February 28, 2003
Dennis Miller Becomes a Wimp

Perhaps because of old age, perhaps because of his terrible stint on Monday Night football, Dennis Miller loses his ability to courageously oppose insane warmongering Republicans. Most disturbing is when Miller says he's for the war because Bush must know what he's doing. If I were his wife, I'd be getting him an MRI stat to find the brain tumor. Read the whole sorted tale here.

Posted by Tom Burka at 3:40 PM in Commentary

George Soros Says I Am Absolutely Right

Not a big surprise here. But he's worth billions and I'm worth a little bit less than that. Annoying. In any case, Soros says that Bush is pursuing "an Imperialist vision," and what the world really needs is for "the Bush administration to live by the rules it seeks to impose on the rest of the world."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:44 AM in Commentary

The Death of a Wise Man

Anyone who heard Davy Rothbart's extraordinary interview of Mr. Rogers as broadcast on This American Life can now relive it in his op-ed piece in the New York Times today, A Friend in the Neighborhood. A comparison of the pics from the episode (showing Davy meeting Mr. Rogers when Davy was 3 and again 20 years later reveals that Davy dyed his hair blonde when he was three. If you listen to the actual interview (at the This American Life website -- just find the episode "Neighbors" from May of 2001), you'll hear how Davy initially could not believe that Mr. Rogers really invited his family -- based on the receipt of a fan letter -- to spend a day of Mr. Rogers's vacation with him. He wondered if he had imagined it, or if Mr. Rogers did this all the time. Turns out Mr. Rogers invited scads of his fans -- all of these young kids -- to visit him, and he would give each family the royal treatment. Sounds like he spent his every waking minute -- including his vacations -- catering to others. The main impression you get from the interview is -- hard to believe about a guy who meticulously changed his shoes and put on his comfy sweater at the beginning of every show -- a wise and enlightened person. If only Fred Rogers had had a show for adults. I guess he did.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:12 AM in Commentary

February 26, 2003
Great Minds 3

Chas Freeman, in The New York Times writes:

The last war with Iraq greatly enhanced American prestige and influence. The irony is that this war with Iraq, intended by its proponents to consolidate United States hegemony, may erode and undermine it. Even if things go well, it could yield weakened American alliances and influence, a more anemic presence overseas, a diminished capacity to project power, fewer options and allies in the Middle East, and an increased threat of terrorism. From here, it looks like a bad bet against long odds.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:54 PM in Commentary

Bush Destroys American Advances of Past 60 Years, Embraces Colonialism: From Bully Pulpit to Bullying Pulpit

This Washington Post article about the alienation of "old Arab friends" is really about how, with the Iraq war, Bush is turning back half a century of American leadership in world affairs in democracy, international relations, and fairness. The view of one pro-American Arab shows how the rest of the world now sees us:

The United States wants to partition Iraq, he argues in slow, deliberate tones, and covets the world's second-largest oil reserves. An invasion, he says, serves only Israel and a clique within the Bush administration "whose ignorance is matched only by their greed." A preemptive war, whose very premise he believes defies international law, signals the rebirth of colonialism and imperialism that seemed finished generations ago.
The coming war is seen as a repudiation of the most democratic and great American ideals of self-determination informed by a respect, above all, of individual rights. America is throwing away the principles on which this country was founded in favor of a colonialist, power hungry stance, where the American superpower extends its tendrils everywhere and forces its will upon the rest of the weak world. This shift in America's place in the world -- from the embodiment and protector of democratic ideals and freedoms to that of bullying titan intent on serving only its own interests -- is the most dangerous makeover in American's history. America now serves as a countermodel for what is right -- locking up people without due process, paritioning the lands of others, threatening members of the U.N. to support the new world order "or else. We spent years trying to increase the credibility and utility of the U.N. as a governing body and conduit of international law, and with one fell swoop, we're wiping that out. How can we urge others to follow U.N. resolutions if we don't see them as necessary or binding? How can we complain that Saddam Hussein is in defiance of U.N. resolutions when we, at the same time, say that we don't feel the need to follow them ourselves?

Many see this war as the first "Arab-American war." We cannot and should not follow the script which bin Laden wrote when he strategized his conquest of Americans. Bin Laden obviously sought to provoke the U.S. into reacting to 9/11 with the use of force, and in Bush, he has a mighty ally. Bush is destablilizing the world's most dangerous regions -- the Middle East, Pakistan and India -- and helping bin Laden to divide the world into Moslems and non-Moslems, moving us all toward a great clash of civilizations. Bush embodies the worst that America ever has been or ever could be.

The millions of protestors are just the tip of the iceberg. These are our friends, urging against an unjust course of action. They are now our friends, protesting peacefully. They will become our enemies, fighting against us for what is right.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:55 PM in News

February 25, 2003
Your Attorney Will Now be Required to Turn You In. You'll Be Billed Later.

IsThatLegal?, a weblog that comments on a variety of things -- mostly the American Internment of Japanese during WW II, but really, other stuff too -- that the Patriot Act requires lawyers at real estate closings to

first check a federal database to ascertain whether either seller or buyer is a "Specially Designated National"--that is, a person or entity on a "terrorist list" compiled by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department. And here's the kicker: if seller or buyer is on the list, then the lawyer must (a) report the fact to the federal government, (b) delay the closing, and (c) not tell the client(s) that the lawyer has done (a) and (b).
He goes on to note that:
Two things jump out at me here. First, this is a spot where the reach of the USA PATRIOT Act is just enormous. It affects every single real estate transaction in the nation. From an administration that purports to be concerned about protecting state and local power from the reach of the federal government, this is an extraordinary foray into what has always been understood to be a core matter of state and local concern--transactions in real property.
What else is hiding in the Patriot Act? Who put this in? Was there a lobby (the Background Check Association of America maybe?) that got this slipped in?

Posted by Tom Burka at 7:08 AM in Links

Bush Use of U.N. Makes Head Spin Like Exorcist Chick

President Bush today said that because he had already decided to invade Iraq, the U.N. better vote to do it, already. "We asked for your approval as an international body making rulings of binding law rubberstamping our previously-formulated policies and decisions," Bush said. He complained that the U.N. "seemed to kind of misunderstand the whole point" of going through them. "They're not like, the law, or anything. They're just, like, this bunch of guys hanging out in some horseshoe kind of thing."

Ari Fleisher explained that Bush was applying his understanding of golf to the United Nations. "The President thinks that the object of golf is for the golf course to shift itself until the President's ball is directly over the hole."

Posted by Tom Burka at 6:37 AM in News

A Very Special Sneak Peak at the Upcoming Saddam Hussein/ George W. Bush Debate

CBS News reports that Saddam Hussein refuses to destroy those missiles of his and instead wants a one-on-one "dialogue" or debate with George W. Bush. Although I have thought the whole deal would best be resolved by single combat (kinda like that scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), I think a debate is the perfect antidote to the whole /U.S. mess -- not to mention that it solves another enormous problem -- it gives people something to watch now that "Joe Millionaire" is over.

That debate would be something like this:

President Bush: We know what a disarmed country looks like and, uh . . . doesn't look like that.

Saddam Hussein: [long muttering in Arabic]

Interpreter: You have big stupid ears that stick out strangely from your ugly American face.

President Bush: I didn't come all the way here just to stand up and be insulted.

Saddam Hussein: [quick, deft rattling off of Arabic]

Interpreter: That's fine. You can sit down in this comfortable chair over here and I'll start over.

Powell: Boys, boys. . . .


Hours later, after a tense, behind closed-doors meeting, Bush and Saddam will come out of the room awkwardly touching and friendly.

President Bush: (sheepishly) We realize that we actually have a lot in common. . . . He has weapons of mass destruction, I have weapons of mass destruction . . . He tried to kill my Daddy, my Daddy tried to kill him. The world is really such a small place. We've said some things to each other maybe we shouldn't of and we've used some harsh words. Things got a little outta hand. And maybe we were both kinda having trouble backing down. And then I was reminded of Isaiah . . .

Journalist: The bible passage?

President Bush: No, just this guy we both know. Anyway (blushes, shifts weight uncomfortably), let's see if we can just put this whole mess behind us and start again. Life is too short. (to Saddam) I'm sorry I called you a big fat evil insane powerhungry dictator guy.

Saddam: I'm very soggy.

[They shake hands, awkwardly pat each other on the shoulder. ]

Saddam rattles something off in Arabic.

Interpreter: We're touching but that doesn't mean we're like, gay.

Bush laughs, winks, points finger.

Jacques Chirac: (tearfully smiling and hugging everyone) I am SO happy!

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:04 AM in News

February 22, 2003
Ridge Raises Snack Food Threat Warning to Mesquite Barbeque Flavor

potato-chips.jpgRidge stated that the threat level had been raised because of increased snack food rustling on certain shelves, and said, "I'm pretty sure that this threat level is higher than Burnt Sienna." Ridge noted that Vice President had been moved to an undisclosed location, and advised people to "be prepared," and "stock up on dip."

Posted by Tom Burka at 4:44 PM in News

Bush Scorns Formulation of Policy Based on Americans' Opinions

In a recent New York Times article, President Bush stated that deciding whether to go to war with Iraq based on Americans' support for it would be "like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group." Bush made the statement after focus groups indicated that they would like to see Bush making decisions that were not focus group tested or poll driven.

Posted by Tom Burka at 4:37 PM in News

February 19, 2003
A Reasonable Republican Voice?

I'm a little stunned by the extremely moderate tone struck by funny Republican Christopher Buckley. He concedes that protestors should be at least spoken to in Another March of Folly?, and also reveals that he is against the war unless all of our allies support it:

For what it's worth, I do not support a war with Iraq unless we all defined as a clear majority of the American people, plus New Europe and good "Old Europe," as feckless and posturing as they are ultimately agree that it is the only way to make the world safer. If we can't agree, I say: contain Saddam Hussein with all means at our disposal. Indeed, contain him with extreme prejudice.
That's two uses of feckless I've seen this week. (One below.) An investigation into the decrease in the world's supply of feck is in order (with U.N. sanctions, if appropriate).

The amazing thing about this is, I've seen Republicans scoff at the anti-war protests ("do they really believe that the war has anything to do with oil????") and make fun of the notion that millions of people really might care about people killing innocent Iraqi civilians. It's nice to see a conservative voice acknowledge that those that oppose the war deserve to have their opinions treated with respect.

Here on this page that's we're all about. Respect. I respect everyone's opinions, even the opinions of utter morons.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:21 AM in Commentary

February 18, 2003
Le Monde To Retaliate For Post Snub

Today, French newspaper Le Monde vowed to retaliate for the New York Post's cavalier and prepubescent treatment of French and German delegates by publishing photos of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's faces with big buck teeth and devil's horns scrawled on them in crayon.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:12 AM in

February 17, 2003
Great Minds Think Alike 2

While Bush and his pals have made the war completely inevitable, Jonathan Schell courageously continues to lay out The Case Against the War, among other objections noting the weakness of the "Saddam will give nukes to terrorists" argument:

It has turned out that the supplier of essential information and technology for North Korea's uranium program was America's faithful ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan, which received missile technology from Korea in return. The "father" of Pakistan's bomb, Ayub Qadeer Khan, has visited North Korea thirteen times. This is the same Pakistan whose nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahood paid a visit to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan a few months before September 11, and whose nuclear establishment even today is riddled with Islamic fundamentalists. . . . Indeed, an objective ranking of nuclear proliferators in order of menace would place Pakistan (a possessor of the bomb that also purveys the technology to others) first on the list, North Korea second (it peddles missiles but not, so far, bomb technology), Iran (a country of growing political and military power with an active nuclear program) third, and Iraq (a country of shrinking military power that probably has no nuclear program and is currently under international sanctions and an unprecedented inspection regime of indefinite duration) fourth. (Russia, possessor of 150 tons of poorly guarded plutonium, also belongs somewhere on this list.) The Bush Administration ranks them, of course, in exactly the reverse order, placing , which it plans to attack, Iraq first, and Pakistan, which it befriends and coddles, nowhere on the list. It will not be possible, however, to right this pyramid. The reason it is upside down is that it was unworkable right side up. is being attacked not because it is the worst proliferator but because it is the weakest.
I made the same point here. (Boy, am I good!)

Posted by Tom Burka at 2:27 PM in Commentary

Your Big Chance to Get Your Name in the Paper

Yes, yes. You, too, can be a star. All you have to do is expose the most blatantly stupid and useless security arrangements at the places that need security most and you could win the Stupid Security Competition sponsored by Privacy International. I don't really know what Privacy International does, but if they're for pointing out blatant stupidity that harms us I'm all for them. As they say:

The sensitive and sensible folk at Privacy International have endured enough of this treatment. So until March 15th 2003 we are running an international competition to discover the world's most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures.
See, putting a nameplate on a door or a building that says "Dept. of Homeland Security" doesn't actually make the "homeland" more secure. Most places I go that require security merely have guards stationed at the entrance glancing at bags and asking people to show them photo i.d.'s. Someone should tell somebody that it's not so hard to get a little card with a name and your photo on it these days. Have any of these security guys seen Adobe Photoshop? Adobe Photoshop Lite? Adobe Photoshop Lite for Terrorists (APLT)?

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:52 AM in Links

New Photo

Like I said, this is a work in progress. (Actually, I never said that. Pretend I did.) That's why this pic is up in the left hand corner. It's also why it will only be there for a very little while. I'm sure you're all duly relieved.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:28 AM in Notices

February 14, 2003
Fair and Balanced Reporting at Its Best

The New York Post is so classy. Today, their front page was this huge photo of the U.N. with weasel heads pasted on over the heads of the French and German delegates. The headline? "Weasels to hear new evidence."

nypost.gif

I don't care what you say, this paper has a lot more journalistic integrity than the Enquirer -- although their work seems somewhat derivative: this is the same technique used by the guys in my old shop class when they pasted a dog's head on the shop teacher's photo in every yearbook. That was wicked funny.

If I figure how out to post that image here, I will.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:02 PM in Commentary

Our Homeland Security Department at Work

Daily Kos: Everyone needs to chill notes that Tom Ridge defended his "duct tape" recommendation to the general public by suggesting, among other things, that the idea had been tested in focus groups. As Kos says: "So there you have it. Duct tape -- focus group tested for your protection."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:41 PM in News

Decision Making At the Highest Level

Adventures with George, Ari, and Karl @ OliverWillis.Com gives us a fine look at the inside workings of the White house.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:28 PM in Commentary

Great Minds

Today, Paul Krugman, showing how brilliant he is, made the same point I made yesterday on this page. Great minds and all that. Krugman: "[bin Laden's] tape calls Saddam Hussein an 'infidel' whose 'jurisdiction . . . has fallen,' but says that it's still O.K. to fight the 'Crusaders' and Mr. Powell claims that it ties Saddam to Al Qaeda. Huh? All it shows is that Al Qaeda views a U.S. invasion of Iraq as an excellent recruiting opportunity."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:14 PM in Commentary

February 13, 2003
Best Headline of the Week

North Korea Wonders What It Has To Do To Attract U.S. Military Attention

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:57 PM in Commentary

Tenet Understates Truth To Power?

Notably, according to the Associated Press, CIA Director George Tenet told Congress today that the ties alleged between Iraq and al Queda were weaker than has been described. (Strangely, Tenet also warned about a "dirty bomb" being exploded despite the fact that the primary source for this "intelligence" was an Iraqi "defector" who had never been polygraphed. And when he was, they concluded the defector was lying. See ABCNEWS.com : Alert Partly Based on Lies. This tends to undermine any sense I might have that Bush and his folk are making well-considered decisions based upon secret information that they have kept from us. I would not put a lot of stock in an Iraqi defector's statements unless they were well corroborated.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:49 PM in Commentary

Amazing

Amazing how times change. The Washington Post editorial board has become a haven for conservative thought (Bush cheerleaders but without those nifty uniforms) and the New York Times editorial board has tilted a little to the left. Today, in an editorial entitled "The Perils of Passivity," the Post correctly noted that attacking Iraq is ratcheting up anti-American sentiment and that the path to war is a dangerous and reckless (I would even say feckless) path. Astonishingly, the Post concluded that those who feel this way do not advocate peace because it might promote a stable and safer international and domestic envornment; they do so simply because of "anxiety." The Post further argues that diplomacy has been exhausted and that war is the only option available to America.

The New York Times editorial board today came out with precisely the reverse conclusion: the U.N. may still resolve the problem of Saddam Hussein, if given a chance, and America cannot and should not go to war without U.N. approval.

Frankly, the Washington Post's reasoning is almost entirely circular: the reason for the increased threat of terrorist action is not because of the fiery rhetoric and warmongering of the Bush Administration, they posit; it is because we didn't do anything before. The beasts were always there, but we're just rousing them by moving to meet them in open battle.

This argument entirely misses the mark. If only we were meeting the beast in open battle -- that beast being bin Laden. The Post fails to make any meaningful distinction between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden even though the links between them are incredibly weak. Bin Laden's recent radio address was careful to avoid any praise for Saddam -- he referred to him merely as the "communist government" and his appeal was to Iraqi moslems. We have given bin laden the opportunity to reach out to Iraqi Moslems because of our reckless campaign against Saddam Hussein. (Hey, that rhymes!)

The beast has many arms, surely, but Saddam Hussein is not one of them. When America wars against Iraq, we're playing right into bin Laden's hands.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:33 PM in Commentary

February 12, 2003
Today's Headlines

North Korean Nukes Can Reach Western U.S., Says CIA Republicans rejoice at possible loss of California

Full story here.

Hardware Stores See Record Sales of Duct Tape White House pleased that ducts will be well protected
States express concern about people and buildings

Full story here.
Posted by Tom Burka at 7:11 PM in News

February 11, 2003
When Attending A Wedding

When attending a wedding, eat as many of the hors d'ouvres at the reception as you can. The dinner following will never be as good as the food served earlier, and it will be a good two to three hours before the main course comes anywhere near you.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:19 PM in Commentary

This American Life

This American Life is the finest show on the radio, and possibly the best on TV, or anywhere.

Latest episodes:

Somwhere in the Arabian Sea
"Last year, during the conflict in Afghanistan, the staff of This American Life spent two days aboard an aircraft carrier stationed in the Arabian Sea. This week, as more and more troops deploy to the Gulf in preparation for a new war, we rebroadcast that hour of stories from the people on the ship, about what life is like fighting in the war on terrorism." This episode includes the profile of a woman who spends 12 hours a day simply restocking the vending machines with Cheez-its and a Navy sailor who got there because, in Texas, they offer military enlistment as an alternative to prison. When asked how he liked being there, he replied, "I hate it. This is like a big prison on the ocean."

Why We Fight
An exploration of the reasons for and against the war with Iraq, which includes some thoughtful explanation by foreign policy experts on the reasons for and against the war.

Time to Save The World
"The story of a standardized test, just eighteen questions long, created by scientists, that not only can tell you things about yourself that will haunt you for weeks, it can diagnose just how good you are ... and how evil. That and other simple schemes to make the world a better place. "

This American Life covers this stuff -- American life -- in a way you'll never hear or see on the news programs, reality shows, anywhere else. (Every episode ever aired is available at their site.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:42 PM in Commentary

Security

Is attacking Iraq increasing our security or is it greatly heightening tensions and endangering us? One thing is for sure, it is helping Muslim extremists band together: Hamas is joining the fray.

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:25 PM in Commentary

The war is already hitting home . . .

The war is already hitting home. I haven't been able to post because this very good friend of mine -- ok, my wife -- has been very concerned about the threat of a terrorist attack and I've been scurrying around getting supplies for the next disaster. We live in New York. (Don't try to find me -- I have an intelligence network on the street that will sweep you up and spirit you away to an undisclosed location in the Bronx. Ok, Yankee Stadium, but you won't get out of there until you buy a $6 Coke and a humongous soft pretzel for $10.)

The spectre of 9/11 looms large here. I don't know a family who doesn't have a disaster plan or kit or something. (My single friends are like, I'm prepared. I have voicemail and stuff.) I have a friend who keeps 20 gallons of water somewhere in his small, cluttered apartment and rotates his stock once a month.

I notice that Tom Ridge has been careful to say that the elevated terrosist threat alert has "nothing to do with Iraq," and today the White House is suddenly handing out detailed advice on how to prepare for a chemical or biological attack but saying that "there is no specific, credible intelligence that says an attack using chemical or biological weapons is imminent."

Just an amazing coincidence.

Our disaster kit includes calamine lotion in case someone gets smallpox. I don't really think that will be much help.

I'm not sure how much the kit will help us in an emergency. I know that stocking the kit is giving us some sense of control -- that there's something we can do to prepare us for a disaster. And how I wish that there was something we really could do, that there is something that we can do today, besides putting some bacitracin in a bag, to make us all safe.

My wife just returned from the hardware store triumphant. She got the last roll of plastic sheeting. It all sold out today.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:12 AM in Commentary

A good rant is worth,

A good rant is worth, like, a picture.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:24 AM in Commentary

War is Cathartic

America loves a good war. They like the drama, they like the excitement, they like the idea of really teaching somebody a lesson -- the lesson being that if push comes to shove, America will kick your booty if you don't shape up. Americans love the spectacle and the notion of American Might, and the illusion of American Might Makes Right. In our role as "global policeman," (a role which Bush campaigned on relinquishing), we have sent troops helter skelter and willy-nilly all over the world ousting dictators, rebuffing attempts to annex other countries, promoting human rights, even stopping warlords from stealing the food from the mouths of the hungry. Since Vietnam, almost all of those conflicts has been very small and involved the use of American force against small armies, or merely organized militant bands. (The sole exception is, of course, Operation Desert Storm, rebuffing the invasion of Kuwait by Hussein.) The action in Afghanistan did not seem like a real war because, while it took place in that country, we were not at war with the country but really only at war with terrorists who had set up bases of activity inside of that realm.)

It's been too long since we've had a really good conventional war, one where there is some real opposition, one where we can send in lots of reporters who can be right on the battlefield, attached to actual units, transmitting pictures and dispatches from the front lines. Very soon American television will be filled with wall-to-wall coverage of the war. When they're not showing us clips of the battles or summaries of the action, they'll be interviewing every military pundit they can find, all of whom will be filling us in on each particular weapon and explaining how they are used and how effective they are.

Every sports event will begin with a jingoistic salute to our men and women of the armed forces fighting the good fight for us overseas (it's already started -- remember the Superbowl?) They'll be plenty of pro-military press and a lot of rah-rah-ing from us lucky folk they're defending.

Initially the support for the war will be high -- finally, many people will think, we're going to get that bastard Saddam -- and polls will indicate popularity for the President and his position on the war. Bush's ratings will go up even as the economy continues to tank.

As the war goes on, and it is discovered that the effort involves a prolonged and difficult, bloody ground attack, with street fighting in Bagdad that never seems to let up, this initial swell of support will erode, at least to some degree. There will be reports of civilian casualties, U.S. losses caused by friendly fire, tragic mistakes and missteps, and grisly photographs. The reality of war will come home to some people.

The Bush administration will try to shore up support by aggressively controlling the media and by manipulating the information released to demonstrate that the war is justified. There will be news of the truly horrific crimes Saddam has committed against his people, people liberated from torture, and many, many claims of discoveries of prohibited weapons and weapons facilities, and much evidence presented of how close Saddam was to using them.

Inevitably, because he has nothing to lose, Saddam will use his weapons of mass destruction -- certainly on the battlefield and perhaps, if he can, in the U.S. -- and the Bush administration will point to this as confirmation of every prediction they ever made. (There will certainly not be any acknowledgment of the fact that invading will be the direct cause of the unleashing of these weapons. Indeed, absent a U.N. resolution calling for war, U.S. actions would be in violation of international law while Saddam's -- defending an invasion of his country --- would not.)

The war is inevitable. There will be a massive anti-war protest in cities all over the country on February 15. More people will turn out than did at the beginning of the Vietnam war. (I'm pretty sure of this -- the recent demonstration in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of the awful January cold snap satisfied this statistic.) The war will probably begin the week after. (Maybe two weeks after, but certainly no later than early March.)

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times puts forth a cogent and compelling argument that containment is a far more effective solution to any threat posed by Saddam Hussein here.

It's too bad that no one in the Administration is listening to him, or us.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:22 AM in Commentary

February 10, 2003
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Ashcroft

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, commenting on John Ashcroft's recent announcement of the elevated Terrorist Threat Status from yellow to orange: "Can't we get someone to make these announcements who makes us want to survive?"

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:16 PM in Commentary

The Onion has a stunning

The Onion has a stunning investigative piece on the Wonka crisis.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:53 PM in Links

Recent Headlines

Bush Makes State of the Union Speech, Promises the World
Will Start with Iraq

Bush Laments Shuttle Disaster, Proposes Immediate Tax Cuts for Safety

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:09 PM in News

Baby back ribs are definitely

Baby back ribs are definitely superior to beef ribs.

Posted by Tom Burka at 6:57 PM in Commentary

February 9, 2003
I'm new to this

I'm new to this blogging stuff, and I'm a little confused about my voice. I try to have a wry, sometimes sarcastic but always incandescent humor, and I overwrite frequently (this is a good example), but my first post here confused all (read both) of the readers.

For one thing, my tone is meant to indicate sarcasm, but my tone isn't coming through. Guess what? I don't really think that we can mount a special op to rid of Saddam Hussein and his "weapons of mass distraction."

My last post was colored by the information that the age group with the lowest voter turnout is 18-24. These guys don't vote at all, hardly. There are, I think, huge numbers of them, but, according to a recent All Things Considered piece (the great news show on NPR), they don't believe that there are any issues which affect them. I'm told that, when polled, college students who supported the notion of going to war with were also entirely against being drafted. I had the faintest whiff of an idea that this blog could take the voice of a fellow 18-24 year-old speaking to others about politics and the world but perhaps the world and I are not ready for this development.

I don't think we should go to war with Iraq. Preemptive war -- based upon the idea that someone or some country might commit an act of war in the future -- is an offense to democratic principles and the most firmly established principles of international law. The U.S. has, in the hands of the present -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- lunatics running the White House, totally destroyed its credibility as a forthright nation doing good all over the planet and undermined its position as the model for democracy. The blatant erosion of civil liberties -- the most firmly established and basic rights accorded Americans by the Constitution -- is now being accompanied by what many properly see as opportunistic, imperialistic behavior.

The reason I mention the vast divide between our policy toward Iraq and other nations that pose the same, or greater, threats than Iraq is to call into question the reasons proffered by the administration for urgently seeking to invade Iraq. Another good piece of evidence that we haven't heard truthful motives for the war is that, as many have pointed out (Maureen Dowd comes to mind, for one), that the White House has proffered many different rationales for this war, some at the same time. There's disarm, there's regime change -- Bush then redefined regime change by saying that if Saddam changed his mind about using weapons than that would constitute regime change -- and others. (If Saddam changed his shirt would that constitute regime change? If he gave us four quarters for a dollar bill, would that constitute regime change?)

No less an authority than Al Gore (can't believe I'm referring to him) has described the war as a "distraction." There are many reasons to suspect that Bush and his pals may, at least in part, be using the war to distract from many things, the tanking economy, and the failure of the Bush administration to combat al Qaeda (the CIA reports that it as strong as it was before September 11) among them.

Part of my skepticism springs from Bush's lack of credibility with me. We have to "trust him" that we need to do it, based upon information the Administration won't reveal (I know, the dog and pony show at the U.N. revealed something but I'd like to see all the information in context -- I'll explain later). This is the most secretive administration in the history of the U.S. I cannot trust a group of people who believe that I shouldn't have meaningful information about Iraq and input into the most important decisions facing the President.

Why all the secrecy? If there's nothing to hide, let us know about it. Let us know how decisions are made, the processes used, the people consulted, the information upon which the White House relies. The only reason that information is kept from normal citizens like you and me is that this would diminish support for the actions which this Administration is taking. Don't talk to me about "chilling" the President's ability to make decisions, Mr. Cheney. We want him to make decisions with us in mind. I'm not saying he should be poll driven, but he should derive his power from the people. That's what democracy is all about.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:43 PM in Commentary

February 6, 2003
Hey! What's with this Powell

Hey! What's with this Powell slideshow and all? Was that PowerPoint? Couldn't he have a made a really cool movie instead?

That Powell guy has all the vocal enthusiasm of a tenth grader reading a thousand-page contract aloud during detention. I heard his speech on the radio, in a cab, thinking this isn't Rush Limbaugh, but some right-wing AM talk-show host whose following must be the over-70 crowd. His delivery reminded me of Paul Harvey, who used to announce his page-turns on the air -- as if he couldn't distinguish between the real copy and the scripted instructions to the announcer -- but without the verve and flair that made Harvey beloved by those people who beloved him.

I found his speech much more compelling when I read it the next day in the paper.

For the non-politically minded, his speech boiled down to: Hey! That Hussein guy really has a lot of weapons he was supposed to have ditched a long time ago! And he's trying get more! And he's lying about having them!

Dude, was this a shock to anyone except for people who don't know American Idol is a show on Fox? The question is, like, should anyone do anything about it?

Is this guy really dangerous, or what?

And then there's this question: Man, should we just be bombing these guys when those French and German dudes don't think we should be doing it? Does that German guy really wear a helmet or is that, like, his name?

Seriously: How big a priority is getting rid of Hussein and how doable is it? Can't we just bomb their weapons facilities? We've seen a lot of Mission Impossible lately and the IMF force should be able to just go into Iraq and straighten the whole mess out --- I'm guessing frame Saddam's son for plotting a major coup while Barney destroys the weapons facilities. Couldn't something covert and special ops-like be worth trying? (I don't really think so.)

And what about North Korea and, especially, Pakistan. Pakistan has members of Al Qaeda completely protected in their strange southern wasteland, which is known as the "lawless region" -- I'm guessing something like the old west badlands but without sheriffs (plural should be "sherr-i"?), marshals, or posses -- you know, like that place James Brolin hid out in Westworld after he broke out of the jail.

Plus, the SIS -- the Pakistani secret service -- is openly sympathetic to terrorists, those that invade India, as well as al Qaeda. So, members of the Pakistani government work with al Qaeda, basically. And the anti-al Qaeda faction, if you will, including the general who leads the country after a successful coup -- not the most stable form of government there, mind you, and wholly undemocratic -- cannot reliably be counted upon to hold these other forces in check, or to stay in power at all. And they have a whole bunch of nuclear weapons. How hard would it be for some of that processed uranium to find its way to a suitcase bomb?

And of course, Russia has bombs -- and biological weapons -- which they have not accounted for and for which there are no inspections, and how secure is that stuff and where is it? Shouldn''t we know?

So why does the current administration refuse to sign onto any nuclear non-proliferation treaties -- and refuse to sign any treaties providing for meaningful inspections related to worldwide biological weapon control and non-proliferation?

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:49 PM in Commentary