to rewrite history must be opposed. Drop them a line if you feel likewise.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Riley Fox case – latest developments

It was reported today that defense attorneys for Kevin Fox, the father of Riley Fox and the man accused of killing her, asked that DNA testing in the case be handled by an “independent laboratory”. The prosecution and the judge agreed. DNA testing will be performed by the same laboratory that handled DNA identification of the 9/11 victims. This development comes after defense attorneys made a motion (which was granted) to preserve the blood that was found on Riley Fox’s body.

I’ve written about this case before, here.

I’m happy about these events of course. It means that we may be one step closer to the truth about what really happened to Riley Fox.

But my question is this; why does this kind of thing have to be “requested” by the defense (or the prosecution)? Shouldn’t it be automatic? I would think that ANY case where DNA may play a part, however small, should automatically have DNA evidence preserved and tested. And it should be tested by at least two independent labs so that the chance of error or fraud is minimized. Think about it. We have a crime, in this case a horrendous murder. DNA evidence can point to (or eliminate) suspects (remember the Rolando Cruz case). Everyone involved should want this (unless they’re guilty or have an agenda).

But nobody objected, so I guess its progress…

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Middle East – Cause for Optimism?

On last night’s Nightline, Ted Koppel’s guests were Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, and Tom Friedman, columnist for the NY Times. The discussion centered on whether or not the recent successful elections in Iraq represented a “tipping point” in the campaign to make Iraq a democratically governed, pluralistic society and, perhaps, transforming the entire Middle East. The tone of the show was, I thought, truly remarkable. There was some real optimism expressed as recent events in that part of the world were recounted; the successful elections in Afghanistan, the successful Palestinian elections, the agreement of the Israeli government to begin dismantling Jewish settlements in Gaza, the mass demonstrations (with a decidedly anti-Syrian tone) in Lebanon during the funeral of Rafik Hariri and of course, the Iraqi elections. Other items that could be added to the list are Libya’s rejection of WMD and rejoining the community of nations (though certainly not as a democracy), the recent elections in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (feeble as they were) and the attempt by some real opposition candidates to run against Hosni Mubarek in Egypt. Add to that the scene of Iraqi’s being able to vote in Iran, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and the U.A.E. (as well as other countries outside of the Middle East) – that must have been passing strange to the locals. If one would have predicted these events in the weeks and months after 9/11, they would have been certified as insane.

I don’t know if we’ve reached a “tipping point” or not. I do know that the changes in the Middle East in the past several months have been remarkable.

Thomas Friedman’s current column (subscription required) talks about the “Arab street” and what it may now represent; a desire for normalcy. I agree. In my 8 years in Saudi Arabia, I got to know people of many nationalities; Saudis, Sudanese, Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians, Tunisians, Pakistanis, Indians, Pilipinos, etc. At one time, we had people from at least 28 different nationalities working together. Once the ice was broken and you began a real one-on-one with them, you found that they are not so different than we Americans. They’re worried about their jobs, their housing, and their kids. They’re concerned with the world around them. They just want to live normal lives. Maybe, hopefully, they may now have a chance to get their wish.

So what’s next? Well, if I was Bashar Al-Asad, I’d be a bit concerned about now. The Syrians can make no persuasive case for keeping their troops in Lebanon. World focus is now on them. Recall UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in October of last year. It calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and ending their interference in Lebanese affairs. And, they’ve become surrounded with countries that democratically elect all or part of their governments; Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and now Iraq. Elections for the National Assembly in Lebanon will be held this coming spring. It will be interesting to see if a) the Syrians try to interfere and b) if the removal of Syrian troops becomes a campaign issue.

Yes, I know, this could all go to hell in a hand-basket tomorrow. But somehow I don’t think so. And I think now is the time for all Americans of good will to find some way to help make the new Iraq a success. I will be posting on this subject in the very near future.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ann Coulter, Smallpox and the American Indians

In her recent column (“Not Crazy Horse, Just Crazy), Ann Coulter continued her attack on Ward Churchill, the embattled professor from the University of Colorado.

I agree, in general, with Ms. Coulter’s demeaning portrait of Professor Churchill. His very-questionable claims that he is part-American Indian remind me of, oh, say, John Kerry and his claims about being in Cambodia. And Churchill’s statement that the victims of 9/11 were all “little Eichmanns” reminds me of, oh, I don’t know, how about “It’s a slam dunk!”.

But Ann hasn’t done her homework in regard to one of Churchill’s claims. She takes aim at Churchill for stating that “…The U.S. Army gave blankets infected with smallpox to the Indians specifically intending to spread the disease.” She says that this was impossible because the alleged event occurred long before Louis Pasteur figured out how this could happen and that settlers, therefore, would have had no idea that disease could be spread this way.

Now I don’t know if the US Army actually ever tried these tactics against the Indians or not, but they certainly knew how to do it if they wanted to. A Google search on “Indian smallpox deaths” turned up several sites that show this. My favorite one is here, a very interesting site that gave not one, but two examples of the British military discussing this very possibility and, in at least one case, actually carrying it out. Another site is here. One of these occurrences was during The French & Indian War while the other was during Pontiac’s Rebellion. Both of these events preceded the very existence of the U.S. Army by a decade or more and both of them preceded Pasteur’s discovery by nearly a century. So, when the U.S. Army came into existence, they certainly knew how to do this, even if Louis Pasteur hadn’t identified the exact mechanism yet. Hopefully they never actually carried it out.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The true harbinger of the coming baseball season...

Oh wondrous day! Oh happy occasion! I now have completely verifiable and indisputable confirmation that the Major League Baseball season is nearly here. How do I know this? Well yes, it's true that Spring Training camps have just opened.

But the REAL harbinger of the coming season was the invitation I received by email today to join the Fantasy Baseball League run by my brother-in-law. I've already purchased my first 2005 Fantasy Baseball Guide and am beginning to prepare for the draft to be held on March 19th. Though I've been a baseball fan for most of my years (originally for the Detroit Tigers and now for the Chicago White Sox), this will be only my second season playing Fantasy Baseball.

Last year, being a rookie at this, I had to learn many new strategies. Do I pick up a .500 pitcher for a single week (but who was scheduled for two starts, both of them at home) or do I let one of my studs pitch (but his single scheduled start was on the road)? Or, do I let my 1st baseman, a career monster player (but in a year-long slump) start for one more week or bench him in favor of somebody who is a career .240 hitter (but for the past two weeks has been tearing the cover off the ball)? The learning curve is steep and it took me about a half-season before I felt that I could well-justify the roster moves I was making. And it showed in the standings. I got clobbered for most of the games in the first half of the season, but won slightly more than half of the games after the All-Star break. This league has a 28 game season (one game per week) and my goal this year is to finish above .500 - at least 15-13.

A very good buddy of mine, and a much more learned sports fan than I am, declined when I tried to convince him to join the league with me. He said that "you have to pay way too much attention at that to be successful". And this is true - this is not an activity you can succeed in if you're not willing to spend at least a few hours a week on it. But for me, it's a labor of love.

I've always been a baseball fan. I love Baseball. Baseball is something I grew up with. I understand the game. I know that "the tie goes to the runner" is a myth. I know a way to fix the strike-zone problem. I grew up playing in Peanut League, then Little League and finally Pony League. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I played on various softball teams over there. There's continuity in our family with baseball. I played on a team that my dad managed and my son has played on a team that I've coached. I remember sitting with my Dad in our back yard in a suburb outside of Chicago in the late 50's while he tried to tune in our AM Radio to Ernie Harwell broadcasting the Detroit Tigers game. I remember our family going to old Comiskey Park when the Tigers were in town. I love taking my son to the new Comiskey Park; the trip is a hike for us (over an hour each way). So we just go on special occasions, like his birthday (or when the Twins are in town). I buy the expensive seats on so that we can get closer to the game. When I visit my mom in Arkansas, one of the highlights of our day is watching the Cubs game (she's a huge Cubs fan) on WGN.

I remember running into my boss's office in 1968 to let him know that the Tigers had won the World Series (by beating Bob Gibson in the 7th game), only to have to slink out when I realized that he had clients with him. I remember watching Carlton Fisk, in the 1975 World Series against the Reds, hit the most dramatic home run I've ever seen in a World Series game. I remember sitting in a bar in 1977 with my buddy (and the bartender) Dutch, watching Reggie Jackson hitting 3 home runs in a single World Series game. I remember being in Saudi Arabia in 1984 and following the Detroit Tigers 35-5 start in route to winning the World Series. I remember watching Kirk Gibson, so hurt he could barely walk, hit a walk-off home run agains the A's in the 1988 World Series. I remember Frank Thomas's game-winning home run against the Twins in the 12th inning last year and Ken Harrelson's call; "High and Deep ... Way Back ... They look up ... You can put it on the Board ........ YES!!" I collected baseball cards. Among my prize possesions is an Al Kaline (old number 6) bobble-head doll, a gift from a good friend and a signed Al Kaline baseball card, a gift from another good friend. I love Baseball movies, even corny ones like "Angels in the Outfield". In "Field of Dreams", when James Earl Jones gave his soliloquy on the magic of baseball, I felt as though he was speaking directly to me. I much prefer a 2-1 outcome over a 15-11 one. And I feel sorry for people who say that baseball is "too slow" or "too boring". They truly don't have a clue as to what's going on.

So, happy spring (training) everyone. May all my pitchers perform like Curt Schilling and may all my hitters perform like Carlos Beltran. And may the Hackers be victorious this year...

Riley Fox, Jeanine Nicarico and the Illinois Criminal Justice System

If you are from Northern Illinois, you probably remember the story in early June, 2004, of 3 year old Riley Fox being abducted from her home, raped and murdered. It was horrible, just awful, and made even more so a few months later with the charging of her father, Kevin Fox, with the crime.

Police say that her father confessed, but he quickly recanted saying that the confession had been coerced. He claims that he had been interrogated for over 14 hours and says he was denied access to an attorney during the interrogation. His family, including his wife (the mother of Riley Fox) has steadfastly maintained his innocence. They’ve set up their own website to help in his defense and have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the “real killer”.

I’m going to have more to say about this in future postings, but my point in this entry is this; I really wish that we could trust our criminal justice system, especially in a capital case. If you are from Northern Illinois, you probably also remember the Rolando Cruz fiasco. This began when another little girl, Jeanine Nicarico, was abducted from her home, raped and then murdered. Rolando Cruz, Alex Hernandez and Stephen Buckley were accused of the crime by the DuPage County Sheriff’s office. They brought this case to trial three times. The first two trials resulted in a jury vote to convict. The Illinois Supreme Court threw out both these verdicts (though for the second trial, they first voted to uphold the verdict and only later reversed themselves). Between the first and second trials, Brian Dugan, who was already doing time after being convicted of two similar crimes, confessed to the Nicarico murder (though he would do so formally only if granted immunity from the death penalty). He passed a lie-detector test. Before the third trial of Roland Cruz began, DNA evidence excluded Cruz and implicated Dugan. And yet the DuPage County Prosecutor decided to proceed anyway and bring Rolando Cruz to trial for a third time.

Finally, in this third trial, a courageous and honest judge, The Honorable Ronald Mehling, threw the case out as the flaws in it became so apparent that no other course was possible. If you want to read a more detailed account of what happened, check out Victims of Justice by Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett. It’s a completely absorbing book. When I began reading it, I literally could not put it down until I finished it (at 3:00am the next morning). As a final irony to this affair, the States Attorney for DuPage County and the man responsible for much of the prosecutorial incompetence, Jim Ryan, ran for governor in 2002 on the Republican ticket, thankfully losing.

This wasn’t an isolated case either, just perhaps the most “celebrated” one. Conviction after conviction has been thrown out, people who have spent years, sometimes more than a decade on Death Row, have been freed. And then-Governor George Ryan (no relation to Jim Ryan) took the step of commuting all death sentences in Illinois, saying that he no longer had any faith in the process.

How could this happen? How could the Illinois Criminal Justice System be so flawed? Can we trust these people to get anything right?

This is all I can think of when I hear the story of how prosecutors in Will County are “sure” that Kevin Fox committed the crime. I wish I could believe them, I really do. And maybe they’re right. I certainly don’t have any inside evidence to point me one way or the other. But it’s going to take a lot more than just a County Prosecutor saying that “we have our man” before I’ll believe them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Prince Charles and Jay Leno

Many people are having great fun picking on Prince Charles and his new fiance. A case in point is Jay Leno. I'm not normally into ranting, but I don't think I'm going to be watching the Tonight Show anytime in the near future. His monologue last night was, IMHO, over the top in poking fun at the Prince and his bride-to-be. His humor was crude and his jokes were hurtful. It's not necessary to be mean to be funny; Steve Allen, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, Johnny Carson, etc. all made people laugh without continually figurately punching someone in the gut. But that takes better joke writers than Mr. Leno has, I guess.

As for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, I say go for it and screw what anyone else thinks. You obviously know each other well. One could wish that your romance was a bit more fairy-tale and a bit less scandalous. But life isn't normally like that and I sense that you two really are soul-mates. And when you find your soul-mate, absolutely nothing else will do. I know. I sincerely hope you two have a long and happy life with each other.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

High Schools & the First Amendment

Recently, the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation commissioned a study, "...focusing on the knowledge and attitudes of high school students, teachers and administrators..." regarding the First Amendment. This study received some notice in the press, but was quickly superseded by other items in the news. Vox Day commented on it, but unfortunately committed the sin of not actually reading the study - he got his data from a USA today article.

If one actually reads the study, they'll see that it is a snapshot of current opinions about the First Amendment. This snapshot includes both Public and Private schools, and teachers and administrators, as well as students. It also becomes fairly obvious that it's targeted at drumming up support for providing additional resources for journalism courses for High Schools.

As a libertarian, I'm certainly dismayed that the First Amendment doesn't receive more respect by High School students than this study shows. But one must note that the study does not discuss trends and there's no comparison with any population outside of the one being surveyed. For example, while it may be true that only 50% of students surveyed (who were not school newspaper participants) believed that Newspapers should be able to publish freely without government approval of a story, I can't tell from this study if the situation is getting better or worse. And I have no way to know if the situation is better or worse at Public or Private schools. Nor can I tell if the grade level makes a difference, urban vs. rural, boys vs. girls, etc.

The only breakdown shown in the study was in regards to if a student had taken a Journalism course or not. The study results indicated that students who took Journalism courses were more cognizant of the First Amendment, but the chicken-and-egg question remains; did the student take the Journalism course(s) because they appreciated the First Amendment more than the "average student" or did they learn to appreciate the First Amendment because of the Journalism course(s) they took?

I spoke with Mr. Warren Watson, the study contact, and he referred me to Mr. Ken Dautrich, who coordinated this study. Mr. Dautrich indicated that some of these breakdowns would be coming "in the next month or two". But even then, these breakdowns will only be for this snapshot, and we'll be unable to tell, for now, if things are getting better or worse. I applaud the authors for establishing this baseline and hope that a similar study will be taken in a few years to begin to establish a trend. And it would be very useful if later studies could somehow include home-schooled students.

When these additional breakdowns become available, I will comment on them.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Kul 'am wa antom bi-khair!

This Arabic phrase, meaning "May every year find you in good health" (or, perhaps "Many happy returns of the day", or "Good tidings to you and everyone you know" or just "Happy New Year") is one I wish to my Egyptian, Sudanese, Saudi Arabian, Indian, Pakistani, Ethiopian, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian friends and acquaintances on this day, the first day of the Islamic New Year.

I had the wonderful good fortune to live and work in the Middle East for 8 years. This was back in the '80's, when it was a very different world over there, and Americans were, for the most part, welcomed with open arms. I hope and pray that such a time will come again. I loved my time there. In many respects, it was the best 8 years of my life.

I now have a cousin in Iraq on business and a niece in the military being shipped over there in the next few months and I pray for their safety. It was so different for me. I could go anywhere, talk to anyone (well, except for the Saudi women, of course) without fear for my safety. I used to go running every night with never a worry. When my wife worked the night shift at King Faisal hospital and wouldn't get home until 2:00am, I didn't worry about her. She was safe.

So, Happy New Year to all my Islamic friends and acquaintances. May this Hijra year of 1426 be one where peace finally becomes a dominant force in the region.

Michael Crichton to appear on C-SPAN

Michael Crichton, author of many best-sellers, including the Andromeda Strain, will be appearing on C-SPAN over the weekend to discuss his new book, State of Fear.

The link to the C-SPAN times is here.

The War on Drugs – Conservatives vs. the U.S. Constitution

How do you tell if a Conservative really believes in the United States Constitution? It’s easy – just ask them how they feel about the War on Drugs. The majority of Conservatives support the War on Drugs but then hasten to add that we’re spending too little money on it. They’ll talk about “Moral Decay and Drugs” and “Terrorism and Drugs”. But they won’t talk about whether the War is constitutional or not.

It’s fascinating to me to see how Conservatives, while they profess their belief in the Constitution and limited Federal government, become hypocritical when it comes to the War on Drugs. They continue to support the Federal Government’s draconian (and expensive) efforts to stop some people from getting high. Why? Cynics will say that the definition of a Conservative is “a person who is terrified that someone, somewhere, at some point in their lives, might be enjoying themselves”. I think there’s some truth in this and that Conservatives who support this War do so because it fits in with their “Moral Values” agenda. What they have forgotten (or ignore) is that the US Constitution is an enumeration of limited, specified powers and responsibilities that are granted by the states and the people of those states to the Federal Government. And they ignore the Tenth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, which makes it crystal clear that the Federal Government does NOT have the power to do anything else, except via the Amendatory process (unless, of course, you believe in a “penumbra of powers”). It’s instructive to note that the closest parallel we have is the “War on Alcohol”, conducted early in the 20th Century, and that the Federal Government of that period did not participate in this until a Constitutional Amendment had been passed giving them this authority.

I’m certainly sympathetic to the arguments that we need to protect our children against the hazards that recreational drugs can represent. I am the father of three children. Two of them are minors. If I ever caught someone trying to sell drugs (or alcohol or cigarettes) to them, they better hope that their life insurance is paid up. But my oldest child is now long-past the age of majority. And, I would hope that she doesn’t allow drugs (or alcohol or cigarettes) to ruin her life. But she’s AN ADULT. These decisions are hers to make, not mine and certainly not the Federal Governments. And, if someone I care about ever became addicted to drugs (or alcohol or cigarettes), I would want it treated as a medical issue, not a criminal one.

Recreational drug policy needs to be decided on a state-by-state basis, not by the Federal government. It’s my personal opinion that Recreational drugs should be treated like alcohol and cigarettes; regulated by the State and forbidden to minors. It’s none of the Fed’s business, and any attempt to justify it otherwise willfully ignores what our country's founding principals are. Conservatives need to have the courage to recognize this fact. If they really want the Federal Government to have a role in this, they should get behind a Constitutional Amendment initiative to grant it this power. Otherwise they should limit their efforts to state-based legislation and accept the fact that Massachusetts and California will probably have more liberal policies than Alabama and Wyoming. Deal with it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Iraq the Vote

To be sung to the tune "Rock The Boat" (by Inner Circle, Hues Corporation)

So I’d like to know why, you went and voted
Said I’d like to know what, this denoted

Iraq the Vote, Zarqawi was hopin’
Iraq the Vote, that you’d be afraid
Iraq the Vote, and polls wouldn’t open
Iraq the Vote…

Ever since the statue of Saddam fell
The killers have made life in Iraq a hell
Terrorizing all who want democracy
And condemning all those who just want to be free

Killing hostages in the name of religious text
And you knew, if you dared disagree, you could be next

So I’d like to know why, you weren’t discouraged
Said I’d like to know where, you got the courage

Iraq the Vote, vote at all cost
Iraq the Vote, the people won
Iraq the Vote, and terrorism lost
Iraq the Vote…

The road ahead is rocky and unsure
And it’s easy for you to lose your way
But if you let your democracy mature
You’ll find that your country will be strong, come what may

So though the violence of your enemies still does linger
You’ve spoken loud and clear and given them the finger

So I’d like to say that, I believe in you
And I’d like to say that, I admire you

Iraq the Vote, Keep the Faith baby
Iraq the Vote, and never give up
Iraq the Vote, Keep the Faith baby
Iraq the Vote...

A bit corny perhaps, but I'm not ashamed to say it. I got the idea for adapting the song from the title of a recent Ann Coulter column.

I've said this before; one can disagree as to whether or not we should be in Iraq. But I think we all MUST agree that, now that we're there, we have to do everything we can to help this turn out for the best. A lot rides on it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Superbowl XXXIX

It was a good game with the team expected to win coming out on top. But the Eagles made it closer than most people would have guessed. And, if they hadn't had one of the most pathetic 2 minute drills I've ever seen, they might have pulled it out. But probably not... I know that Deion Branch was given the MVP, and he certainly made a case for it (especially with that magical catch in the 4th quarter, reaching over and past Sheldon Brown). But I'd still give it to Brady. 23 for 33, 236 yards, 2 TD's, no picks and a Rating of 110.2. For the 3 playoff games this year, he was 55 for 81, 587 yards, 5 TD's and no picks. Awesome, simply awesome.

The commercials this year were pretty lame. I enjoyed the ones, though. Watching the poor guy trying get some work done in spite of working with monkeys (literally) was pretty funny. And I enjoyed the Anheuser-Busch Salute to the Troops. Did anyone (besides me) notice how PC this ad was? There were 7 "close-ups" in this ad. One was of a white male, two were of white females, two were of black males and two were of black females. And the opening and closing shots of the soldiers emphasized white males. Pretty balanced... You can watch them all here.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

In Defense of Internment – Book Review

Yes, I know I’m very late to this party. When opinions and reviews about this book were being batted around the blogosphere late last year, I actively participated in some of the discussions. But I’ve always wanted to post my own review of In Defense of Internment. And so here it is…

First of all, I want to state that I’ve actually read this book. This may sound like a stupid thing to say, but there were people who participated in the debate who obviously never actually read the book. They based their arguments on preconceived notions about this policy or else on what other people had said/written about this book. That’s a dangerous game to play. And second, full disclosure; my wife is of Japanese ancestry and her parents were residents of Vancouver, Canada before WWII. They were stripped of their business assets (her father was a fisherman) and relocated to a camp in central Canada. After the war, they, along with thousands of others, were paid reparations by the Canadian government.

Malkin’s arguments in this book are as follows; first, the United States government was justified in interning the Japanese during World War II on National Security grounds. Second, this policy was carried out as humanely as possible. And third, the reparations paid to the Japanese after the war were not justified and wrong. She then concludes that racial profiling, when employed as a tool in guaranteeing national security, can be a legitimate tool for a government to use. She makes, on the face of it, a persuasive and fact-filled case. She paints the Japanese living in Hawaii and the West Coast during WWII as being a real threat to National Security, especially if they acted in concert with a theoretical invasion of the mainland. She opens her book with an example of a Japanese family siding with a Japanese aviator shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor (“The Turncoats on Niihau Island”). She discusses the real threat of Japanese espionage rings, the fact that many Japanese living in America were still considered citizens of Japan, etc. She uses information gleaned from the MAGIC cables, Japan’s diplomatic communications that were intercepted and decoded by American signal intelligence officers, as her clinching argument for this point. She also paints a convincing case that the relocation and internment was handled as humanely as possible. She notes that, at first, the Japanese were asked (not forced) to leave the West Coast military zone and relocate elsewhere in America. She describes how, once the camps were set up, some Japanese actually asked to be interned there rather than face the anti-Japanese racism that was real and pronounced at that time. And she is convincing in making the case that these were not “Concentration camps”, but rather minimum-security facilities where life was, while not ideal, certainly not draconian in any sense of the word. Since, in her opinion, the internment and relocation of the Japanese was justified, paying reparations for it was unjustified.

As persuasive as her arguments are, I think that, at the end of the day, she doesn’t make the case that Internment was necessary. IMHO, here’s the key question; was there a NATIONAL SECURITY NECESSITY to forcibly relocate these people? I think that the answer is no. As the columnist, author and blogger Vox Day has pointed out, the American military was fully aware that the Japanese military had no capability to launch an invasion of mainland America. They just didn’t have the horses to do it. They could wreak havoc in the Western Pacific, but an invasion of the US mainland was beyond their capabilities. I’ve done my own research on this, and have to agree with Mr. Day. Nevertheless, I don’t think it was an easy call for the people in power at the time to make. The Japanese were racking up victory after victory in the Pacific. Traditional powers such as Great Britain were getting their asses kicked. Pearl Harbor was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Japanese submarines were conducting harassing raids on the US coast. People were scared. Anti-Japanese racism was pronounced. But forcible relocation of the entire population was still the wrong answer.

What should have been done? We were at war and the threat of Japanese-inspired espionage and sabotage certainly should not have been ignored but heightened surveillance and security was the answer, not mass relocation.

I’m more sympathetic to Malkin’s argument for Racial Profiling when it is truly done in the defense of National Security. But there is a right way and a wrong way to handle something that affects so many people and is so emotionally charged. The way the Bush Administration has dealt with America’s Muslim population, while not perfect, is much preferred. Survey them, gather intelligence, identify the ones that truly may present a problem and place them under heightened surveillance. And leave the rest of them alone. And remind Americans that our judicial philosophy is “innocent until proven guilty”.

Update 11Mar05 - I'm now doing a "5-Star" rating on all my book reviews and so am adding one here for this book;

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

So long Sammy...

I'm a resident of the Chicago area, and an avid fan of both the sport of baseball and the Chicago White Sox. I have followed the rise and fall of Sammy Sosa, a member of our cross-town rivals, the Chicago Cubs. It's an article of faith here that White Sox fans are supposed to hate it when anything good happens to the Cubs and cheer when something bad happens to them (Q. As a White Sox fan, who are you rooting for today? A. The White Sox and whoever is playing the Cubs). These feelings are mirrored, of course, by Cubs fans. I'm a bit of an oddball in that respect. I actually root for the Cubs, except when they play the White Sox. My ideal World Series would be the White Sox vs. the Cubs, with the Sox taking it in 7 games (and with the 7th game being a blowout of mythic proportions so that we could celebrate early and often).

So, writing as someone who generally does support the Cubs, the overriding feeling I have about Sammy being traded to the Orioles is that it was such an ignominious end to a great career here. Sammy was lionized in this town in a way that few other sports heroes were. He's one of the great home-run hitters of all time. He's a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame. He's gone out of his way to be "fan-friendly". How did it all go so wrong? It was, of course, incredibly, monumentally, unbelievably stupid and selfish of him to walk out on his teammates and fans on that last day. The team had collapsed in the final week and a half. They had blown a wild-card berth to the playoffs which was all but locked up. It was a choke job of epic proportions (and no one could blame Steve Bartman this time). There was feuding going on between some of the players and the TV Broadcasters. Everything was going sour. And when the playoffs were officially out-of-reach, Sammy capped it off by deserting his team. If this had been an isolated incident, it may have been overcome. A heartfelt, public apology on his part to his teammates, the fans and the owners, along with a promise to make 2005 a great year, might have gotten him another chance. Scottie Pippen quit on the Bulls at a crucial time, but at least he didn't leave the floor. And, it was an isolated incident, one he apologized for and never repeated and, after being traded away to Portland, he eventually returned to Chicago as a fan favorite. For Sammy though, this was not a first-time offense. There was the corked bat fiasco (and his lame excuse for it) the previous year. Many of the local sports writers had long been on Sammy's case, calling him a phony, or worse. Through it all, the fans and the team remained supportive of Sammy. But the corked bat incident made people suspicious and his walk-out tipped the balance.

When you are obviously guilty of stupidity and selfishness like Sammy was, it made the rumors/stories of spousal abuse and the collapse of the Sosa Fund amidst charges of corruption much more believable. Then, of course, there were the steroid rumors. Sammy played for 9 years, never hitting more than 40 home runs, then had 4 years in a row with 66, 63, 50 and 64.

As an aside, does anyone else remember the Home Run Derby at last year's All-Star game? Remember all of the cutaway shots of Sammy "focusing" and getting ready by taking his mighty practice swings? And then, once it was his turn at the plate, his performance was akin to the drunk trying to get it up for the hooker - pretty pathetic.

In his recent column, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports summed it up pretty well;

Some of the criticism of Sosa is unjust, considering all that he has accomplished over the past 16 seasons. But when you cork a bat, feud with a popular, charismatic manager and generally transform yourself into Sammy Diva, then walk out on your team on the final day of the season, you lose your right to a fair trial.
I hope Sammy recovers his cool and has a great year (except when the Orioles play the White Sox). He still has talent and the potential to put up some decent numbers. I truly wish him well. But he wore out his welcome here, big time...

So long Sammy. I don't know if the rumors regarding you using steroids are true or not, but you've often said that you would be "the first in line" to take these tests once the Players Association approved them. Well now's your chance. I hope you pass them with flying colors so that when you do break the 600 home run barrier and make it into Cooperstown, some of the luster will be restored. And, if you're lucky, maybe some of your Cub teammates will attend the induction ceremonies.

How will Sammy's exit affect the Cubs playoff chances? Not by much, IMHO. With players like Ramirez, Barret, Garciaparra, Burnitz (good pickup), Lee, Walker, Patterson, etc., they still have plenty of bats (I think they'll miss Alou more than they'll miss Sosa). And, if it turns out that they do need another hitter, I have no doubts that Hendry will find one. For the Cubs to make the playoffs and to go deep into them, Prior and Woods simply have to stay healthy enough to significantly improve their combined 14-13 WL record of last year. If they do, and they can produce a reasonable closer from their bullpen, this team has the talent to win it all. But if it's close at the end, Dusty will have to do a better job of choke-management than he did last year...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Quick - Someone call Ann Coulter!

Mark Brown is a columnist for the Chicago Times. His writings are of a decidedly liberal nature. However, he has recently written a column wondering if perhaps the liberal crowd was wrong and George Bush was right on Iraq. He writes;

...But on Sunday, we caught a glimpse of the flip side. We could finally see signs that a majority of the Iraqi people perceive something to be gained from this brave new world we are forcing on them.

Instead of making the elections a further expression of "Yankee Go Home," their participation gave us hope that all those soldiers haven't died in vain.

Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.

So is the rest of the world.

For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.
It takes courage to admit that you might be wrong about something and I salute Mr. Brown for his intellectual honesty. If the Iraq situation successfully plays out, maybe he can chair the "Liberals for Jeb Bush 2008" campaign committee...

A salute to a hopeful sign...

As someone who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for eight years, I certainly am Under No Illusions as to how things work in the Middle East. And I am enormously upset at the Bush Administration for getting something so momentous, such as WMD in Iraq, so fundamentally wrong.

Nevertheless, we are now in the middle of it and only someone who is anti-American and anti-freedom could hope that we fail in the effort to help Iraq become a stable, prosperous and free country. While I'm skeptical as to whether or not the Bush plan will work, I truly hope it will. The elections this past Sunday are the first hopeful sign I've seen and Adam Keiper has put together a truly inspiring Slide Show about them. I was very moved by it and emailed Mr. Keiper my thanks for his efforts. He graciously responded. Watch this slide show if you're willing to feel hopeful...

Yet another Blogger

With this, I toss my hat into the Blogosphere.

My political philosphy is libertarian. My political affiliation is Independent.

My comments will usually reference politics and current events. But other subjects will be mentioned from time to time too. After all, it's my blog...

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