Thursday, July 24, 2003

And in the vein of taking things way too literally, I thought this headline was fun:

Study Shows Ice Cream More Fattening Than Thought

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Secret Service is investigating a pro-Bush editorial cartoon depicting W about to be assasinated by 'politics' before an Iraqi backdrop, referencing a Pulitzer-winning photo of the assasination of a Vietcong prisoner.

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words-- but this one is worth just three.

"Bring it on"

I rest my case.
I was watching the Milos Forman film Firemen's Ball (Horí, má panenko), a biting social satire, still relevant after 35 years and the fall of Communism. Out of all the great lines, one struck me as particularly meaningful:

"You can't fix a scandal."


What you read might be held against you according to this article, published by Creative Loafing, Atlanta and reaching me via Penguinal Ebullience.
Blargh-- The cold I was hoping Ny/DayQuil would kick is back with a vengeance. Let's see how active those "active ingredients" really are...

My trip up to Princeton was enjoyable-- I see my mother and grandmother all too infrequently, so that was nice. With the health problems they are having, though, it was another reminder of human mortality.

Oh yeah-- Princeton sucks (as do MIT and Virginia)!

In the meantime, I wanted to put up some things that have flown under the radar.

Earlier this month, Condoleeza Rice made a speech about US involvement in Africa but a section in that speech signaled a major policy shift in the administration. Gone is the narrowly-defined sense of national interest. The administration is now talking about taking on situations that might breed terrorism which might not pose a direct threat to "Homeland Security." Here's the passage in question:

The national security advisor defended the president's consideration of sending troops to Liberia, despite the president's 2000 campaign rhetoric against nation building. She said, "I think that we've also recognized since 9-11 that one wants to be careful about permitting conditions of failed states to create conditions in which there's so much instability that you begin to see greater sources of terrorism."

(Quoted from the GOP USA news service)

Not that such a shift to a more holistic view of foreign policy is necessarily a bad thing. But the route the administration is taking is not encouraging.

And here's a particularly eloquent commentary by someone who should know.

Squandering Capital
By Madeleine K. Albright
Washington Post
Sunday, July 20, 2003; Page B07

Now would not be a bad time to start worrying. Tens of thousands of American troops will be in Iraq, perhaps for years, surrounded by Iraqis with guns. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says this is not a quagmire; I pray he is right. But the practical problems faced by the talented American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, and by U.S. soldiers trying to maintain order without a clear way of separating enemies from friends are daunting.

It would help greatly if we had more assistance from the international community, but in fairness, the war was an Anglo-American production; it's unlikely we will get substantial help without yielding significant authority, something the administration is loath to do. Meanwhile, U.S. credibility has been undermined by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and by the inclusion of dubious information in the president's State of the Union address.

Among other things, the war in Iraq was supposed to reduce the dangers posed by al Qaeda terrorists and prompt resumed progress toward peace in the Middle East.

Time will tell whether the former was achieved, but reports of a rush of new al Qaeda recruits are not encouraging. As for the latter, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has indeed made progress in negotiations -- with Chairman Yasser Arafat. Despite a welcome cooling in rhetoric and upcoming visits to Washington by Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Middle East road map has yet to be unfolded.

In the Far East, the North Koreans may be building nuclear weapons or may not; we don't know. They could have a half-dozen by the end of the year. If the administration has a strategy for responding, it is not telling, but it seems to be relying on China to pressure North Korea effectively. Relying simply on China? As I say, it is a worrisome time.

Overall, the outlook for preventing the spread of potentially destabilizing weapons systems is bleak. The administration, openly allergic to treaties and arms control, has made no effort to promote restraint in developing arms as a normative ethic to which all nations have an interest in adhering. Instead, it has decided to fight proliferation primarily through military means and threats. Is this adequate?

Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified recently that "new alliances" are pooling resources "to deter or offset U.S. military superiority." Globalization has made the technology and resources necessary to develop sophisticated weapons more widely available. "Some 25 countries," Jacoby warns, "possess or are actively pursuing WMD or missile programs. The threat to U.S. and allied interests will grow during the next decade."

While in Africa this month, the president raised expectations that the United States will help stabilize Liberia, a noble mission that would help repair the administration's thoroughly battered image overseas. At the same time, there is a risk that the Pentagon -- already stretched thin -- will try to get by in Liberia on the cheap, investing American prestige but insufficient clout. We have seen this movie before -- in Somalia. If we do go into Liberia, we must be prepared to do the job right.

I am an optimist with immense faith in the ability of U.S. leadership to mobilize world opinion on behalf of democracy, justice and peace.

Leadership is not possible, however, without resources. It takes money to secure borders, defeat terrorists, safeguard nuclear materials, build democratic institutions, create educational systems in which tolerance is valued, and help nations recover from conflict. So when I see that the combined federal budget deficit this year and next will approach $1 trillion, I have to wonder. The president has made a lot of promises about "draining the swamp" in which terrorists thrive, combating AIDS, promoting development and meeting commitments to nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Liberia. Will the White House and Congress be able to meet those commitments when police, firefighters and schoolteachers must be laid off at home on account of budget cutbacks? If we do renege on the president's promises, what further damage to U.S. credibility will result?

Three years ago, America had vast diplomatic capital based on the goodwill we enjoyed around the world, and vast financial capital based on our international economic leadership and a record budget surplus. Now our capital of all kinds has been dissipated and we are left with more intractable dilemmas than resources or friends.

As someone who has served in positions of responsibility, I know it is much harder to devise practical solutions from the inside than to offer theoretical solutions from the outside. The nature of today's world, not the Bush administration, is responsible for the majority of problems we face. I would be less concerned, however, if I thought the administration was learning as it went along -- learning how to attract broader international support for its policies, make better use of neglected diplomatic tools, share responsibility, be more careful with the truth, finish what it starts and devise economic policies consonant with America's global role.

The quickest way to a more effective national security policy is to acknowledge the need for improvement; until that happens, we will continue to slide backward toward ever more dangerous ground.

The writer was secretary of state from 1997 to 2001.