Cost of the War in Iraq
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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sign Pledge or Do Not Enter: Bush/Cheney '04 to Ticket Seekers 

From the El Paso Times Online. Some people wanting to attend a campaign event at which VP Cheney was going to appear were required to sign pledges in support of President Bush as a condition precedent to reserving tickets for the event.

Is this the team reasonable people believe will best serve the public interest? Why would anyone support a candidate who is so fearful of dissent that he tries to coerce people into supporting him. I just don't get it.

The Fog of War: McNamara's Eleven Lessons 

I watched The Fog of War this afternoon. Wow. The film, by Errol Morris, consists of an interview with Robert McNamara about his life and the lessons he learned from his various experiences. Much of what McNamara had to say resonates today. He served as Secretary of Defense during another very difficult time in our history. I was left with some affection for McNamara, now 86-years old, after watching the movie. I was touched that he began to cry as he talked about finding just the right spot in Arlington National cemetery to bury President Kennedy after his assassination.

I highly recommend this movie. It is informative, interesting and thought provoking. He talks about his service in WWII, the bombing of Japan, his Presidency of the Ford Motor Co. (he was the first non-family member to hold that position), the Cuban missile crisis, and of course, Vietnam. He offers a unique view of our history given his participation in so much of it.

In the movie, McNamara offers 11 lessons from his 85 (at that time) years on earth. The interview and subject matter revolves around these lessons, which I share below:

  1. Empathize with your enemy - McNamara said that we must look at the US through the eyes of our eney to understand their thoughts and actions. Here he used the Cuban missile crisis as an example. Nuclear war was averted because one of the President's advisors knew Kruschev and knew that he would accept a resolution that allowed him to claim he successfully protected Cuba from imminent US attack.
  2. Rationality with not save us
  3. There is something beyond one's self.
  4. Maximize efficiency
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  6. Get the data
  7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong -- we see what we want to believe
  8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning -- One of McNamara's comments here was quite pertinent to the debate over Iraq: "If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we better reexamine our reasoning."
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil -- the question for McNamara was, how much evil to accomplish the ends? This is related to # 5.
  10. Never say never.
  11. You cannot change human nature. By this McNamara was referring to the inherent fallibility of humankind. "We are rational, but reason has limits," McNamara commented. I've held the same belief for a long time -- I think the belief solidified after my first-year Torts class in law school. You learn quite quickly that although we are capable of acting rationally, we don't always do so.

Errol Morris has done a terrific public service by making this film, and I am grateful to Robert McNamara for sharing what he did on camera. I was born in 1962 and my memories of Vietnam are images of death and destruction from Life Magazine, the Boston Globe, and evening news. So much of who I am was shaped by those images. It just never made any sense to me to continue killing. I remember well when the announcement of peace came -- I picked up the Boston Globe off of the front porch and ran inside yelling that peace had been achieved.

Those who lived through the Vietnam war as adults, and saw and listened to Secretary McNamara during his press conferences will also benefit from hearing what he has to say -- particularly before the November election. Rent this movie.

Friday, July 30, 2004

A must read 

Ron Reagan, Jr. makes a case against George Bush.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I Guess There Is One Thing I Like About Bush 

So Bush mountain bikes, eh? 

Of all outdoor activities I've done in my lifetime, that is my absolute favorite.  Riding on trails over rocks and other obstacles, climbing steep hills that twist around trees, with knotted roots criss crossing all the way up  -- oh what joy!  It's like being 10 again. 

I love the true mountain biking spirit reflected in Bush's attitude after he fell -- he got up and wanted to finish the ride.  Getting a bit bloody and muddy is not unusual during a good ride, at least not here in the Northeast.  I confess that I've never had my doc with me to clean up my cuts like he did; but I suppose I can't fault Bush since it's probably a requirement in light of his hard riding and the importance of his office.

Good for the President for staying young by playing in the woods with his bike!    Although Bush has scored big with me on this one, and I might agree to ride with him, I still think he's not fit to be President. 

Lt. Governor's (or his Staff's) Serious Lapse in Judgement 

Yesterday at work I received an email from the Lt. Gov.'s Chief of Staff seeking monetary donations for a private non-profit camp for children with cancer.  The email announced that the Lt. Gov was going to have his head shaved to raise money for the camp.  It asked me to support the Lt. Gov by donating money to the camp.  It also invited me to the event, stating "and bring your checkbook!"

The email was by way of the State's email system during working hours.  It was cc'd to the Lt. Gov himself and appears to have gone to all State employees whose email service is through the State's department of information and innovation -- covering many government offices and hundreds of employees.  Employees on the system have access to group email lists that are intended to facilitate communication among government employees so they may better serve the public.  One of the lists goes to all addresses on the system.  Based on my knowledge of the system, I'm guessing that the Lt. Gov.'s office used that ALL group when it sent the solicitation email.

State policy prohibits such solicitation by State workers -- whether union or not.  One would think that the Lt. Gov. and his staff would know better (even in the absence of such a policy).  Afterall, the policy is posted on the Department of Personnel's website.  The mass email was also a misuse of the State policy on use of State computers, internet, and email services. 

I wrote the Lt. Gov's office back with a rather direct and harsh response.  My strong reaction to the email arises from my sense of fairness to the State workers who would likely suffer reprimand if they had done something similar for a cause they believed was worthy.  A high government official like the Lt. Governor should (1) know better, (2) should know better than to hire staff who don't know better, and (3) should apologize to all of the recipients and acknowledge the lapse in judgement by either him or his office -- whoever is responsible. 

How would he react if a State worker used the system to mass email a solicitation for donations to the KKK, NARAL or Planned Parenthood?  I'm doubtful that he would find it appropriate even assuming there wasn't an explicit policy prohibiting it.

My strong reaction was also due to the fact that this is an election year.  I immediately wondered whether his office will use the State email service to plug his accomplishments when the election season gets hotter?  Will he use it to ask for more financial assistance, but this time for his bid for reelection? 

Both scenarios are unlikely now that I've pointed the Lt. Gov's Chief of Staff to the link setting out the official State policies on such conduct. 

Why have I decided to blog this incident?  Well, the Lt. Gov. is only accountable to the public every two years, unlike state employees whose managers may impose discipline for doing what the Lt. Gov's office did.  Therefore, the public has an interest in knowing that the Lt. Gov's staff has, apparently on his behalf, used his government position to further a private cause.  The only way for the rest of the public to know about this example of poor judgment is if a State employee who received the email at work speaks out.  I work for the State, I've got a place to tell the story, I was annoyed to be bothered with the email at work, and well, now anyone who cares to read this knows it.  

Monday, July 26, 2004

Rushing headlong 

"People should recognize that we're talking about pretty fundamental changes here.  It only makes sense to try and understand the implications of them before you rush headlong one way." 

          Condoleeza Rice responding to the recommendations of the 911 Commission(See Trouble Ahead for Bush from 9/11 Panel)

Ponder that one and the Bush preemption doctrine while imagining Iraq and the aftermath of our March 2003 invasion.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Aging + Lawyering = Bad Eyesight 

The years of bragging to my family that I was the only one with good eyesight have really come back to haunt me. I've had to reduce my time online lately because my eyes are getting so bad. My job involves reading and writing all day long (using a PC of course). It has taken its toll. That, plus my entry into the fourth decade of life, have led to my need for bifoculs. Until my new glasses** are ready, I won't be doing very much extra curricular reading or writing. As soon as I can, I'll be writing here again.

** the glasses are way cool -- they have rhinestones!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Padilla Refiles Habeas Petition 

Jose Padilla refiled his habeas petition in South Carolina. For those interested in seeing what a habeas petition looks like, here's a link to Padilla's latest filing in PDF format.

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