< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: November 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Protecting the Weeds from the Worms

An old neighbor of mine used to make so much fun of all the people who invested heavily in fertilizers, chemicals, and weekly garden treatments... A bit of a cottage industry in south western Connecticut. This guy had one of the best gardens in all of Westport, and so it was hard to argue with any gardening advice he gave. One bit of advice he often repeated was: "no need to protect the weeds from the worms."

I'm struck how apt a description this is to today's economic environment. Democrats are likely to push through some sort of protectionist styled legislation within their first few months. And when you see that folks like Jim Webb won on this type of FDR like populist economic protectionism in a state that should be as red as home side during an Indiana Hoosier basketball game, you can't really argue that they should tread cautiously here. America certainly seems ready to give protectionism, or "fair trade" a chance.

But the problem I see is that both China and the US are experiencing slowdowns right now and these slowdowns are likely to last through year end. Considering these two countries account for almost 2/3 of the entire global GDP increase over the last five years, it seems such an event ought to be taken seriously. But I don't get the impression it is.

Instead, I see the liquidity folks getting excited over just a few blips in either the housing or retail sectors... blips that for the most part are brief detours in a long downhill slide. The American consumer is spent, and that should be obvious by their recent historic reversal of Republican electoral successes.

If you add into the mix a little protectionism here and there, the wheels are going to fall off the bus on export demand, and there goes China's economy along with it.

In theory, I support many of the "fair trade" arguments out there today. But the problem is, all we might be getting out of them right now is some protection for our weeds from our worms. I think it might be time to roll our sleeves up and do some of the dirty work thats long overdue.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pons Asinorum

When I was in college my freshman mathematics tutorial required going through each of Euclid's Elements from memory on a chalk board. Day in, day out. Each student had a proposition or two assigned to them for the week, but they were expected to know the other propositions as well in case their fellow class mate couldn't make it out.

I was assigned I. 4 that day. To inscribe a circle with a triangle.

Not the most magical stuff of Euclid, but a fun little proof, easily accomplished, and most importantly, easily remembered. I. 4 is one of those propositions that shows it is true that memory and mastery are cousins. The more you remember about that proposition, the more you have it mastered. Its simple.

My somewhat sadistic freshman math teacher, however, thought different.

"Well sir, it seems your colleague assigned to perform I. 5 failed to show today didn't he?"

I nodded.

"One four is fairly simple isn't, it not?" "Oh its simple enough." I replied.

"Good then. Why don't you get us started on I. 5 then and everyone, please review I. 4 tonight on your own."

In case you aren't familiar with proposition 5 of book one, its a pain in the ass. Indeed it has the nickname "bridge of asses" or "Pons asinorum" as Johnnies are want to say. I struggled like hell that day. I hadn't prepared the proposition very well, I took almost the entire class time just getting the basics of it sketched out, and I barely eeked out a proof by the closing bell. What little bit I did remember, was pretty much unhelpful. I had to really think through it as I was going along. Trying different approaches until I finally (and with the help of my guide through gentle questioning) caught the scent of the trail and finished off what otherwise was a total waste.

But I learned more in that utter failure than I ever learned from proposition four, or any other proposition for that matter (I still have trouble with I. 47 for example, but I have prop. 5 down cold.)

When I went on to study Ptolemy and the higher disciplines, I realized something... the experience failing at something very difficult is altogether a liberating experience.

While I have been on the Administration's ass about Iraq for quite awhile, I can't help but think that even after all the wasted blood, wasted treasure, and wasted dreams, the entire saga will be seen by history as the crucial Pons asinorum of our age.

Or as Aristotle said: there is no royal road to geometry.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Free Market

I just saw something that made me laugh. Some Republican windbag was spewing nonesense about the free market this, the free market that, we can't let the free market be stained by the unholy touch of public funding. He was talking about energy of course, and how we shouldn't let subsidies carry away the market on ethanol, solar, wind, etc.


All these overpriced rhetorical whores seem to forget the massive amount of funding the public produces for drug and health care research. I don't see any of them bitching about that.

Nor do I see them bitching about the public funding that causes the demand for massive amounts of ammunition, armor, and weapons technology.

Why is it that for Republicans, the only thing the public should never fund is an alternative to funding the Saudi royal family?

Republicans, against public market intervention before they for it.

Viva Bush!! Viva Saud!

Not So Fast Yourself

The Moose argues:

The Iraq war is leading some progressives into a full embrace of neo-realism. These liberals shun interventionist internationalism for the type of pragmatic realism that was the hallmark of Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker. In fact, these two Republican figures are rapidly becoming national security role models in progressive circles.

Not so fast. It was the realists' coddling of Middle Eastern tyrannies that helped breed the Jihadist menace with which we are at war. Saudi Arabia which spreads Wahabi hatred is Exhibit A of a theocracy that realists love to love. Back in the nineties, the realists would have us look away from the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans

Actually Bull, that ain't the case. Realism didn't coddle tyrants, corruption did, incumbency did, a failure of our judicial system to intervene did... these aren't failures of pragmatism, they're a failure of the people to lead.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Latest from Nancy

Interesting maneuver. I'd say Speaker Nancy (by the way, that used to be my favorite nickname for Republicans) is reading between the lines here. The point isn't to make Nancy not speaker, nor to make Murtha leader, but to keep Steny from gaining too much. You need Steny, but you don't need him as Majority leader.

If we don't put the brakes on this cycle, it won't ever matter who wins. It'll just change the names on the checks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nancy Pelosi at the Table

Nancy Pelosi's father was once a congressman and then mayor of Baltimore. Her mother's engagement in politics was along the lines of what people would now call an unsalaried community activist. Among the central memories she recounts are the many people, mostly poor, who encountered her family during her father's mayoral tenure. These people perceived that the family not only cared about them but--as public servants--were in a position to help improve the community in all the countless ways that constitute quality, and dignity, of life. As her mother put it, politics is public service.

Much later in her life, as the first women in a high leadership position (in the minority) in the House of Representatives, she attended an inaugural briefing with the President, the Vice President, and congressional leaders from both parties from both chambers. Still later, in a major speech at Georgetown University, she reflected on the fact that she was perhaps the first and only women ever present at this customary meeting where the major leaders from two branches of government seek clarity and common vision. She went on to describe a brief fantasy in which earlier women leaders in American history--such as Susan B. Anthony--were actually present at her side at that meeting. In a moment, they disappeared from her mental image, but with their words to her still lingering: "We're grateful that we finally have a seat at the table."

Been there and seen that same movie with other actors, and can report that it is one of the deepest but least known secrets in American politics--that people, all people, want more than anything else to come to the table, be included, contribute their gifts and talents, and continue building and rebuilding community. The nation and the neighborhood are one.

Nancy Pelosi knows that, from her upbringing and from her own political experience. That's how I know her tenure as Speaker will be unexpectedly positive. Far from polarizing the party, she will make it all the more inclusive and communitarian. (Of course, experience may show that it takes control of both branches in order to translate the communitarian vision into actual accomplishment--but that will be a problem for the President and his party, not for the Speaker and hers.)

If you think this is too much of a feel good fantasy, or if you think "communitarian" means the same thing as "communist," then just let it be an empirical question whose answer only time will give.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Big Mo'

Who got the most momentum out of yesterday's election? And why did Rumsfeld really resign? These are some questions we can only speculate about, but here are some thoughts.

Thirteen additional trial lawyers were put into the House, and three additional trial lawyers made it to the Senate. How's that for stacking an already well stacked deck? It seems the trial lawyer line Republicans have seemed to use to great effect in the past just didn't matter this time around. Maybe even backfired? I'm guessing this isn't something on the radar of most pundits right now, but I'm also guessing that means its important. Of all the special interest groups out there right now, and excepting the military of course, the big winners to me seem to be trial lawyers.

One can't help but recall here the interactions between King James and Coke, and how Coke's lawyers eventually broke through the Ecclesiastical Court's stranglehold. Whenever an executive says "I am the law", the Anglo tradition has, since the time of Coke, always been a pattern of society coming back with a resounding negation.

Now to the second topic, I hear Rumsfeld's departure may not spell doom for the Neoconservative agenda afterall, but that it will liberate them. I don't exactly know what this means, but its something to think about for sure.

Shays and Johnson

Nancy Johnson is to Connecticut politics what Keith Jackson is to college football: almost a constant. That she got booted, and that Lieberman did not, ought to speak a clear message to Dems and Reps alike.

Shays apparently has won. Bully for him. He's a tireless campaigner in one of the wealthiest places in the world. Farrell doesn't get it, never made him eat his words, and quite frankly she is never going to get the finance vote if she doesn't grow some. When will the Democrats get a candidate up here that can bring it home? But there's always a recount...

One more thing and then I'm off to bed, the Virginia aftermath is going to be interesting and I hear it could involve some jail time. But that doesn't mean the Reps still won't fight like a wounded racoon to pull it out. This is where Dems really will show their stripes, if they cave in or fail to seize the initiative, they won't build much on their good fortunes tonight. If they fight back like a junkyard dog, they'll put a certain someone's lights out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Watching Rick concede right now. I'm struck by one thing, and one thing only.

Why on earth would someone want to put their young daughter through such bullshit? Seriously. What bullshit. National politicians are vain, vain people.

Hey George!

This is called an "accountability moment".

Speaker Murtha

He took a stand for the military, let's take one for him. Ask your Democratic Congressman to support Murtha for Speaker.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


The more you read, the less you know.
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
Ah... how I love those patriotic Congressional Republicans, always putting the country ahead of party.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Well, I mean, always putting the safety of the troops first and foremost...
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
Oh. Well. Um. Yeah, so about that Kerry joke ... and wasn't Michael J. Fox totally acting?

The only thing missing is a quote about Cheney's "zero percent" doctrine.

Good Try

House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is being asked by Democrats to apologize for seemingly blaming senior military officers for any problems with the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy.

Boehner, however, does not appear to be budging.

Geez, everyone knows its ok for Republicans to blame the military... I mean, they can't blame their own man. Come on!

Curious Thing to Say

At this stage in the election...
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Thursday U.S. troops should remain in Iraq for up to three more years to give Iraqi authorities more time to build up their own security forces.
I can already write the rest of the story...

"But US citizens responded negatively to the suggestion by throwing out the bums that got them into this mess to begin with."

Peeling away

When you're reduced to bullying the opposition and smearing war hero after war hero, people begin to question your motives, and the base starts to peel away. Oddly, that's all the Bushies have been doing for the last twelve months. But it seems some are catching on. One question I'd like answered though, where is John "Straight Shooter" McCain on Allen's smearing of Jim Webb?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Emerald Warrior '07, A Tune Up?

AFSOC is conducting a joint force exercise on the Eglin range right now and until the end of this week. It's a pretty large exercise, integrating spec ops from the Air Force and Army as well as coalition countries, all with USSOC as the supported command.

I hear the scenario is intriguing, and I must admit the word choice is a bit odd.
The scenario driving the exercise is based on United States and coalition military units working together to assist a pro-Western country who is being overtaken by a neighboring anti-Western country.

In the scenario, the ally nation requested support with countering terrorist operations and regaining control of their territory.
A "pro-Western country" does not sound like an ally, nor does it sound like a "friendly". Rumor has it that regardless of how it sounds it sure looks a lot like Iraq and its eastern neighbor. More here.

George W. Bush Abandons an American Soldier

People wonder what Iraq is going to look like over the next six months? It will be filled with instances of George Bush abandoning our soldiers because of political pull from Iraqi leaders. Our boys and girls are at the mercy of the Iraqi leadership now.
American soldiers rolled up their barbed-wire barricades and lifted a near siege of the largest Shiite Muslim enclave in Baghdad on Tuesday, heeding the orders of a Shiite-led Iraqi government whose assertion of sovereignty had Shiites celebrating in the streets.
That's right, Maliki says "move out" and our troops click their heels and obey. But more importantly, they do it regardless of whether or not one of their own is being held hostage.
The move lifted a near siege that had stood at least since last Wednesday. U.S. military police imposed the blockade after the kidnapping of an American soldier of Iraqi descent. The soldier's Iraqi in-laws said they believed he had been abducted by the Mahdi Army as he visited his wife at her home in the Karrada area of Baghdad, where U.S. military checkpoints were also removed as a result of Maliki's action.
Yes, you read that right. George W. Bush just ok'd an order given from a foreign leader to abandon a US soldier. I suppose this is why the Bush Administration suddenly became interested in John Kerry's jokes. It disgusts that the press pushes such filth when on the very same day, our own President abandoned a soldier at the direction of a foreign government.