Archive for September 21st, 2004

The Rarest of Gems

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For half an hour after finishing the previous posting, the Dowbrigade tried to explain to Norma Yvonne that while 1-0 was the most common score in soccer, in baseball it was the rarest of gems. Control of the remote was at stake. Needless to say, we lost, and listened to the game on the radio, in the car. Go Sox.

article from tomorrow’s Boston Globe

Kerry’s Conundrum

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In what is probably a case of too many (positions) too late, John
Kerry has finally come out with an Iraq policy which is in clear contrast
to the Bush position. Kerry has for some time been having trouble elucidating
a coherent policy on the number one issue in the current presidential
election.

His difficulties derive from a combination of his own
ineptitude and a series of brilliant maneuvers by the Republicans to
sucker him into a series of evolving unsustainable stands, the most egregious
of which was his recent inexplicable declaration that, even knowing what
we know now, he would have supported the invasion of Iraq.  What
was he thinking? With that single statement he handed the number one
issue to Bush on a silver platter, and undermined any subsequent efforts
by his campaign to attack Bush on the war.

The ingeniously contrived conundrum facing Kerry is
that if he now declares that the war was a mistake, the Republican attack
dogs shoot back with, "So, we would be better off if Saddam still
in power?" How to oppose the tyrant Saddam and at the same time the war
that got rid of him?

Tough as it seems, the answer is obvious to the Dowbrigade.
It was in our vital strategic interest to remove Saddam. It is NOT in
our strategic interest to occupy a hostile country, to attempt to build
a democratic nation in an area with no history or tradition
of democracy and whose people deeply resent our presence on religious,
moral and nationalistic grounds.  It is most definitely
not in our interest to leave thousands of our children twisting in the
wind, being shot at daily by people whose only aim in life is to kill
Americans and anyone who so much as smiles at them.

It is a beautiful dream indeed to imagine democracy
blooming in the Middle East. But beyond the fact that there are no signs
of this happening, it puts the question, is the administration suggesting
that we have a moral obligation to intervene wherever people are oppressed
by unelected leaders, to install Democracy on a world-wide basis? If
so, there is a long list of candidates for political makeover, including
our buddies Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China, as well as places like
North Korea, Sudan and Nepal, where people are dying by the scores every
day and intervention on moral grounds would be at least as urgent as
Iraq.

There are obviously many, many spots around the globe
where people are not free and where the values we hold dear, human rights,
rule of law, an independent judiciary and press, are completely absent.
Clearly, we cannot solve all of these problems, or free all of these
people. Does this mean we should stay out of external involvement,
as a rule? We think it does.

The administration obviously thinks it can pick and
choose among the world’s disasters and injustices, and intervene in selected
conflicts according to what it views as America’s vital strategic interests.
In the case of Iraq, this basically boils down to oil.

Is Iraq’s oil of vital strategic interest to the United
States? This is where we differ from the reasoning of the Wolf
pack. The Iraqi oil may be in the strategic interests of the energy industry,
but it is not a vital interest of the country as a whole. Vital comes
from the Latin word for life, and in order to offer up the lives of American
men and women, the very life of the nation must be at stake.

It is obvious now that at the time of the invasion,
Saddam Hussein was NOT a direct threat to the United States. Yet we are
on the record as being in favor of the invasion! This is because at the
time Saddam was most definitely a direct threat to Israel.  If you
will remember, at that time he was offering sizable cash payments to
the families of suicide bombers who blew themselves up in cafes, pizzerias
and supermarkets. There was a wave of women suicide bombers, some as
young as 17.  And Saddam was elegizing them, encouraging them, and
rewarding them posthumously. We were convinced that he was directly responsible
for the deaths of scores of innocent Israelis and a demonic escalation
of the conflict.

Now, what makes threatening Israelis so special? In
the name of full disclosure we should state that the Dowbrigade is of
the Jewish persuasion, although it seems to him that being of the Chosen
People mostly means being Chosen to be blown up, gassed, gunned down
and beheaded. But there is a more compelling reason.

The exception to the principle of American non-intervention
has always been our binding treaties with allies and friends around the
world.  We are committed to going to war in the face of a direct
and deadly attack on England, Japan, NATO, Taiwan – and Israel. For this
reason alone, we were justified in removing Saddam from power. Trying
to occupy the country, on the other hand, is only in the interest of
those who want the Iraqi oil.

The
caveat to this whole argument is the possibility that the United States
has become so addicted to foreign oil that even
the relatively minor withdrawal caused by being denied access to the
second largest proven reserves in the world would cause such serious
disruptions that companies could crash, industries could fail, and thousands
of Americans could freeze or starve to death.

This is more plausible than it may seem. We are
clearly so addicted that If
we tried to go cold turkey and quit oil altogether it would certainly
be the end of the world as we know it. Transportation, energy production,
and our economy would collapse. Food production and distribution would
grind to a halt.  Millions would die.

If we are indeed at the point that even a significant
reduction in our oil supply would threaten our true vital security and
survival, than maybe we are justified occupying the oil fields. But if
that is the case, our leaders should have the guts to come out and tell
it like it is.

NBC on CBS and Bloggers

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Just turned on the NBC Evening News, and they are featuring a story on Bloggers, in respect to their role in exposing the Rather documents as fakes. They ask the question, “Who are they, and how did they get so powerful?” Funny, we don’t feel so powerful.

Tom Brokaw opened by calling us “amatuer pubdits”. A breif interview with Scott Johnson. whose conservative blog Power Lines was almost instantly all over the Rather documents followed. Then a 10 second definition of what a blog is, featuring a clever graphic of the words “Web Log” on a computer screen contracting to BLOG. Motivation? According to Tom, media distrust. Modality? Anything goes. Method? Media bashing. What else could we expect from a big-time Media mouthpiece like Tom. He dredged up the hoary story of Trent Lott once again, and closed by proclaiming us “A new voice in setting the national agenda”.

We wish. We truly do.

Monkeybrain Lives Again

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As
a teacher and a blogger, the Dowbrigade dreams of the day when he will
discover a blogger in one of his classes. We could blog about running the class and he or she could blog about being on the receiving end! Alas, despite a preponderance
of students from contries where Blogging is reportedly a big deal (South
Korea
, for example, home to 8 of our current class of 14), up until today
we
haven’t caught a glimmer of recognition when we asked, as we always do,
"Does anyone know what a Blog is?"

Today, however, we met our latest class, young adults from
abroad studing at a major American university, with whom we will be working
daily until December. To our surprise, for the first time, when we asked
the Blog question, two hands went up. We take this as a definite sign
of
progress.

They look like a lively bunch, quite fluent and interested
in all aspects of American culture and language, so we have decided to
use a blog in the teaching and administration of the class. We will be
using Monkeybrain,
our teaching blog, and any readers interested in Blogs in Eduacation
may want to check it our from time to time over the next 12 weeks.

At first, we will just be posting articles, postings
from other blogs and assignments, but we plan to make the students editors
by mid-semester and get them posting as well. Besides the Koreans, we
have
two Japanese,
a Chinese, a Spaniard, a Venezuelean and a Colombian, and all of them
are recently arrived in the States, so we should have some interesting
takes on the campaign and American life in general.

Monkeybrain