Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Spandex: that wonderful fabric

I admit that I love spandex. Yeah, I wear it, mostly as underclothing for support, but I really love it when women wear it. So, what is the story about this fabric additive?

My understanding (based on a sketchy recollection of an old Sports Illustrated article) is that it's inventor was, in reality, a bit of a couch potato. And it is my understanding that spandex is really a kind of fabric additive that works on the Second Principle of Thermodynamics. That is, the fibers are at a disordered state when they are tightly coiled up, and stretching them puts them into a more ordered state (higher entropy). One article about the technical aspects of spandex can be found here.

So what is spandex good for? The next few photos show that it is used in fabrics for casual wear, high fashion, and sports. Ok, I just happend to like these photos.

Ok, a sharp eyed comment poster named Dave told me that this last photo was of a skater in bodypaint. So, in order to stay honest, here is a photo of a speed skater (at a championship meet) in a real suit:

Back in the saddle; midweek blogging...

The topics of my midweek blog are:

  • Sex; who gets it.
  • Sex; does sexual appeal help women in the workplace?
  • New Orleans floodwall breaks: result from poor engineering!
  • Heismann: who deserves it this year? (My opinion? Well, I am a bit of a Longhorn fan..)
  • Politics: more good stuff from The Smirking Chimp

Sex: who gets it? (not I!)

Researchers in Great Britain say that artists tend to have more sexual partners than non-artists:

Talk about creativity. Professional artists and poets hook up with two or three times as many sex partners as other people, new research indicates.
A study of 425 British men and women found the creative types averaged between four and ten partners, while the less creative folks had typically had three.
The more creative the study participants, the more partners they'd had.
Previous studies have hinted at all this, and anyone mingling seriously with artists might have suspected as much. But this is the first study to provide firm evidence, the researchers say.

Dang. I thought that math types had more sex. Seriously, this article is worth a read as it suggests some interesting reasons that this is so, including an evolutionary one.

Does Sexy Attire Help at the Workplace?

Evidently not if you are a female in an "authority" position.

Attractive people may sometimes have a leg up in climbing corporate ladders. But sexy presentation on its own can work against women who are already well up the ladder.
In a new study, men and women where shown videos of a businesswoman discussing her backgrounds and hobbies. In different tests, she played the part of either a receptionist or a manager. And in one round she wore flat shoes, slacks, and a turtleneck, all considered typical professional attire. In the other, she donned high-heels, a tight skirt, and a low-cut blouse.
The test subjects rated the businesswoman on competence and guessed at her college GPA and the quality of her Alma Mater.
The sexy outfit didn't affect their assessment of the receptionist. But the sexy manager was viewed as less competent.
"A female manager whose appearance emphasized her sexiness elicited less positive emotions, more negative emotions, and perceptions of less competence on a subjective rating scale and less intelligence on an objective scale," the researchers write in the December issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. "Although various media directed toward women encourage women to emphasize their sex appeal, our results suggest that women in high status occupations may have to resist this siren call to obtain the respect of their co-workers."
The research was led by Peter Glick, a professor of Psychology at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Of course, this doesn't surprise me; women who dress "sexy" tend to appear to be trying to either flirt or sleep their way to the top, even if that isn't actually true.

Floodwall Breaks in New Orleans: Result of Poor Engineering

Kudos to the Daily Kos diarist tvb for this diary:

Which alerted us to the following article: Says levee destined to fail
By Bob Marshall Staff writer
The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the impact of weak soil layers from 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state’s forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.
That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said they “could not fathom” how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters, could have missed what is now being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history. The failure of the wall and other breaches in the levee system flooded much of the city when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore Aug. 29, prompting investigations that have raised questions about the basic design and construction of the walls.
“It’s simply beyond me,” said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. “This wasn’t a complicated problem. This is something the Corps, Eustis and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it — everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington.”
Team Louisiana, which consists of six LSU professors and three independent engineers, reached its conclusions by plugging soil strength data available to the corps into the engineering equations used to determine whether a wall was strong enough to withstand the force of rising water caused by a hurricane. [...]

Investigators have been puzzled by the corps’ design since it was made public in press reports. They said it was obvious the weak soils in the former swampland upon which the canal and levee were built clearly called for sheet piles driven much deeper than the canal bottom. It was not a challenging engineering problem, investigators said.
Prochaska said a “general rule of thumb” is that the length of sheet piling below a canal bottom should be two to three times longer than the length extending above the canal bottom.
“That’s if you have uniform soils, and we certainly don’t have that in the New Orleans area,” he said. “It kind of boggles the mind that they missed this, because it’s so basic, and there were so many qualified engineers working on this.” [...]

Robert Bea, the University of California-Berkeley professor who led a National Science Foundation investigation of the levee failures, said the mistakes made by the engineers on the project were hard to accept because the project was so “straightforward.”
“It’s hard to understand because it seemed so simple, and because the failure has become so large,” Bea said.
“This is the largest civil engineering disaster in the history of the United States. Nothing has come close to the $300 billion in damages and half-million people out of their homes and the lives lost,” he said. “Nothing this big has ever happened before in civil engineering.”

Bob Marshall can be reached at or (504) 826-3539.

I suppose that I am not too hard on the engineering students after all!

Who Should Win the Heisman Trophy in 2005?

Of course, since I am a long time Texas fan (when I was in grad school, I missed one home game in 6 years, and I made several away games), I say "Vince Young". Here, a sportswriter makes an excellent argument for him:;_ylt=AntbrAbVSfCm1FTCKRgZUM0cvrYF?slug=youngshouldstrikethepose&prov=tsn&type=lgns

Matt Hayes points out that, as good as Reggie Bush is (I am also a Notre Dame fan, and I saw way too much of Mr. Bush during the USC game)

And that's what the Heisman is all about: a player developing into an elite performer while carrying his team on a memorable championship ride. For all that Mack Brown has accomplished in Austin -- all those wins, all those star players, all those high NFL draft picks -- he is on the verge of winning his first conference championship in 22 years as a head coach and winning Texas' first national title since 1970. And all because of one player.
Sure, Texas has budding young stars in tailback Jamaal Charles and wide receivers Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed, and its tough defense is molded by Gene Chizik, the game's best coordinator. But without Young -- without his dynamic running ability and refined passing skills -- the Longhorns would be 9-2 and playing in a Big 12 championship game that no one outside the league would care about.
I'll be the first to say that any time Reggie Bush steps on the field, he is the game's most dangerous player. But quarterback Matt Leinart is Southern California's most valuable player.
When the Trojans faced a fourth-and-9 with the season on the line against Notre Dame, whom did they look to? Leinart. And I don't want to hear about Bush's gazillion yards against Fresno State. Does the word Nevada mean anything to you?
To me -- and the Downtown Athletic Club gives me this flexibility -- the award is a compilation of three factors: numbers, making a championship run and performance in big games.
I'm willing to say it's a wash on numbers, though in reality it's tilted more toward Young than Bush.
So it then goes to performance in big games. In Texas' three biggest games -- against Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech -- Young accounted for 916 total yards and eight touchdowns. In USC's three biggest games -- against Oregon, Notre Dame and California -- Bush accounted for 614 total yards and five touchdowns.
And no team has a better win this season than Texas at Ohio State, including USC at Notre Dame. Had Texas lost to Ohio State, it still would have been a classic game. Because of its huge talent advantage, had USC lost to Notre Dame it would have been a colossal failure for the Trojans. Young single-handedly won the Ohio State game; Leinart -- not Bush -- won the Notre Dame game.

Non-Athletic Politics, complied from the Smirking Chimp

Don't believe it when the Republicans call the Democrats the "party of no". We've had lots of ideas; they've all been shot down.

To see the votes for yourself, go here.

For a nice summary of Republican congressional corruption, see this:

Ok, ok, I remember something about Democratic corruption too, but I am sure you can find other references for that. And, to be honest, ask yourself the following:
1) why do corporations give so much money to politicians?
2) why do corporations paylobbyists so darned much?
3) what is the difference between legal influences and outright bribery?

Finally, the last article talks about Iraqi "death squads". That is one of the consequences in getting involved in the kind of situation that we have in Iraq. To beat the group of thugs we are fighting against, we enlist the help of thugs to fight for us. And so it goes; we engage (or encourage) gross immorality in order to combat gross immorality.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sign of the times: many parents don't want their childeren to be challenged in the classroom

I've posted before about how many students are showing up on campus without realizing that they will need to work hard. In my mind, I blamed the "self-esteem" centered culture that seems to be prevalent in our school system. I've also talked about the "helicopter parents" in a previous post.

Then in today's Peoria Journal Star, I read the following column by Leonard Pitts:

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Tribune Media Services

Perhaps you remember white flight.
That is, of course, the term for what happened in the '60s when African Americans, newly liberated from legal segregation, began fanning out from the neighborhoods to which they'd once been restricted. Traumatized at the thought of living in proximity to their perceived inferiors, white people put their houses on the market at fire sale prices and took flight.
Well, something similar is happening now in Northern California. Similar in the sense of being completely different.
Where whites once ran because they felt they were superior to their new neighbors, they are apparently running now because they feel they are not quite as good.
I refer you to a Nov. 19 story in the Wall Street Journal. Reporter Suein Hwang interviewed white parents who are pulling their kids out of elite public high schools, schools known for sending graduates to the nation's top colleges. They are doing this, writes Hwang, because the schools are too academically rigorous, too narrowly focused on subjects like math and science.
Too Asian.
Yes, you read right. Hwang reports that since 1995, the number of white students at Lynbrook High in San Jose has fallen by almost half. At Monta Vista High in Cupertino, white students now make up less than a third of the population.
White parents are putting their kids into private schools or moving to areas where the public schools are whiter, less Asian and less demanding. Where sports and music are also emphasized and educators value, as one parent put it, "the whole child."
One white woman told Hwang how she dissuaded a young white couple from moving to town, telling them their child might be "the only Caucasian kid in the class." Another said, "It does help to have a lower Asian population."
Which plays, of course, into the old stereotype of the hyper-competitive Asian. But the new white flight has also given rise to a new stereotype one educator calls "the white boy syndrome." It says that white kids just don't have it between the ears.
The irony speaks for itself.
I have no idea why Asian kids tend to lap the field, academically speaking. I do know it has nothing to do with the simple fact of being Asian, any more than the fact of being black makes you a great basketball player. To attain proficiency in any field, it helps to want that proficiency and to belong to a culture that rewards it. We strive for the things we deem important.
I make no argument for punishing, joyless education. Sports and music are important, too. On the other hand, most kids are hardly in danger of studying too hard or being insufficiently entertained.
Consider the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal study released last month. It found that, despite some improvement, American kids remain academically underwhelming. Only 31 percent of fourth graders, for instance, were rated "proficient'' or better in reading. Just 30 percent of eighth graders managed to hit that mark in math.
In recent years, I've taught writing at an elite public high school and three universities. And I've been appalled how often I've encountered students who simply could not put a sentence together, had no conception of basic grammar and punctuation. They tell me I'm a tough grader, and the funny thing is, I think of myself as a soft touch. "I've always gotten A's before," sniffed one girl to whom I thought I was being generous in awarding a C plus.
It occurs to me that this is the fruit of our dumbing down education in the name of "self-esteem." This is what we get for making the work easier instead of demanding the students work harder - and the parents be more involved.
So this new white flight is less a surprise than a fresh disappointment. And I've got news for those white parents:
They should be running in the opposite direction.

So there you have it. What parents want these days is for their kids to make good grades; whether they learn anything or not seems to be irrelevant. After all, it is "that piece of paper" that is important, right?

What many don't understand is that the value in education is NOT the degree itself, but how it changes one's mind for the better.

This reminds me of something that happened this semseter: I gave an exam and this one student failed yet again; this time with a grade in the 40's (out of 100). she came up to me with tears in her eyes exclaiming in anguish that she "had taken a two semester class in calculus out of a college book and had gotten A's". Well, on this exam, she couldn't even differentiate a simple function like "cos(x)". I told her that she could drop the class, settle for a D or F, or do what I told her and to learn the material properly.

Happily, on the next quiz, she made a low "A" (on more difficult material) and did everything I told her to do.

Reflections: spiritual discipline and judging a book by its cover

  • Judging a book by its cover.
First, I'd like to thank Mawk for altering me to what follows. Ok take a look at the following photo. This person plays the part of a physicist in a popular television series. Do you have a reaction?

I know that I do. What a joke! This model probably couldn't integrate e^x if you spotted her with a computer, right? Why can't they cast someone who at least looks like a scientist, right?

Well, to find out who this lady is, go here:

Yes, she is a world famous particle physicist in real life, with professorships at Harvard, numerous awards as well as some popular books. She speaks a bit about having some traditional female interests here:

  • Spiritual Discipline and Superstition

This past weekend, I overhead the following conversation (I am deleting some details as I have no desire to pick on a particular religion; and here, "X" stands for a commonly consumed, perfectly legal, non-alcoholic substance)

"Hey, I have a large order of X and I can share it with you if you'd like."

Reply: "Sorry, I am a ("belong to religion Y") and I don't consume that."

Reply: "Are you sure that you don't want any?"

Reply: "Yes. I need God's help today and I don't want to piss him off by consuming that."

I thought about that exchange for a good long while. I too abstain from some perfectly legal substances for spiritual reasons, as well as physical ones. But my attitude is very, very different from this individual's.

I don't have a picture of some deity that gives me certain rules to follow and is going to help me if I follow them, and get angry with me and punish me if I don't. To me, such an attitude is mere superstition.

Instead, I see that there are certain practices that are good for me to follow: if I surrender to these disciplines, I'll be better off in the long run. I do this so make myself better. There is no tyrannical deity to please or to displease. If I get defiant, I only hurt myself.

Yes, I don't decide for myself what these disciplines are. If I think that I always know best, I am not defying some deity. I am saying that I know better than the thousands or even millions who have come before me and have had success. And that just isn't logical!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving, 2005

Part of my trip to Texas was spending time with my family; in particular with my daughter, Olivia, my mom Nellie, my sister Rose, my brother in law, Frank, and my great niece Krystal. Of course I enjoyed my time with my daughter immensly; we went on three 2 mile hikes together, as well as a nice shopping excursion during "Black Friday". I also got to watch a couple of football games on my mom's big screen television, and especially enjoyed the Texas-Texas A&M football game. The Longhorns pulled it out, but the Aggies made them work hard for it.
I've included two photos: one of Olivia with my mother and one with me and my now 11 year old daughter Olivia.

Centurion USA 2005: colossal flop!

A Centurion Race is one where one attempts to walk 100 miles in 24 hours. There must be a judge present to confirm that one is indeed walking; basically one has to keep one point of contact with the ground at all times. The "straight knee" rule from formal racewalking is not enforced.

My goal race of the year was the Centurion race which was part of the Ultracentric 24 hour event in Addison, Texas. We followed all the race rules, except the walkers had to use lane 5.

The official report follows:

The winner of the Centurion Walk division of the Ultracentric Runs which finished Sunday morning was Marshall King, 36, of Dallas. King covered 100 miles in 23:42:15 on the Greenhill Academy 400-meter track in Addison, Texas to become U. S. Centurion #61. As with the 2004 Centurion event, competition rules differed from race walking, as shown at .
Only two walkers toed the starting line alongside the participants in the 24-hour run. Using lane 5, Ollie Nanyes of Illinois and King traded the lead repeatedly in the early miles. King took the lead for good after the first hour and walked a steady pace throughout. Digestive distress sidelined Nanyes for six hours, yet he logged a total of 113,520 meters (70.53 miles).
50km: King 6:56:36, Nanyes 7:14:02. 50 mile: King 11:21:02, Nanyes 12:27:29. 100km, King 14:22:30, Nanyes 21:56:11. 150km, King 21:57:59. Judges: Scott Demaree, Dave Gwyn.
A complete list of U. S. Centurions is available at and for members of the respective groups.
Dave Gwyn, Treasurer

So, I'd like to congratulate Marshall; he has a nice ultrawalking blog at: where he is sure to post a race report.

I'd also like to thank Scott Eppelman for organizing an excellent event (he is the organizer of the Ultracentric as well as a national class ultrarunner), Dave Gwyn who drove in from Houston to judge, and Scott Demaree, who is U. S. Centurion no. 60, and organized this year's walking event. Also, to all Ultracentric volunteers: a heartfelt Thank You!

Now, to my performance. My past performances:
  • Cornbelt 24 hour, May, 2004: 101 miles (100% walking, but no judges)
  • Wandleweekend 24 hours, May 2004 (Netherlands): 88 miles (141 km)(excuse: 4 weeks after Cornbelt)
  • Ultracentric (Centurion USA) November 2004: 81 miles
  • McNaughton Trail 100 (technical trail, 36 hour cut-off) April 2005: 34:16 (75 miles at 24 hours)
  • Leanhorse 100 (groomed trail, 30 hour cut-off, 4300 to 5700 feet; Black Hills) August 2005: 29:34 (excuses: huge blisters and impacted toenails due to forgetting trail gaiters and due to improperly trimmed orthotic pads) 85 miles at 24 hours.

So, as you can see, 70 miles was an all-time worst for me, even when you include the far more difficult trail 100's.

So, what happened?

The race itself started in the rain, but it was nothing serious. I went out a bit too quickly, but not excessively so. The first 10 miles (2:15'ish) were no sweat at all; it felt so easy. I took food, as usual, at around 2:30 into the race. This included some dried fruit (dried pineapple had worked at Leanhorse). The next 10 miles weren't that bad (4:30'ish at 20), but I began to feel lethargic and slightly nauseated. Something wasn't right; I was laboring more here than I was at Leanhorse where I had gone uphill for 20 miles. Marshall started to lap me here. My pace slowed to the 14 mpm range.

I got to 50K in 7:08, which was much slower than I had hoped. My 50K split at Cornbelt was 7:05, but that included a stop to put on trail gaiters and it was effortless. Here, I was already working way too hard. Even though the weather was improving, my stomach was not; I needed food but didn't want any of it.

A ham sandwich revived me a bit and I got to 35 miles in 8 hours. Ahh, I figured out that I needed the meat and mayonnaise. I was feeling better, but then went into another bad funk. I felt nauseated again. My pace slowed to 15 minutes per mile and I knew that my quest was all but over.

typical of what went on during this stretch: my feet were starting to hurt so I thought that I'd switch to my heavier, more padded shoes. But these shoes, which I wore on some long walks, hurt my feet as they squeezed my small bunions. I tried to loosen my laces to no avail. So I switched to some trail shoes, but these just killed my arches. I got violent cramps in my right arch and thought that I'd have to drop out. Instead, I took some Naproxen and then switched back to my regular shoes; by this time 30 minutes had elapsed and I had covered all of 3 laps!

But, buoyed by this rest and a temporary relief from nausea, I picked up the pace and went right back to 13 minute miles. I felt good again and when I hit 48 miles at the 12 hour point, I actually had visions of doing a "negative split" 24 hour and getting that 100. That vision proved to be an illusion.

I found myself needing food, so I ate again at 12:27 (50 mile split). I started to feel sick again; this time worse than before. It took me about 1:12 to cover the next 3 miles and I had to stop. I wobbled under the tent, got some comfort from a volunteer as well as a stomach pill, wobbled out of the track area and threw up a few times. The last time, a huge chunk of recognizable dried pear came up! It hadn't digested at all; in fact it had kept me from digesting the rest of my food. So, I told my lap counter that I had had it and went into the heated locker room to sleep. While I was out, Scott came in to check on some of us and gave me a blanket!

I eventually got up after 5-6 hours and was ready to head back to get my bag to get clothes to change in. But, while walking back to the track, I felt 100% better and I knew that Marshall was still out there slugging it out, as were some of the hardier runners. So I went out to join them.

I had something like 4:10 left in the race, so I figured I could get in 10-12 miles; perhaps make it to 62-65 miles. So I started up as Marshall came around and we did a few laps together.

Soon, I found my stride and even went from 13:30-14:30 mpm for good stretches. Eventually, I saw that 62 miles was going to come up quicker than I had anticipated (I did 9 miles in about 2 hours) and then thought that I might finish 70. So I went for it. The last 8 miles took roughly 2:04 but this was faster than I had ever finished a 24 hour or 100 mile; then again having 5-6 hours of sleep didn't hurt.

During my last 4 laps, Marshall picked up the pace and blew past me to finish his 100. I was proud of him, and a little envious. Ok, a lot envious. Sigh...but that comes with the territory. He walked an awesome race and deserved his recognition.

  • Lowlights

My performance. 70 miles is very weak.

My nutritional strategy: I needed to be better organized. And I should have tried the kind of dried fruit that I did; the pineapple and banana chips (unsheathing) worked ok, but I had tried these before.

Shoes: some shoes just don't work when I have tired feet. At least I brought several pairs.

Body tiredness: too many long races in 2005, for me.

Throwing up/napping: I should have forced myself back up after 45 minutes or so; or at least tried. Maybe I could have made 90 miles.

  • Good things:

I recovered quickly and finished strong.

My muscles were never taxed; it was my stomach that got me.

I really had fun during those last 4 hours; I was even smiling.

My socks (the toe socks) and tape job worked great. No lost toenails; no blisters at all. My feet felt fine afterward.

Future plans: one long race in the Spring/early summer (McNaughton in April? FANS in June?) and one in the fall (Ultracentric? Equalizer?). That is it; nothing longer than 100km or 12 hours during the other months. Possible tune-ups include: FATASS 50K in Janurary, one of the shorter ultras (12 hour-100 km) in Houston, 12 hours at FANS or 100 km in Kettle Moriane, Flatlander 12 hour or the McNaughton 50 miler instead of the 100. I'll probably also do the Chicago Ultra 50K in the fall.

Update: Results:

Distances in miles)
48 Hour
Mark Henderson TX 136.29
Paul Piplani AZ 116.71
Tim O'Rouke CA 31.10

24 Hour
Mark Syring MN 121.01
Barbara Hitzfeld (f) TX 111.30
Fred Pollard CA 108.86
Letha Cruthirds (f) TX 101.36
Bill Rumbaugh TX 100.91
Marshall King TX 100.24 (walker)
Buddy Teaster TX 90.22
Sue Yates (f) TX 88.89
Marlin Howe MI 88.48
Shawna Brown (f) TX 80.77
Lisa Allen (f) CO 75.31
Ollie Nanyes IL 70.54 (walker)
Dave Emerson TX 69.09
Brett Mills TX 63.44
Davey Harrison TX 61.64
Tom Crull TX 57.91
Robert Jobe TX 56.42
Doug Ryan TX 50.20
Deborah Sexton (f) TX 50.20
Karen Riddle (f) TX 47.96
Michael Arredondo TX 42.50
Sam Livingston TX 40.01
Lorrie Dominguez TX 20.38

Scott Eppelman
Race Director

Friday, November 25, 2005

In Addison, Texas

I made my way into Addison, Texas (near Dallas) and went to the track. There are only 2 people in the 48 hour; I wonder about the future of this race.

The hotel appears ok; I hope it isn't too noisy.

Forcast for tomorrow is rain showers early. I should be ok; though I went and bought a cheap poncho and two ball caps (both with Longhorn logos); I had an enjoyable time with my mom, sister and daughter, Olivia.

My mom and I watched the Texas-Texas A&M game on TV. The Aggies played hard, but the Longhorns had too much. They had better play better against Iowa State.

I wonder if I were a bit too preoccupied with this race during this trip; probably. Still, I had some enjoyable time with my daughter; we got in some shopping and three two mile hikes.

So, we shall see. Time to get some sleep, perhaps eat breakfast at the hotel and then get to the race. I've done everything that I can do.

Blaming America First! Right? Maybe but...

One of the charges against liberals is that we "blame America first."

Where does this charge come from? Well, part of it comes from the fact that people like myself recognize that, because I am a United States citizen, the United States is the country that I can change. Hence it is my duty to help my country correct its own mistakes, even if these mistakes aren't as severe as the mistakes that other countries make.

We do have a good country; people prove that with their feet when they try to come over here! But with great prosperity and power comes a great responsibility; when we make a mistake, it is possible for hundreds of thousands to millions to suffer as a consequence.

Now where does this "blame America first"cry come from? My guess is that part of it comes from a reaction to academia. We've all heard of professors holding students as a captive audience to illigocial anti-american tirades. We've heard foreign faculty and graduate students bad mouth our country, all the while being our guests (the "Ugly American" syndrome being reversed on us). There have been times where I've tired of it and told them that no one was keeping them here; they could leave anytime they liked. There is almost an attitude of "you are powerful; we are weak so you are morally obligated to smile while we throw rocks at you".

Nevertheless, I still feel that it is a duty of American citizens, conservative, liberal or otherwise, to speak out when they feel that their country is doing wrong. From theDaily Kos:
Blame America First Liberals
by lawnorder
Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 12:05:01 AM PDT

Is what Little Green Footballs says about any American who laments the "collateral damage" in Iraq. Or any American that bemoans the massacre of Native Americans. Or any Americans that can not condone torture in Abu Ghraib.
Why "BAF" is the wrong name for itThe Right calls BAF any American that mentions the fact that terrorists are not born in a vacuum. Attempting to identify what triggered such hate for America may look like a "Blame America" exercise to some. But trying to see what triggered the attack does not justify or excuse the 9/11 acts which killed so many. Not in any way. Denial is not the opposite of blame. Nor it should be.
Why do we need to understand terrorists ? Why do we need to see blame in what US does to others ? We do it because by understanding the what inspired the terrorist actions and the "joy" our pain brought to them and others will allow us to minimize the damage brought on by the next attack, perhaps even avoid it
9/11 only took US by surprise because whe Americans did not do a real public discourse on the pain our policies have inflicted in the past.
lawnorder's diary :: :: Blind in AmericaThe pain of Americans for 9/11 is real. But it should not make us blind. We are the lone superpower left in the world. Our government has been playing geopolitics outside our homeland for more than 50 years. We were bound to step on some toes. Viciously. And someone was bound to kick back. Viciously. It was a heinous attack on innocent people. But it should not have been a surprise.
9/11 caught US by surprise because we - as a nation - have been refusing to look at the mirror for far too long.
David or Goliath ? Most Americans don't even know who they are
The Story of Now
It seems strange that a company, in the winter of 2002, would create a billboard which read "Goliath Lost" and place it in America. I asked myself, "more than ever, why Now?" ..
For Now is a story of David and Goliath. And lest anyone think other wise, America is the Goliath- the ultimate Goliath suspended over a universe of Davids- the lone superpower standing at the end of history, the chief informant of an ubiquitous substructure and formless global hegemony. Goliath...
Would not a billboard which read "David, Feel My Pain" or "Maybe Goliath had his Revenge" be a better sign for the times? .. It would be the tale of David and Goliath told from the other perspective- every perspective must be heard- even tales of the big man's revenge, his attempt to maintain his dominance, after he was effectively sublimated by the little guy. It is a tale of Goliath, after the fall, because the big guy has feelings too. He too experiences pain and his pain is real and meaningful.
Americans probably would not like to call this a tale of David and Goliath, because we are a nation that loves the underdog, a nation that perpetually views itself as the authoritative underdog. Maybe at one time there was a great deal of validity in that belief, but not anymore...
But Americans still are cheering for the underdog, still rooting for David. In February, I watched fragments of the Olympics on television and read about them in the newspapers. Some Americans who won medals were described as "underdogs." Is it possible for any American to be an underdog? While it does seem strange the we, the members of the last great superpower, can still envision ourselves as an underdog, many Americans do not feel the power and potency of their role as Goliath. We too have fantasies of defeating the giant, but fail to recognize that we are inside the monster...
We feel outside of the Goliath, but we are not. It is a disembodied experience of watching ourself, wanting to destroy it, because it does not feel like us- we do not recognize it as such. Thus we, the components of the lone superpower, feel like the underdog under the force of our own hegemonic load, whose identity remains mysterious to us...

Now for an excellent comment to this diary (not from me):

Why blame America first? (4.00 / 2)
This is really a moral elementary question. I start with a simple principle: we have a moral duty to take responsibility for those actions we are in a position to do something about. As an American citizen, I am primarily responsible for my government's actions rather than the actions of another government or actor because I am in a unique position to influence my own government's actions, especially in comparison to my ability to influence the actions of other governments or actors. Thus, my moral duty is to speak out first and foremost about my government's actions, not someone else's. Does this mean my government is most to blame for any given undesirable state of affairs? No. But whether my government is 2% responsible or 98% responsible, my first duty as a U.S. citizen is to address that responsibility, whatever it is. Those who falsely describe themselves as "patriots" and decry those who "blame America first" are simply rejecting these fundamental moral principles. In other words, they are rejecting the moral responsibilities that come with being a citizen of a democracy.
"When the intellectual history of this era is finally written, it will scarcely be believable." -- Noam Chomsky
by scorponic on Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 03:36:31 AM PDT

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Calm Before the Storm (Athletically Speaking)

I am in Austin, and I am planning on driving to Dallas tomorrow afternoon to attempt the Ultracentric 24 hour race; I am planning on walking the 24 hour and have a goal of 100 miles. I've made 101 before, under perfect conditions.

This weekend it is supposed to rain. But I've trained in the rain, and the surface is a rubberized track which should not be slick in the least.

For me, the challenge will be mental. I need total and complete acceptance; there is no room for anger should I fall behind my "goal" pace. I remember that I was at 85 miles at the 24 hour point last August during a 100 mile race, on a gravel trail with huge hills and I had horrible blisters; each heel was a giant blister and my toenails were encased in fluid. There is no reason I shouldn't do much, much better than that this time; but I do need to let go of the results.

No predictions; I just need to center myself into a place where I am always striving for more miles, regardless of how many miles I have at the moment and how long I have to go. One lap at a time, and if I get the magic 403, great! But, as many as possible is all I need to think about.

Did Bush want to target Al-Jazeera? Also, comic relief

Via the Smirking Chimp:
Boris Johnson: 'I'll go to jail to print the truth about Bush and al-Jazeera
'Posted on Thursday, November 24 @ 09:50:00 EST

Boris Johnson, The Telegraph (London)
It must be said that subsequent events have not made life easy for those of us who were so optimistic as to support the war in Iraq. There were those who believed the Government's rubbish about Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction. Then the WMD made their historic no-show.Some of us were so innocent as to suppose that the Pentagon had a well-thought-out plan for the removal of the dictator and the introduction of peace. Then we had the insurgency, in which tens of thousands have died. Some of us thought it was about ensuring that chemical weapons could never again be used on Iraqi soil. Then we heard about the white phosphorus deployed by the Pentagon. Some people believed that the American liberation would mean the end of torture in Iraqi jails. Then we had Abu Ghraib. Some of us thought it was all about the dissemination of the institutions of a civil society - above all a free press, in which journalists could work without fear of being murdered.
Then we heard about the Bush plan to blow up al-Jazeera. Some of us feel that we have an abusive relationship with this war. Every time we get our hopes up, we get punched by some piece of bad news. We yearn to be told that we're wrong, that things are going to get better, that the glass is half full. That's why I would love to think that Dubya was just having one of his little frat-house wisecracks, when he talked of destroying the Qatar-based satellite TV station. Maybe he was only horsing around. Maybe it was a flippant one-liner, of the kind that he delivers before making one of his dramatic exits into the broom-closet.
[...]if his remarks were just an innocent piece of cretinism, then why in the name of holy thunder has the British state decreed that anyone printing those remarks will be sent to prison?We all hope and pray that the American President was engaging in nothing more than neo-con Tourette-style babble about blowing things up. We are quite prepared to believe that the Daily Mirror is wrong. We are ready to accept that the two British civil servants who have leaked the account are either malicious or mistaken. But if there is one thing that would seem to confirm the essential accuracy of the story, it is that the Attorney General has announced that he will prosecute anyone printing the exact facts. What are we supposed to think? The meeting between Bush and Blair took place on April 16, 2004, at the height of the US assault on Fallujah, and there is circumstantial evidence for believing that Bush may indeed have said what he is alleged to have said. We know that the administration was infuriated with the al-Jazeera coverage of the battle, and the way the station focused on the deaths of hundreds of people, including civilians, rather than the necessity of ridding the town of dangerous terrorists. We remember how Cheney and Rumsfeld both launched vehement attacks on the station, and accused it of aiding the rebels. We are told by the New York Times that there were shouty-crackers arguments within the administration, with some officials yelling that the channel should be shut down, and others saying that it would be better to work with the journalists in the hope of producing better coverage. We also recall that the Americans have form when it comes to the mass media outlets of regimes they dislike. They blew up the Kabul bureau of al-Jazeera in 2002, and they pulverised the Baghdad bureau in April 2003, killing one of the reporters. In 1999 they managed to blow up the Serb TV station, killing two make-up girls, in circumstances that were never satisfactorily explained.
(My note: he is talking about Americans here and not Bush as Clinton was President at this time). To be fair to the Americans, we must also accept that they had good grounds for resenting al-Jazeera. The station is hugely respected in the Arab world, has about 35 million viewers, and yet it gives what can only be described as a thoroughly Arab perspective of current affairs. It assists in the glorification of suicide bombers; it publishes the rambling tapes of Bin Laden and others among the world's leading creeps and whackos; it is overwhelmingly hostile to America and sceptical about the neo-con project of imposing western values and political systems in the Middle East. And yet however wrong you may think al-Jazeera is in its slant and its views, you must accept that what it is providing is recognisably journalism....

But what is sad is that, given the public persona that President Bush has cultivated, it is easy to believe that he would have wanted to do this, even if he really didn't. Whether this charge has any basis in fact or not, it is entirely believable.

Now for a bit of comic relief (saw this on an open thread from the Daily Kos)

Thanksgiving topics: Blogger Ethics (should I post that photo?) and Football (Why is Notre Dame's recent Bowl record so poor)

  • Blogger ethics: cross posted at my DailyKos diary.

Blogger Ethics: Retaliation or High Ground?

by onanyes [Subscribe] [Edit Diary]Wed

Nov 23, 2005 at 06:41:04 PM PDT

Most of us remember what it was like from 1992-2000. While the Big Dog was president, his family was subject to numerous, vile personal attacks. Is some payback in order? Or is a blogger on our side obligated to take the "high ground"?
onanyes's diary :: ::

Remember Rush Limbaugh's noxious attack on the then 13 year old Chelsea Clinton: "you knew that the White House had a cat, but did you know that it now has a dog? And then flashed up a picture of Chelsea?
I've never forgotten that.
Anyway, I have a small, low volume blog (30-40 hits a day). I also have one of those free services that tracks the number of hits, the url of those who visit, as well as what search words they used to get there. As my blog grew, I thought it was getting more popular. But the reality was, the more I wrote, the more words there were that were available to be hit by the various search engines. Anyway, I noticed that someone came to my blog, evidently looking for photos of a certain well known relative of a very well known Republican politician. In fact, I despise that politician.
So I did a google search for that person and "presto"; there it was, a nice, very compromising shot, and it was very easy to download.
So, is it ethical to post this photo? Or to post a link to it? My only motive would be to stick a needle in the parent of this person.

And no, I won't post that photo or even say who it is of. There would be no moral or political purpose for doing so. But I did post a poll at the Daily Kos and you can go to that poll (via the link I provided) if you are interested in seeing the response (and reading the comments).

  • Football: Why is Notre Dame's recent bowl record so lousy?

This is from my "imperfect" memory but here is Notre Dame's Bowl record:

1920's: won the Rose Bowl against Stanford 27-10 (Knute Rockney's "4 horsemen and 7 mules team)

Parsegian's era: lost to no. 1 Texas 21-17, beat no. 1 Texas 24-11, blown out by Nebraska 40-6, beat Alabama 24-23 (finished no. 1), beat no. 1 Alabama 13-11. Record: (3-2)

Devine era: beat Penn State 20-9, beat Texas 38-10, beat Houston 35-34, lost to no. 1 Georgia 17-10. Record: (3-1)

Faust era: beat Boston College 19-18, lost to SMU 27-20 (1-1)

Holtz era: lost to Texas A&M 35-10, Beat West Virginia 34-21 (no. 1), beat no. 1 Colorado 21-6, lost to no. 1 Colorado 10-9, beat Florida (forgot the score), beat Texas A& M 28-3, beat Texas A&M 21-16, lost to Colorado 41-24, lost to Florida State 32-26. (5-4, lost the last 2)

Davie era: lost to LSU (forgot the score but it was big), lost to Georgia Tech 35-28, lost to Oregon State 41-9. (0-3)

Willingham era: lost to North Carolina state 28-6, lost to Oregon State 38-21 (Willingham wasn't the coach for the bowl game). (0-2)

So, Notre Dame has lost 7 bowl games in a row after going 13-6. What gives? Is it pure randomness?

My answer is this: after deciding to go to bowl games, Notre Dame was very selective about when they would go. I've seen 8-2 (1971), 8-3 (1975), 7-4 (1980) and 8-3 (1996) Irish teams stay home. There were times during that 13-6 streak when the Irish went to bowl games that they didn't belong in (Sugar Bowl against Florida, Orange Bowl against Nebraska, Fiesta against Colorado, first Cotton against Texas A&M) and they went 1-3 in those.

So, my guess is this: because of their drawing power, bowls want Notre Dame. Notre Dame always wants to play in the best bowl game possible. Hence, recently, they end up playing opponents who are simply better than they are. During that 13-6 run, Notre Dame was an elite team (with some ups and downs) and therefore a threat to beat any time in the nation. Notre Dame hasn't been that kind of team since they went 11-1 in 1993, when they gave no. 1 Florida State their only loss (and should have ended up no. 1 themselves).

And, my guess is that Notre Dame isn't that kind of team this year; remember they were down 38-17 to a mediocre Michigan State team (prior to rallying to send it to overtime, where they lost). Yes, they gave a strong USC team a scare, as did Fresno State.

So, if (and that is a big "if") they beat a mediocre Stanford team, they'll probably get a BCS bowl and probably lose. Yes, they would have a 9-2 record and they do have a good team. But they don't have an elite team. Their best bet to win their bowl game is to lose to Stanford and end up in something like the Gator Bowl, where they would play the kind of team that they could compete with. In terms of who they would be competitive with, I'd say a Notre Dame-Alabama matchup would be just about right, as would a matchup with LSU, UCLA, Miami or even, perhaps, Virginia Tech. These would be "toss-up" types of games.

Yes, Ohio State also has a 9-2 record, but their losses are to no. 2 Texas and no. 3 Penn State. They handled Michigan State easily and won a close game with Michigan (as did Notre Dame).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Peoria Turkey Trot: Photos

Steve Foster took some photos of the Peoria Turkey Trot; they are available at

I've posted some here to go along with my race report:

Here I am trying to warm up my shins.

How we started.

I am in the back in the pale gold long sleeve and black Sporthill pants("almost tights"); Tracy trails me by about a step here; she is wearing the dark blue sweat pants.

The winner comes off of the hill.

The women's winner comes off of the hill.

Pat O'Bryan finishing the road stretch

Here I am near the finish line; head down as usual. It was hard to keep reasonably straight knees on the grass; the last 1200 meters were on this soccer field complex.

Senator Conrad under attack for his faith (he is a Unitarian Universalist)

Via the DailyKos:
Republicans attack Sen. Kent Conrad's private religious faith

by Geekesque [Subscribe] Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 06:59:18 AM PDT

Just when you think the rightwing slime machine can't go lower, they attack Kent Conrad for being a Unitarian Universalist.
You don't believe me? Surely Republican activists wouldn't actively smear someone because of their private faith.
I mean, that would be bigoted and hypocritical--two traits absolutely no one associates with rightwing activists.
The atrocities are documented below the fold.

The site is "Taking back ND" run by far-right wingnuts who have a pathological loathing of Conrad.
Here is the slime, entitled "Sen. Conrad's ties to radicalism."
But wait, it gets worse. The text of the post is as follows:
Senator Conrad considers himself a Unitarian. He rarely, if ever, talks about religion, but he is a Universal Unitarian. He is one of about two hundred thousand in the United States. So what are the views of the Universal Unitarians?
Do they believe in miracles?
We do not believe in miracles in any supernatural way since our ideas of God generally do not include a deity who has the ability to alter the workings of the natural world. Most UUs feel that the gift of life itself is sufficient miracle, and that we should live as fully, joyfully and responsibly as we can.
Do they believe in Jesus Christ?
We do not believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, performed miracles and was resurrected from death. We do admire and respect the way he lived, the power of his love, the force of his example and his system of values.
Most UUs regard Jesus as one of several important moral and ethical teachers who have shown humans how to live a life of love, service and compassion. Though some of us may question whether Jesus was an actual historical figure, we believe his teachings are of significant moral value.
Do they believe in life after death?
Very few UUs believe in a continuing, individualized existence after physical death. Even fewer believe in the physical existence of places called heaven or hell where one goes after dying. We believe immortality manifests itself in the lives of those we affect during our lifetime and in the legacy we leave when we die.
What are their views on abortion?
As an institution, we are strongly pro-choice, as are most individual UUs.
What are their views on gay-marriage?
The Association, through action of its General Assembly and congregational actions, has advocated for nondiscrimination and hate crimes legislation; our ministers have performed ceremonies of union for same-sex couples; and now, the Association directs its attention toward the support for legalized same-sex marriage.
Certainly, I believe that everyone is free to live how they want to and I do not think that Universalist Unitarians are going to burn in hell or anything crazy like that, but I definitely think that this religion is way out of the mainstream of America. Senator Conrad's religious afiliation is out of the mainstream.
The Universalist Unitarians are also in cahoots with the Red River Freethinkers. The Red River Freethinkers were behind the attempt to take down the Ten Commandments at the Fargo City Hall. According to the Fargo Forum, the Freethinkers have "atheist and agnostic views."
How are the Universalist Unitarians in cahoots with the Red River Freethinkers? The Red River Freethinkers have meetings in Universalist Unitarian churches. I doubt Catholics, Lutherans, and most other Christian denominations would allow that. I'll say it again, there is nothing wrong with having Universalist Unitarian views, but they are entirely out of the mainstream.
Here's a quick recap. Senator Conrad's religion supports gay marriage, supports abortion, and is in cahoots with an organization that wants to entirely strip God from public life.
I guess it's no wonder why Sen. Conrad distances his private thoughts with his public actions.
Not content with gay-bashing and sectarian bigotry, our intrepid wingnut proceeds to add cowardice and dishonesty to his resume. In the comments section, he claims that:
"This is an issue that is of great importance to many people. Abortion and gay-marriage are important issues to North Dakotans. And it was hardly an attack."
"There is nothing wrong with being a Universal Unitarian. I have nothing against anyone who might be. I was simply pointing out that their views (pro gay marriage, pro-choice, and other religious positions) are out of the mainstream. They're more than welcome to be out of the mainstream... that's not a big deal. I'm an Oakland Athletics fan... I'm way out of the mainstream. Nothing wrong with that. I'm not saying that Catholics are better than anyone, Lutherans are better than anyone..... buti'm saying that UU are out of the mainstream.
Senator Conrad is a UU member. His religious views are out of the mainstream. That's fine with me. But for people who actually vote based on issues of faith, this information could be a great value to them. So... he would never meet the left's qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice."
"Once again, I ask... where did I smear a religion? Name one phrase I used that smeared the Unitarians? Name one
Certainly those are all good qualities to have, Bob. Holy crap... how many times do I have to say "THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A UNITARIAN!"
HERE IS MY POINT, READ IT CAREFULLY: 1)Unitarians are out of the mainstream. 2)Unitarians are connected to the Freethinkers. 3)Senator Conrad is a Unitarian.
That's all you need to read."
"Some of the biggest issues that Unitarians are currently fighting for are abortion rights and gay-marriage.
Because I am pro-life and anti-gay-marriage, I would never associate myself with their institution. Sen. Conrad does.
Do not look any further into that statement. That doesn't mean I think he's pro-gay-marriage or pro-choice, but it is kind of odd that we associates himself with an institution that supports those positions.
You guys are taking my statements and automatically suggesting that I'm making those conclusions. I am not."

I think this kind of thing needs the glare of the spotlight to expose just what the Republican party is really all about. I don't ask for this very often, but please recommend and spread news of this posting.

Why am I posting the opinion of a small time blogger? Well, for one, I am a small time blogger and for another, the post mentions Unitarian Universalism, and I happen to be a member of the Peoria Universalist Unitarian Church. (we permute the names as we were a Universalist Church prior to the merger in 1963).

And, it is nice to see "one of us" in the Senate. Yes, there were Unitarian Presidents (the last one was President Taft) but the denomination was a rather different animal then. In those days, Unitarians were Christians who denied the Trinity, and Universalists were those Christians who believed in universal salvation.

Pre-turkey day blogging...

I've decided to comment on some columnists today:

  • We'll start with the easy ones first: a column from Jeff Jacoby:
Truman bounced back. Bush will, too
By Jeff Jacoby
Nov 21, 2005

Why President Bush waited so long to respond to the baseless "Bush lied" lie is a mystery.

That was the first line of that column. Well, it is no mystery. It took him long to respond because the charge wasn't baseless.

  • Now we'll have fun with a column that accuse liberals of not hating evil.
The left hates inequality, not evilBy Dennis Prager

Nov 22, 2005

If you want to understand the Left, most of what you need to know can be summarized thus: The Left hates inequality, not evil.

Well, true, most of us don't like inequality (when it comes to opportunity) but we don't like evil either. The problem is that we think that our country is capable of doing evil, and has done evil in the past and in some cases, is currently doing evil. You know, things like invading other countries for false reasons, torturing, etc.

[...] By evil I mean the deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on the undeserving; cruelty is the best example of such evil.

Gee, so liberals don't hate deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on the underserving? Ah, this guy is slick: note the words of "deliberate" (hence one doesn't have to hate the plight of poor in this country or on other countries, nor do we have to hate the plight of those non-combatants we are killing in Iraq) and of the word "underserving"; I'll be charitable and assume that this person doesn't assume that the desperately poor are deserving of what they are getting. I'll assume he means that someone who has committed a heinous crime deserves punishment.

Thus, when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire," the liberal world condemned him. The Cold War, once regarded as an epochal battle between freedom and tyranny, came to be regarded by liberals as an amoral battle between "two superpowers."

This guy doesn't get it. Of course the Soviet Union was evil. But that didn't excuse our acts of evil, or our supporting evil right wing governments merely because they were anti-communist. After all, Nazi Germany was anti-communist.

Likewise liberals almost universally mocked President George W. Bush when he labeled Saddam Hussein's Iraq, North Korea and Iran an "axis of evil." It takes a mind that either has little comprehension of evil or little desire to confront it to object to characterizing three of the worst regimes in modern history as "evil."

No, I don't see any liberals mocking the calling of Iraq, North Korea or Iran "evil". It was the "axis" part. Those countries aren't the "axis" of anything. The President was appealing to World War II imagery to support his ill conceived (and evil) plan to invade countries that weren't directly threatening us.

How else can one explain the Left's enchantment with Fidel Castro, the totalitarian ruler of Cuba? Clearly his evil is of little consequence. What matters to people on the Left is that there is free health care and almost universal literacy in Cuba. Whereas non-leftists believe that it is far better to be illiterate but free, leftists believe that it is better to be a literate slave.
Today, this inability to either recognize or to hate evil is manifested in the liberal opposition to the war in Iraq. As I pointed out in a previous column, opponents of the war should be asked to at least acknowledge that America is fighting evil people and an evil doctrine in Iraq. But even that is difficult, if not impossible, for most people on the Left.

Such nonsense. If Castro is known for anything, it is that he has survived our many attempts to take him out. And tell me, just how "free" is someone living in desperate poverty? Not that this doesn't exist in Cuba, and especially in places in North Korea.

And yes, almost every single liberal columnist I've heard has acknowledged that Saddam was a brutal dictator. But, unlike the cronies on the right, we've also acknowledged that the United States supported this guy so long as he attacked our enemies! Had he not invaded Kuwait in 1991, he would probably still be an ally, brutality and all.

As noted above, everyone hates someone, and that includes people on the Left. The problem is that because they don't hate evil, they hate those who oppose evil. That is how liberals went from anti-communist to anti-anti-communist.

Nah. We react stronger when evil is done "in our name" than when others do it. Conservatives will never understand that in a million years.

  • Ok, that was easy. Now to contrast and compare two columns on politeness and civility in society: one from a conservative point of view, one from a more liberal point of view:

Manners and virtue in a modern worldBy George Will
Nov 20, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Let's be good cosmopolitans and offer sociological explanations rather than moral judgments about students, The Washington Post reports, having sex during the day in high schools. Sociology discerns connections, and there may be one between the fact that teenagers are relaxing from academic rigors by enjoying sex in the school auditorium, and the fact that Americans in public soon will be able to watch pornography, and prime-time television programs such as ``Desperate Housewives'' -- and, for the high-minded, C-SPAN -- on their cell phones and video iPods.
The connection is this: Many people have no notion of propriety when in the presence of other people, because they are not actually in the presence of other people, even when they are in public.

Ok, fair enough. Cell phone use can blur the distinction between the private and the public. But kids have "made out" in public places way before cell phones, though I admit that, being a nerd, I wasn't one of them.

So says Lynne Truss in her latest trumpet-blast of a book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. Her previous wail of despair was Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, which established her as -- depending on your sensibility -- a comma and apostrophe fascist (the liberal sensibility) or a plucky constable combating anarchy (the conservative sensibility).
Good punctuation, she says, is analogous to good manners because it treats readers with respect.

Ah, now we are getting somewhere. If only we'd make proper uses of semi-colons, all would be well with the world. I guess that undereducated folks are incapable of being polite? Frankly, I think that we would all be better off if we understood logic and statistics.

To see more on Mr. Will's punctuation fetish, see:

"All the important rules," she writes, "surely boil down to one: remember you are with other people; show some consideration." Manners, which have been called "quotidian ethics," arise from real or -- this, too, is important in lubricating social frictions -- feigned empathy.
"People," says Truss, "are happier when they have some idea of where they stand and what the rules are." But today's entitlement mentality, which is both a cause and a consequence of the welfare state, manifests itself in the attitude that it is all right to do whatever one has a right to do.

Ok, "knowing where we stand". If only people "knew their place". I fail to see what helping people out in a time of need (what welfare is supposed to do) leads to an attitude that it is ok to do whatever one has a right to do; I suppose this means that anyone on welfare has bad manners?

Which is why acrimony has enveloped a coffee shop on Chicago's affluent North Side, where the proprietor posted a notice that children must "behave and use their indoor voices." The proprietor, battling what he calls an "epidemic" of anti-social behavior, told The New York Times that parents protesting his notice "have a very strong sense of entitlement." [...]

Wait a minute: are you saying that it is those horrible poor on welfare that misbehave in that coffee shop? Guess what: those patrons are more than likely Bush voters (yes, Kerry won Chicago by a big margin, but Bush still won in the affluent areas). By the way, I fully approve of what that coffee shop owner did.

But if you want the worst example of "it is ok to do what I can get away with", look to the current administration or to Republican political operatives.

Now for Leonard Pitts:

By Leonard Pitts Jr.
Tribune Media Services
They don't shake hands anymore in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
Too many rude comments were made, too many people got spat on, too many fights broke out. So the principals of five schools in the Northern Neck District agreed to end the policy of having opposing high school athletic teams line up single file to shake hands after the game.
In theory, that was supposed to signal an end to competition and respect for worthy opponents. In practice, football, soccer and basketball teams kept turning into wrestling teams, grappling on grass fields and hardwood floors. Hence the ban on handshakes, which went into effect at the beginning of the athletic season. That decision has been decried by parents, editorialists and others, but was freshly affirmed by the administrators earlier this month.
You might take it as a sign that These Kids Today have no concept of sportsmanship as we did, back in the day. I'd agree, except that my high school football team used to sprint for the buses whenever they won an away game, because they knew that if the fans and players of the losing team caught them, it would not be pretty. Makes it hard to mount the high horse.
Still, I'd be lying if I said I was not struck by the ban in Virginia. If the lack of sportsmanship is not a new wrinkle, perhaps you'll agree that this acquiescence to it is.
Granted, there's no way to quantify that observation. But can you imagine a principal, a coach, a parent or some other adult authority back in the aforementioned day backing down from an important principle simply because young people resisted it?
That is not to lay blame for the decline and fall of Western civilization at the feet of a few school administrators who are, after all, liable for the misbehaviors of students in their care. It is only to suggest that perhaps it is not, in the long run, the smartest thing in the world to change the rules to accommodate that misbehavior. Maybe it would be better to leave sensible rules in place and instead exact a price when students get out of line.
Of course, exacting a price from children has become rather an alien concept in recent years. Consider that in 2002, parents in Piper, Kan., harassed and threatened a teacher because she failed kids for cheating; the school board ordered her to soften the punishment and she wound up quitting her job.

Ah, let's see: sometimes we miss opportunities to teach our kids how to be polite because we take the easy way out instead of standing up to them, which can be inconvenient.

Do you see the difference in these two columns?

  • Finally, a comment on how a conservative student was bullied by a liberal faculty member who, evidently, doesn't spell very well:

Why Professor Johnny can't spellBy Mike S. Adams
Nov 21, 2005
Rebecca Beach is a freshman at Warren County Community College (WCCC) in Washington, New Jersey. Recently, she sent an email to the faculty at her school announcing the appearance of a decorated Iraq war hero named Lt. Colonel Scott Rutter. The war hero was asked to discuss America's accomplishments in Iraq.
The simple email announcement was met with the following blistering response from part-time English Professor John Daly (
I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is [sic] extremely offensive. Your main poster "Communism killed 100,000,000" is not only untrue, but ignores the fact that CAPITALISM has killed many more and the evidence for that can be seen in the daily news papers. The U.S. government can fly to dominate the people of Iraq in 12 hours, yet it took them five days to assist the people devastated by huricanene [sic] Katrina. Racism and profits were key to their priorities. Exxon, by the way, made $9 Billion in profits this last quarter--their highest proft [sic] margin ever. Thanks to the students of WCCC and other poor and working class people who are recruited to fight and die for EXXON and other corporations who [sic] earning megaprofits from their imperialist plunders. If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.
I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your [sic] won't dare show their face [sic] on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.
Prof. John Daly
Some people reading the above diatribe will ask why a college would allow a professor to use such harsh language while addressing a student. But I disagree with any implication that Professor Daly had no right to say what he said so poorly. In fact, I would fight to the death to protect his right to very bad free speech. That is not because I am a principled person. I just enjoy watching liberals make asses out of themselves. To me, it is a cheap form of entertainment not unlike the CBS Evening News.

Ok, fair enough. A student sends an e-mail message and a part time faculty member sends a poorly worded, evidently hurriedly written response. I agree that the faculty member didn't respond appropriately. A better response would have been "thank you for letting me know" or no response at all. If the faculty member wanted to persuade this student on a point, a better way would have been to say: "ok, why do you believe that?"

But the line "I just enjoy watching liberals make asses out of themselves" is excellent. This is why I am commenting on Townhall articles: I love pointing out how conservative columnists put out articles that are completely devoid of logic and reason, all the while reminding myself how much smarter I am than the people that they are writing for. (yes, I said that sarcastically).

The difference is that I am picking on the best that conservatives have to offer; this clown is picking on a part-time faculty member.

But the real question for Professor Daly and his boss ( follows: Why can't English professors spell?
The answer can be found in Daly'’s biography/teaching philosophy, which is posted on the WCCC website:
Often linguists do not use their skills to teach grammar and writing, but Professor Daly finds that linguists have a special view on language that may help students' particularly students who have had trouble in these areas in the past. English courses generally are taught from a rule-based perspective. Students become overwhelmed with these rules and often find the exceptions make them impossible to manage. Linguistics [sic] view language from a descriptive point of view that is they understand language in the same way you might organize a sock draw [sic] by dumping the contents on the ground and seeing what goes together until finally ending up with a super-efficient drawer (or deeper understand [sic] of grammar and writing). Students often respond to this approach.
For those who do not understand the above statement, I am delighted to offer the following translation:

No thank you, there is no need. Basically, there are three points:

1) The rules can be hard to master at times

2) Many students have been shielded from having the possibility of failing at anything and

3) It is often easier to not deal with points 1 and 2 by insisting that the students master the rules (thereby leading to lower teaching evaluations, complaints from the students and their partents, etc.)

Often, this attitude of "students are the customer and the customer is always right" mentality in higher education bears some of the blame as well.

So, this columnist makes a valid point, even if he is a conservative ass.
One final comment: I like to spell check my articles prior to posting them, and I noticed that my spell checker corrected some of the English professor's words. I tried to go back an put in the misspellings but might have missed a few.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Segways on the Hike and Bike: Now that's pathetic!

This afternoon I took my 11 year old daughter out to the Hike and Bike trail in Austin to get some exercise; we walked about 2 miles.

There were lots of other folks out there, including several runners, walkers and people on mountain bikes.

Then what did we see? People on Segways!,322935/36/record.html

Not elderly people, but seemingly healthy people. Segways on the Hike and Bike. That's pathetic!!!

Well, at least we haven't seen Segway's at marthons.....yet. Give the JeansMarines and those other charity groups time though...

In Austin

I flew from Peoria to Dallas today and then rented a car to drive to Austin. While in the air, I read almost all of the current issue of Blueprint Magazine, which is the DLC publication.

DLC stands for the Democratic Leadership council, which is an organization for moderate Democrats. The issue was ok in spots; Senator Bayh made reasonable points about national security and energy independence, Senator Clinton pointed out that the differences between the left and center elements of the Democratic Party are much smaller than the difference between any of us and the Republicans. General Christman made a nice argument for the top tier academic universities to endorse ROTC programs and for members of Congress to not run away from the military (e. g., seek qualified nominees for the Service Academies).
And, Governor Warner made an excellent case for our need to continue to invest heavily in modern education and the need to reach out across party lines. Then there was a good analysis for Paul Hackett's excellent effort to win a blood-red congressional district in Ohio; he lost 48-52 in a district that went for President Bush by over 60%. So far, so good, right?

Well, then I came to Peter Ross Range's review of a book which argues that going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do even if there weren't any of those pesky WMD's there.

&^%$@!! I swear; it is almost as if the DLC is just as stubborn as the Bush administration. Folks, that dog just won't hunt anymore! That war was a colossal screw up and a tragic mistake. Can't you admit that you were wrong to go along with it to begin with? Evidently not. Evidently the DLC wants to be relegated to being irrelevant.

A couple of nice article from the Smirking Chimp:
One calls for the Democrats to start acting like Democrats:

This one slams the DLC types ("D C Democrats)

And as usual, Molly Ivns gets straight to the point:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Smart @ss Comment of the weekend:

I had to chuckle at the following blog entry from Dus7:

As I told her, I don't mind when students give me such answers as it makes the papers so much easier to grade!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Peoria Turkey Trot: 2005

Today, Tracy and I did a race: the Peoria Turkey Trot "4 mile" race. It is Peoria's oldest race.

This was my first "public race" in Peoria way back in 1996. I ran a 29:14 that year, and was very annoyed to have gotten passed three times in the last .25 miles. In 1997 and 1998, I did the Galesburg half-marathon Turkey Trot race on the same day. In 1999, I was out with a stress fracture and in 2000 I did the Galesburg 5 miler in the morning followed by this 1 pm race in the afternoon (29:23). I remember chasing Deb Wresinski's (now Fienburg) red tights up the large hill. In 2001, I went with Tracy and ended up fighting though a nasty cold to run 29:16. Tracy ran 40:35. In 2002, I sat it out due to severe shin splints. In 2003, I ran a decent (for me) 28:58, getting outkicked by Jim McIntyre at the end. It was cold and windy that day, with some icy rain. Tracy ran herself sick and finished dead last with 41:37; still she won her age group.

The course: the course is a little more than 3 miles of park road, followed by .8 miles of soccer field grass. One starts up a slight incline and then takes a turn. Then one goes up a rather steep, 1/2 mile long hill. Then there is an almost flat spot, about a 1/4 mile down, a small up, a larger down, and then another steep hill. Then there is a long downhill segment that takes you back to the start; this is about a 2.7 mile loop. Then you go along the slight incline again, but when one gets to the end of the straight-away, one turns left to go around the boundary of a soccer field complex on the grass. The rest of the course is grass. One then hugs the boundary of the Fields, passes through a path through some trees, and then goes around part of the perimeter of another set of soccer fields. Then one turns and makes a straight away to the finish.

Tracy and I started side by side; she was running while I was walking. At the turn going up the hill I eventually started to pass walkers. Surprisingly, I was able to keep the racewalking straight knee while going uphill and made some reasonably good time. Here I passed people.

The slower runners caught me on the down, and I passed them again on the next large up, only to get blown away on the next long down.

The hill section is hard, but lovely. There is forest on both sides of you. For me, the downhills were tough as I was making an effort to walk legally.

The last relatively flat road stretch was no big deal, and I could see many runners all strung out in a line. Unfortunately, I could not catch any of them.

Then came the grass section, where I gave up any pretense of legality due to the unevenness of the turf. So I more or less held my own and finished in 40:09 (my watch, 40:16 official). Tracy came in later at 42:56 and 5 people finished after she did. She won 3'rd in her age group.

I've always enjoyed this; people run it, most give it their all, but this is a no frills, "just get out there and do it" kind of thing. And it gave me some confidence going into next weeks cauldron.

Placewise, my walking got me 110 out of 125, and Tracy finished 119'th.

Afterwards, someone asked me if I ever wanted to try to run this course; I had to laugh. It is almost as if walking were viewed as somehow being inferior to running. But I notice that my previous running times had been remarkedly consistent where as for Tracy...

1996 (beginner) Ollie 29:14
2000 (2'nd race of the day) Ollie 29:23
2001 (had a cold) Ollie 29:16, Tracy 40:35
2003 Ollie 28:58, Tracy 41:37
2005 Ollie 40:16 (walk), Tracy 42:57

Ah, it appears as if time is taking it's toll on a certain someone.

Bush, Congress and Intelligence Leading to the Iraq War

Ok, I'll come clean about where I stood prior to the Iraq war and what I thought about President Bush. Back in 2000, when the election was decided in Bush's favor, I was irritated but thought "hey, someone has to win; this election was essentially a tie and the Republicans won the Supreme Court tie-breaker". I also thought: "I voted for Gore, but Bush will do ok; we are still in good hands." How wrong I was.

Of course, I didn't come to be anti-Bush until that state of the Union speech where he outlined that we were going to war. I thought: "this @sshole WANTS to go to war; how many are going to get killed because of him?" I also thought that, based on everything that I have read, that Iraq still had at least some chemical weapons, and possibly some biological ones.

I thought that the way to proceed was with some very aggressive inspections; that we would attack and destroy the sites that the Iraqi's denied to the inspectors. Of course, I had access to no intelligence whatsoever and felt that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but that Iraq still had to comply with the treaties and agreements that they signed afte the first gulf war.

So what about now? I can't say in my heart if I "knew" that Bush lied about the intelligence and to whom he may have lied. I can say that he has a deliberate public persona of being "my way or the high way" type of person, and that he sees doubts as a bad thing. So, given that he has actively worked to cultivate this attitude, he has no one to blame but himself if people think that he cherry picked what he wanted from the data and ignored the rest.

And this point about "if you were for the war at the start you need to be for the war now else you are a coward, lack backbone, or are pandering to public opinion" is absurd. Changing the course is often the right thing to do, especially if you are headed off of a cliff.

Besides, whether the President lied or was simply wrong, the most charitable conclusion is that he was tragically wrong, and he needs to bear responsibility for that. And frankly, he hasn't done that.

That being said, what do the facts say about Bush misleading Congress by providing corrupted intelligence, and misleading the public too? As points out, those are very different questions with possibly very different answers.

One other thing that the article pointed out: few in congress actually read the 92 page report that was available to them. Instead, the vast majority read a summary. So congress deserves at least some of the blame.

One note: to find the NIE summary that George Washington University has, go to the Fact Check website and click on the appropriate link.

Iraq: What Did Congress Know, And When?Bush says Congress had the same (faulty) intelligence he did. Howard Dean says intelligence was "corrupted."
We give facts.

November 19, 2005

The President says Democrats in Congress "had access to the same intelligence" he did before the Iraq war, but some Democrats deny it."That was not true," says Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "He withheld some intelligence. . . . The intelligence was corrupted."
Neither side is giving the whole story in this continuing dispute.

The President's main point is correct: the CIA and most other US intelligence agencies believed before the war that Saddam had stocks of biological and chemical weapons, was actively working on nuclear weapons and "probably" would have a nuclear weapon before the end of this decade. That faulty intelligence was shared with Congress – along with multiple mentions of some doubts within the intelligence community – in a formal National Intelligence Estimate just prior to the Senate and House votes to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
No hard evidence has surfaced to support claims that Bush somehow manipulated the findings of intelligence analysts. In fact, two bipartisan investigations probed for such evidence and said they found none. So Dean's claim that intelligence was "corrupted" is unsupported.

But while official investigators have found no evidence that Bush manipulated intelligence, they never took up the question of whether the President and his top aides manipulated the public, something Bush also denies.

In fact, before the war Bush and others often downplayed or omitted any mention of doubts about Saddam's nuclear program. They said Saddam might give chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to terrorists, although their own intelligence experts said that was unlikely. Bush also repeatedly claimed Iraq had trained al Qaeda terrorists in the use of poison gas, a story doubted at the time by Pentagon intelligence analysts. The claim later was called a lie by the al Qaeda detainee who originally told it to his US interrogators.

The latest round of this continuing partisan dispute started Nov. 11, when Bush said in a Veterans' Day speech:
Bush: While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.
They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. . . . That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
What Was Congress Told?
The intelligence to which Bush refers is contained in a top-secret document that was made available to all members of Congress in October 2002, days before the House and Senate voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq. This so-called National Intelligence Estimate was supposed to be the combined US intelligence community's "most authoritative written judgment concerning a specific national security issue," according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report was titled "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction."
Though most of the document remains classified, the "Key Judgments" section and some other paragraphs were cleared and released publicly in July, 2003. The most recent and complete version available to the public can be read on the website of George Washington University's National Security Archive, which got it from the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.
The NIE as declassified and released by the CIA says pretty much what Bush and his aides were saying publicly about Iraq's weapons - nearly all of which turned out to be wrong:

CIA Release of NIE, October 2002: We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions. If left unchecked it probably will have a nuclear weapon within this decade.
Chemical Weapons: The CIA document expressed no doubt that Iraq had large stocks of chemical weapons. "We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX," it said. "Saddam probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents – much of it added in the last year." ("CW" refers to "chemical warfare" agents.)
Biological Weapons: The document also said "we judge" that Iraq had an even bigger germ-warfare program than before the first Gulf War in 1991. "We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives," the report said. ("BW" refers to "biological warfare.")
Nuclear Weapons: The document also said "most" US intelligence agencies believed that some high-strength aluminum tubes that Iraq had purchased were intended for use in centrifuge rotors used to enrich uranium, and were "compelling evidence" that Saddam had put his nuclear weapons program back together.

On the matter of the tubes, however, the report noted that there was some dissent within the intelligence community. Members of Congress could have read on page 6 of the report that the Department of Energy "assesses that the tubes are probably not" part of a nuclear program.
Some news reports have said this caveat was "buried" deeply in the 92-page report, but this is not so. The "Key Judgments" section begins on page 5, and disagreements by the Department of Energy and also the State Department are noted on pages 5,6,8 and 9, in addition to a reference on page 84.

Though much has been made recently of doubts about the tubes, it should be noted that even the Department of Energy's experts believed Iraq did have an active nuclear program, despite their conclusion that the tubes were not part of it. Even the DOE doubters thought Saddam was working on a nuclear bomb.

Connection to terrorism.
On one important point the National Intelligence Estimate offered little support for Bush's case for war, however. That was the likelihood that Saddam would give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists for use against the US.
Al Qaeda: The intelligence estimate said that – if attacked and "if sufficiently desperate" – Saddam might turn to al Qaeda to carry out an attack against the US with chemical or biological weapons. "He might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorist in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him," the NIE said.
The report assigned "low confidence" to this finding, however, while assigning "high confidence" to the findings that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, and "moderate confidence" that Iraq could have a nuclear weapon as early as 2007 to 2009.
That was the intelligence available to Congress when the House passed the Iraq resolution Oct. 10, 2002 by a vote of 296-133. The Senate passed it in the wee hours of Oct. 11, by a vote of 77-23. A total of 81 Democrats in the House and 29 Democrats in the Senate supported the resolution, including some who now are saying Bush misled them.

A point worth noting is that few in Congress actually studied the intelligence before voting. The Washington Post reported: "The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But . . . no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary."
"Corrupted" Intelligence?
On all key points, of course, that National Intelligence Estimate turned out to be wrong. No stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons have been found, nor any evidence that Saddam had an active program to enrich uranium or make nuclear weapons. The aluminum tubes turned out to be for use in Iraqi rockets, just as the Department of Energy experts had argued.
That has led to claims that intelligence was deliberately slanted to justify the war in Iraq. On NBC's Meet the Press Nov. 13, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the intelligence given to Congress was "corrupted" and that Bush withheld information.
Dean: The intelligence was corrupted, not just because of the incompetence of the CIA; it was corrupted because it was being changed around before it was presented to Congress . Stuff was taken out and not presented. All of this business about weapons of mass destruction, there was significant and substantial evidence . . . that said, "There is a strong body of opinion that says they don't have a nuclear program, nor do they have weapons of mass destruction." And that intelligence was not given to the Congress of the United States.
NBC's Tim Russert: It was in the National Intelligence Estimate, as a caveat by the State Department.
Dean: It was, a very small one, but the actual caveat that the White House got were (sic) much, much greater. And the deputy to Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, just said so. He just came out and said so.
On this point Dean is incorrect . Wilkerson, who was State Department chief of staff during Bush's first term, actually said there was an "overwhelming" consensus within the intelligence community. He said the State Department dissented only regarding a nuclear program, not about whether Saddam possessed chemical and biological weapons.
Wilkerson, Oct. 19, 2005: And people say, well, INR (the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research) dissented. That's a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That's all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios.
. . . The consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming. I can still hear (CIA Director) George Tenet telling me, and telling my boss (Colin Powell) in the bowels of the CIA, that the information we were delivering . . . (He) was convinced that what we were presented was accurate.
Wilkerson, it should be noted, is no apologist for Bush. This excerpt comes from the same speech in which Wilkerson went public with a well-publicized complaint that decisions leading up to the war were made by a "cabal" between Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and "a President who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either."
Previously, two bipartisan commissions investigated and found no evidence of political manipulation of intelligence.
In 2004 the Senate Intelligence Committee said, in a report adopted unanimously by both Republican and Democratic members:
Senate Intelligence Committee: The Committee did not find any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure, altered or produced intelligence products to conform with Administration policy, or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so. When asked whether analysts were pressured in any way to alter their assessments or make their judgments conform with Administration policies on Iraq’s WMD programs, not a single analyst answered “yes.” (p273)
A later bipartisan commission, co-chaired by Republican appeals-court judge Laurence Silberman and a Democratic former governor and senator from Virginia, Charles Robb, issued a report in March, 2005 saying:
Silberman-Robb Report: These (intelligence) errors stem from poor tradecraft and poor management. The Commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. As we discuss in detail in the body of our report, analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments.
Although the Silberman-Robb commission was appointed by President Bush, it included prominent Democrats and Republican Sen. John McCain, whom Bush defeated for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Misleading the Public?
Neither the Senate Intelligence Committee nor the Silberman-Robb commission considered how Bush and his top aides used the intelligence that was given to them, or whether they misled the public. The Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to take that up in "phase two" of its investigation – and there's plenty to investigate.
Vice President Cheney, for example, said this on NBC's Meet the Press barely a month before Congress voted to authorize force:
Cheney, Sept. 8, 2002: But we do know, with absolute certainty, that he (Saddam) is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.
As we've seen, that was wrong. Department of Energy and State Department intelligence analysts did not agree with the Vice President's claim, which turned out to be false. Cheney may have felt "absolute certainty" in his own mind, but that certainty wasn't true of the entire intelligence community, as his use of the word "we" implied.
Similarly, the President himself said this in a speech to the nation, just three days before the House vote to authorize force:
Bush, Oct. 7, 2002: We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases . And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.
Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
That statement is open to challenge on two grounds. For one thing, as we've seen, the intelligence community was reporting to Bush and Congress that they thought it unlikely that Saddam would give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists – and only "if sufficiently desperate" and as a "last chance to exact revenge" for the very attack that Bush was then advocating.
Furthermore, the claim that Iraq had trained al Qaeda in the use of poison gas turned out to be false, and some in the intelligence community were expressing doubts about it at the time Bush spoke. It was based on statements by a senior trainer for al Qaeda who had been captured in Afghanistan. The detainee, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, took back his story in 2004 and the CIA withdrew all claims based on it. But even at the time Bush spoke, Pentagon intelligence analysts said it was likely al-Libi was lying.
According to newly declassified documents, the Defense Intelligence Agency said in February 2002 – seven months before Bush's speech – "it is . . . likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest. . . . Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control." The DIA's doubts were revealed Nov. 6 in newly declassified documents made public by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Whether or not Bush was aware of the Pentagon's doubts is not yet clear.