Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Plame Name Game trial -- an interlude, part two

From the New York Times today, reporting on the testimony of one Judith Miller and her relationship with Scooter Libby:

The events that led to the 2005 indictment of Mr. Libby, known as Scooter, began to unfold in the spring of 2003, when Ms. Miller returned from overseas assignments. Soon afterward, she saw Mr. Libby, who asked her to obtain for him a signed copy of a book she had written with two Times colleagues. Mr. Libby had been “very helpful” in her reporting for the book, she said.

“He liked my reporting on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,” Ms. Miller recalled.

I bet.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Plame Name Game trial -- an interlude

Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, testified today that Scooter Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, told him that Joseph Wilson's wife (Valeria Plame) worked at the CIA on July 7, 2004. Here's how one blogger who is covering the trial described Fleischer's testimony:

Fl my plans what I was going to do in the private sector. Talked about sports, football, both fans of the Dolphins. I don't remember if I brought up or Libby brought up the briefing. I said I got asked about Wilson. I said what I was asked by the OVP to say. What I recall Libby saying to me, reiterated that VP did not send Wilson. Amabssador Wilsongot sent by his wife, she works at CIA, Works in CPD, I recall that he told me her name. This is hush hush this is on the QT.

This is interesting on two levels. First, it directly contradict's Libby's story under oath (he claims he learned it 3 days later from Tim Russert, and then promptly forgot that he learned it. Seriously.) Second, note that Fleischer was told "Ambassador Wilson got sent by his wife . . ." You can see the obvious smear campaign beginning to take shape.

I'm having a hard time imagining how Libby is going to avoid conviction. But I'm also having a hard time imagining why Bush wouldn't pardon him -- with 30% approval, what's he got to lose?

Also -- Ari Fleischer is a Dolphins fan?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Black Hawks Down. Bin Laden. Iraq. And one really long blog post.

Lately, I've been pondering a semi-crackpot, mostly unjustifiable theory that the most pivotal event in history in the last 15 years was not the 9/11 attacks. Instead, I'm increasingly inclined to place the death of 18 U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia -- made famous in the book and the film "Black Hawk Down" (I've never understood why it wasn't "Black Hawks Down," because two helicopters were shot down) -- at the center of the historical military-terrorist vortex we currently find ourselves in. To explain why, I will necessarily have to paint a historical picture with broad historical brushstrokes and pseudo-Marxian -- yes, you read that right -- analysis filled with statements that, individually, could be picked apart by any knowledgable high school student but collectively, may illuminate some larger truth about where we are today and how we got here. With that moutful said, here's the historical timeline:

1989-1991 The fall of the Soviet empire. The major details of this are well known, so only two points here. First, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was obviously precipitated by the arming of the mujahideen in part by the Americans, and turned Afghanistan into a magnet for young and restless Muslims in the Middle East with visions of grandeur on their mind. Second, the Hegelian dialect of history suggests that for every "thesis" there must be an "antithesis," with only a temporary synthesis period in between. Rinse, lather, repeat. With the collapse of the Soviets, the U.S. and indeed, the western world, finds itself without its go-to antithesis for the first time.

1992 The election of President Clinton. Clinton gets elected and becomes Commander in Chief. Just prior to his election, the U.N. authorizes the use of military force to provide famine relief to Somalia, which has descended into anarchy and is ruled by competing tribal warlords (much like Afghanistan). President Bush I authorizes the use of the U.S. military in the effort -- Operation Restore Hope -- even though there is no discernible U.S. interests at stake, other than to do something morally right. Clinton, upon taking office, preserves the status quo and U.S. forces take the lead in military operations (along with the Pakistanis). With Clinton's election, it is possible to see the an antithesis taking form that places international human rights at the top of the international political and military agenda (as opposed to anti-communism).

Around the same time, Osama bin Laden is busy building bicycles and sipping tea with terrorists in nearby Sudan. By almost all accounts, the object of his rage continues to be heretic Muslim leadership.

October 1993 The Battle of Mogadishu. 18 U.S. soldiers die in a raid to capture warlord Mohammed Aidid. The bodies of two soldiers are dragged through the street. The U.S. body politic, which has essentially ignored the U.S. presence in Somalia, immediately calls for withdrawal. Indeed, Republicans in Congress demand that Clinton withdraw the troops only days after the images are shown. The lack of any vital U.S. interest -- as opposed to a human rights claim -- is cited by Republicans (and some Democrats) as self-evident reason for the U.S. to withdraw. President Clinton agrees, and the U.S. and the UN pull out. Somalia descends further into chaos.

Clinton's decision leads Osama bin Laden to conclude the U.S., much like the Soviet Union, is a paper tiger. He decides to redirect the efforts of his merry band of terrorists away from Egypt and the house of Saud toward America. For the first time, the U.S. is square within bin Laden's cross-sights. A new antithesis is fomenting in the desert.

1998 Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombing. Bin Laden strikes in spectacular fashion. But because the deaths take place abroad, and most of the victims are black Africans, the U.S. response is actually fairly muted. Clinton lobs cruise missiles into Afghanistan (bin Laden's new home) and Sudan, but is roundly criticized for it. The strikes are ineffective. Republicans generally criticize the move as a distraction from their ongoing impeachment of the President over a blowjob.

October 2000 USS Cole bombing. Disappointed by the relative yawn to his previous attack, bin Laden decides to strike at one of the U.S. Navy's most powerful warships. 17 U.S. soldiers are killed when suicide bombers detonate along side the ship's hull. But bin Laden's timing is off: the attack happens just before the November 2000 elections; President Clinton is the lamest of lame ducks, but the new President is not yet even known (and won't be even for awhile longer than expected, due to Florda's decision to become a banana republic.)

January 2001 President Bush installed by U.S. Supreme Court. Bush takes the reigns and appoints Colin Powell his Secretary of State. The Powell Doctrine states that the U.S. should not involve itself, militarily, in the affairs of other nations unless (1) the objectives are clear, (2) the exit strategy is known, and (3) overwhelming military force can be brought down on the enemy. Note that the Powell doctrine is uniquely incapable of dealing with an asymmetric threat of the type posed by bin Laden.

August 2001 CIA to Bush: "Bin Laden determined to strike within the U.S." Chatter in the intelligence community is off the hook. Top analysts in the CIA and intelligence community are convinced an attack from someone, somewhere, is imminent. The CIA then warns Bush that bin Laden wants to strike within the homeland, for reasons that now should be obvious: with the vacuum left by the imploding Soviet empire, and the weakness demonstrated by the U.S. in Somalia, bin Laden wants to be the counterpoint to the dominant U.S. hegemony. And he thinks he can win.

September 11, 2001. Bin Laden pulls off the masterstroke.

After quickly invading and dismantling the Taliban, the U.S. surveys the geoplitical landscape through new eyes. Instead of viewing the attacks as a spectacular failure of U.S. intelligence to connect the dots, the conclusion drawn by President Bush, and most Americans, is that the U.S. under seige by terrorists. A tenuous logical nexus is drawn between "terrorist" and the nations who might support their efforts against us, and supply them with "weapons of mass destruction." While still at war in Afghanistan, the Administration begins war planning to invade Iraq.

A vague and murky antithesis in the form of a military tactic has now fully emerged: "terrorism." Republicans scrap the Powell doctrine, scrap their opposition to interventionism, and embrace a new strategy: preemptive war to eliminate potential threats. Democrats, myself included, go along with the plan -- in part because of lingering war frenzy, in part because of manipulated intelligence, in part because the last vestiges of the international human rights paradigm have not been removed. Oddly, it's this last prong the Bush Adminstration will cling to after things go awry in Iraq.

March 2003 The Iraq War begins. Hopefully you know the details of this already.

This glosses over so much its frightening. But perhaps you can see my larger point: the U.S. withdrawal in Somalia was the turning point in the battle of the antitheses. Terrorism defeated human rights. The U.S. withdrew from internationalism. The historical dots are beginning to be connected.

I'll have more to say about where this theory might lead . . . soon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quick question

What does it say about the spine of the Democratic Party that:

(1) An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose President Bush's surge plan;

(2) President Bush's popularity is hovering at 28%, somewhere between Nixon at the nadir of Watergate and Hitler circa 1945;

(3) The Democrats were just swept into power in both chambers of Congress; and yet

(4) The only legislative plan for Iraq is a nonbinding resolution that carries no legal force, and arguably will accomplish exactly what the reactionary supporters of the Iraq War say it will accomplish, namely, demonstrate America is deeply divided over the war and has no clue what to do?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hillary Clinton -- what a disaster

Interested in the race for President? Make sure to set aside some time to curl up with this Atlantic Monthly profile of Senator Hillary Clinton. In it, you will learn that:

(1) Hillary claims she didn't realize Bush planned to invade Iraq when she authorized Bush to invade Iraq.

(2) Hillary successfully fought efforts to redistribute AIDS funding to southern states---where AIDS is growing rapidly---because she wanted New York to keep the money.

(3) When asked if she could name a single political risk she's taken as Senator, she cites an environmental health bill for the victims of 9/11.

At some point, the question needs to be asked: what does Hillary Clinton stand for? Besides being against violence in video games? And why does anyone think she should be President?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Seahawks -- A look back, a look forward

Oh, what could have been. The Seahawks played their best game of the season last Sunday. And it was almost enough -- almost -- to escape Chicago for a win. But after blowing not one, not two, but three shots at getting into field position to win with a Josh Brown field goal, every genuine Hawks fan has to admit the better team won last week.

And you know what? I feel ok about that. I would have loved to see us play the Saints, of course, but after a season of ridiculous injuries, a season without any continuity or rythm, I feel pretty good about making the divisional playoffs and forcing overtime against a 13-3 team. Unlike the Super Bowl last year, where I felt robbed and brutalized by the officiating, this was an honest loss.

Ok, so now all eyes can immediately turn to the long offseason. Here are some key questions going for the days, weeks and months ahead:

1. Whither Matt Hasselbeck? The biggest surprise this year was the apparent regression of Matt Hasselbeck at QB. I know all the excuses: the patchwork o-line, the injuries at WR, and Hass's various ailments. To me, those might explain a dip in numbers. What they cannot explain is his very questionable throws into traffic that resulted in way too many interceptions. If you look at their season statistics, Seneca Wallace played at virtually the same level that Hass did. Does that mean Seneca should be the starter? No. But we now have some questions at the QB position, and you can bet Coach Walrus will be very attentive to Hass during training camp and preseason.

2. Our $50 million running back problem. I said it after the Super Bowl loss: we shouldn't resign Shaun. The number of RBs who have had as many carries at his age who continued to produce can be counted on one hand. Three fingers, actually: Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, and Curtis Martin. Nonetheless, the Hawks front office wimped out and resigned him to a huge contract. Predictably, Shaun got injured and averaged about 3.7 yards per carry when he could play. Maurice Morris, who I semisecretly thought would be better, played about the same (though Mo has no ability to sniff the endzone like #37). So now we are stuck. What really bothers me is that, even if we draft a good rookie RB this offseason (unlikely in any event), we'll still feel obligated to give Shaun his carries. I'm very depressed about this.

3. Who stays, who goes? The Hawks have a bunch of interesting free agents this year, including Darrell Jackson and DJ Hackett -- both great, both injured, one old, one young -- Josh Brown, and Jerramy Stevens. It's that last guy who's going to give the front office fits. He was all but guaranteed to depart before the playoffs -- then he stepped up huge in the Cowboys game. And don't forget Walrus drafted him, and has a particular fondness for him. There aren't many quality TEs available this offseason -- the best is probably Daniel Graham from NE, and he ain't that good. But at what point do we give up on Stevens' "potential" and look to someone else?

4. Defensive needs. Although the Hawks defense really started to come on at the end of the year, there are more than a few question marks. First, the good news: we'll get Marcus Tubbs back, who's an absolute beast at stopping the run. The bad news: who knows for how long? He's what they call injury prone. We've also got serious questions at cornerback -- Jennings may not be the answer -- and safety, and defensive end too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Constitutional crisis brewing?

I am beginning to wonder if the United States is about to head into a major constitutional crisis. Let us speculate as follows:

1. President Bush remains unyielding in his commitment to increase the troops in Iraq by 21,500.

2. The President's State of the Union, however, fails to convince most Americans that the surge, escalation, increase or whatever you want to call it is actually a good idea.

3. The Democrats push ahead with a nonbinding resolution to disapprove of the increase. The resolution passes by fairly large margin in both House and Senate.

4. Bush ignore the resolution and makes plan to increase the troops anyway. The Democrats are now pressed by constituents to either (a) cut off funding for the surge/escalation or (b) pass an actual measure limiting the US troop commitment to present levels.

5. Congress then passes such a resolution while Bush already is sending the additional troops to Iraq.

Obviously, this story is built of speculation upon speculation. But I do not think this scenario -- or some similar version of events -- is all that farfetched. In fact, I believe we have a dangerous cocktail of newly empowered Democrats and an incredibly stubborn President who may be on a constitutional crisis crash course, since nobody really knows where Congress's war power ends and the Administration's begins. Should Bush press ahead with the surge despite offical Congressional action prohibiting the increase, well, the only recourse would be impeachment, of Bush and Cheney.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Light blogging (potentially) this week

For those who don't know already, I have joined a new law firm in San Francisco, MBV Law LLP. You can read all about 'em here: www.mbvlaw.com

For reasons that should be obvious, I may be blogging a little less in 2007 so as to not irritate my new employers. But rest assured I will have comments on the Seahawks-Bears game soon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Girlfriend guest blogs on Becks! TPV exclusive!

My girlfriend, Nicki, is pretty wound up about David Beckham coming to the US to play for the "LA Galaxy," which is the gayest name for a sports team ever. Then again, Becks is pretty gay. In any event, here's her lengthy, somewhat rambling but highly entertaining screed -- might want to grab a cup of coffee or take shot before you get going.

La La Land

Beckham the deity is not enough for soccer (it kills me to call it soccer, its FOOTBALL, and its called FOOTBALL because you play it with your FEET) to catch on in the United States.

Becks will be earning:

$256 Million over 5 years
…or $51.2 Million a year
…or $4.2 Million a month
…or $100,000 a week
…or $14,000 a day

Yet Becks insisted he was NOT moving to America for the cash — but for the challenge of converting its kids to soccer. Yeah right.

David Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxies, coincidentally a day after Real Madrid refused to renew his contract because he is rubbish, will impact the quality of U.S. soccer in the same way that Brett Favre moving to NFL Europe would. It will temporarily raise the profile of the game, but the elevated profile won’t last and his mere presence will not improve the quality of soccer in the long run.

Becks’ move is basically an acknowledgment that the standard of U.S. soccer is low. He isn’t good enough at soccer to make any money out of it in Europe, but he is mediocre enough to play soccer in the U.S. and make a pile of cash from his celebrity status. There is something creepy and indicative of U.S. culture that the U.S. is where previously talented people come to sell out, making a ton of cash being advertising whores. First Pelé, now Becks, and I guarantee more will follow. Arson Wenger, the Arsenal manager, who has made his reputation nurturing young talent rather than making big money signings, said that "Football will only take off (in America) if Beckham's not the only one," Wenger said Friday. "You need a few. Is that the opening road for more to come? A real influx of quality players will be needed if you want to create a big lift for American football. One player will not be enough." Maybe quality players will follow, but I think it will just be the old sellouts, not the real talent that will follow Becks to the U.S.

You will see more of Becks in adverts for Fox Sports, Adidas sneakers (they are called TRAINERS because you train in them, your don’t SNEAK in them), Pantene Shampoo, Gatorade etc. that you will see of him taking killer free kicks or curling in corners. He is going to be on more adverts that Peyton Manning (though I would rather see Becks hatch naked from some weird Gatorade egg than Manning). The LA Galaxies didn’t pay that much money for real talent; if they genuinely wanted to be great soccer team they would spend their money on younger more talented players and building a youth training program (see Manchester United as a good a case of why this works). They bought Beckham the brand, Beckham the circus, Posh and Becks the package, to make money out of him. Becks in an advertising whore and the LA Galaxies just got a fat share of that by becoming his official pimp. They basically paid for everything that has made him so disliked in Europe and argued has detrimentally affected his actual football skills.

Becks is like TO in the sense that his mind is elsewhere and that affects his play. TO’s mind is focused on imaginative ways to kill himself and undressing his team mates with his eyes, and consequently he drops balls. Becks’ mind has been on the 12 different costume changes he’s going to make at TomKat’s wedding, and consequently he hasn’t been as focused or driven as he was before he became a fashionista, a celebrity and a deity.

Becks has been notorious for missing practice to prance around in a skirt at Paris fashion week or to go and open a Sushi bar in Tokyo. Even the NY Times comments “…the United States’ top professional soccer league will try to cash in on his celebrity appeal — and perhaps that of his wife, Victoria, the former Posh Spice of the Spice Girls pop group.” They paid all that money for some washed out failed pop star package, way to go LA Galaxies, really raising the quality of soccer. You would think Becks’ soccer contract was negotiated by a sports agent, but no, no, no, in true Becks style the deal was brokered by none other than Simon Fuller of Pop Idol fame and CEO of 19 Entertainment. I kid you not.

Becks’ move is great for US Weekly devotees, LA Galaxies jersey sales and Beckham’s bank balance, but in the long term sets a bad trend of the soccer celebrities on the downswings of their careers coming to the U.S. to sell out. This influx of has-beens will do little to actually improve the quality and little to increase the fan base of soccer in the U.S.

Soccer is so different to beloved American sports. Soccer is slower paced, 0-0 draws are permitted and the offside rule suffocates high scores. The only way the MLS can stand a chance of matching the big European soccer leagues and attracting young Americans away from baseball, basketball and football in to spend money on real talent and youth training programs.

I’ll put my skepticism aside and say finally that if Becks uses one or two of his millions to open up football academies (he already has one in California, and was himself the product of the Manchester-United-Youth-Training-Machine) and gives some kids in the U.S. a soccer star role model to look up to when they are practicing, then I will seethe a little less when he and his dumbass wife are splashed across my television, magazines, computer screen...

Surgin' General's Warning

Retired General Jack Keane, one of the chief proponents of the surge strategy, wrote this naught but a week ago in the Washington Post (hat tip: Mickey Kaus):

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

As you should know by now, we're (potentially) adding 21,500 additional soldiers in Baghdad, and I doubt they'll be there for 18 months.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More late night commentary

Remember the Iraq Study Group? Remember how the major recommendation contained in their report was to engage Syria and Iran diplomatically, free of "preconditions" -- read: ignore Iran's nuclear program -- so that these countries will try to stem the sectarian violence in Iraq? Well, here's what Bush said earlier this evening:

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

So I guess diplomatic engagement is off. Interruption and disruption, however, is now official policy.

The delusions continue

A rare night posting for TPV. I will be brief. From the NY Times online, this quote from President Bush regarding Iraqi PM al-Maliki:

Mr. Bush sounded less than certain of his support for the prime minister, who many in the White House and the military fear may be intending to extend Shiite power over the Sunnis, or could prove incapable of making good on his promises. “If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Bush declared.

He put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: “Because it has to.”

Ah well. Glad that's settled then.

How the Hawks can beat the Bears

This Sunday, the Seahawks return to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears, who smeared us week four, 562-0. The conventional wisdom on the game goes something like this: (1) the Hawks will need to get inside Rex Grossman's head early; (2) Shaun Alexander will need to have a big day; (3) Jerramy Stevens will need to continue to play well.

Well, one out of three ain't bad. The Bears have two top-notch cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher, so Stevens will have to go over the middle (against Brian Urlacher) and make plays. But let me go on the record saying that I think points #1 and 2 are far less important than you might think.

First, Sexy Rexy Grossman: it's no secret he's played like crap over the last couple of weeks. The temptation is therefore to blitz him like crazy, to "rattle" him and make him lose his confidence. In reality, this would be a disaster: Bernard Berrian is one of the fastest WRs in the league, and if we leave Jennings or Babs on an island with him, he's going to burn right past them -- and Rex will hit him for a long gain. The other WR, Muhsin Muhammed, is no slouch either, and poses a matchup problem with his huge size against our dimunitive corners.

The solution is to do almost exactly what we did last week: rarely blitz (so that Lofa and Leroy Hill drop back into coverage) and play a cover-2 scheme with Hamlin and Boulware. I watched the Hawks game on NFL replay yesterday -- twice -- and virtually every big gain we gave up was on a blitz. So key #1: don't blitz Rexy.

Second, you can pencil this in now: Shaun will carry the ball about 20 times for about 75 yards. If he has a good day, he might break 100 -- barely. And against the Bears D, he's unlikely to have a good day. The key on Sunday will be the decisions of Matt Hasselbeck and the game calling of Holmgren. It pains me to say this, but it took blind luck to save us from Matt's blunders on Sunday. I'm not talking about the botched hold by Rony Tomo -- I'm talking about the two interceptions that didn't happen because Cowboys' D-backs dropped balls thrown straight to them. Add to those the picks that did occur, and we could have been blown out.

The real key will be play calling. The Hawks have played 17 games now, and I've seen exactly three creative plays on offense all year: two end arounds to Branch, and one pass to Seneca Wallace. Hey, here's an idea: let's use Seneca as a WR (he's the fatest guy on the team) and throw some quick hitches to him! Or line him up in the backfield and run the option! Or hell, just run a damn flea flicker! The Bears have a suffocating defense. But you can neutralize a good defense by confusing them with innovative offensive schemes (see, e.g., New England Patriots, 2002-present).

Sunday's game rests on the shoulders of Matt and the Walrus.

The Confused Way Forward in Iraq

Apparently, President Bush plans to announce tonight that the 20,000 troop surge/escalation in Baghdad will serve in a solely in a support role. According to White House spokesperson Bartlett, Iraqi soldiers are “the ones who are going to be knocking on doors,” he said. “We’re going to be there in a support role.”

The general idea behind the "surge" is that we, meaning the US, is demonstrating a commitment to the government of prime minister al-Maliki. Most informed observers agree that al-Maliki's approach to the insurgency has been a disaster, largely because he's refused to commit the Iraqi Army to controlling Moqtada Sadr's private Mahdi Army. Perhaps, like me, you've spotted the obvious irony here: al-Maliki is securing additional US troops to "support" an effort that that thus far he's shown no inclination to pursue.

What say the US generals? Here's a paraphrased quote (from the NY Times) from our new men in Iraq:

But General Odierno and the officer named by President Bush to be the new overall commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, have said they support the troop increase. General Odierno said in the interview that Mr. Bush’s new strategy could allow American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand, although he cautioned that it might take another “two or three years.”

Incidentally, here's General Odierno in an interview from three years ago:

Where have we come? In seven months, we've removed a regime. I tell everyone, although we have resistance -- and although I'm not happy that we're taking casualties -- the status quo is a loss for the enemy, because every day we move forward is another day Saddam's not in power. It's another day that the infrastructure gets better. It's another day that the new government is in place. It's another day that they see economic development occurring. It's another day that the Iraqi police and the Iraq Civil Defense Corps are taking better control and becoming better trained.

As these things continue to occur, they will gain confidence in themselves. They will gain confidence in the establishment of a new government. I'd like to see it go faster, and I think we can make it go faster. We can do that by maybe eliminating a little bit more of this threat. I think you've seen a change in the threat, that they're much more stand-off now in their attacks. Basically their attacks are down to IEDs [improvised explosive devices], some mortar and rocket attacks, that are for the most part very, very ineffective.

For the record, I think Ordiono is a smart guy who's heart and mind is generally in the right place. But the point here is that we continue to misapprehend the nature of what's happening in Iraq, as we have done virtually since the day we invaded. Like most Americans, I have 0% confidence that Bush's new strategy will do anything to change the dynamics of what is happening: sectarian civil war.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The "surge"

Loyal TPV readers may remember that, a few months ago, I proposed an "up and out" strategy in Iraq, i.e., that we temporarily "up" the number of troops in Iraq and then get "out" after we had done so (by withdrawing to Kurdistan). As everyone knows by now, President Bush has adopted a version of the "up" idea and will propose sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq.

Let me play armchair general for a moment (it will be brief): I have a tough time understanding how this "surge" -- aka escalation -- will do anything to stem the violence in Baghdad or elsewhere. Nor has anyone adequately explained to me why I'm wrong to be skeptical.

On the other hand, I completely understand the surge politically: Bush will again try to force a wedge between Democratic hawks and doves, and it bears the appearances of a new strategy. It isn't, of course, but that doesn't matter to this President.

Is Jaime Lee Curtis intersexed?

Perhaps, like me, you've heard the rumor that actress Jaime Lee Curtis was born intersexed (essentially synonymous with the term "hermaphrodite," i.e., born with the sex organs of both genders.) Perhaps like me, you've also dismissed such rumors as the product of overly active teenage imagination, based largely if not entirely on the fact that JLC looks a little masculine and has a husky voice.

But wait.

I set out this afternoon to definitely prove to my girlfriend that JLC is not intersexed, and found the question is a little more tricky than I expected.

First, here's what some googling has revealed: despite rumors to the contrary, JLC never admitted to being intersexed on a television talk show. At the same time, technically she's never denied being intersexed at birth -- she simply refuses to address the subject. This is hardly evidence of being intersexed, of course -- it's possible JLC doesn't want to add fuel to the fire of the rumor -- but it doesn't definitively resolve the question either.

Second, one apparent reason people think she's intersexed is her ambiguous, Pat-like name: Jaime Lee. But according to Snopes.com (an internet rumor site), JLC's mother, the actress Janet Leigh named JLC before she was born:

At that time, we didn't know ahead of time if it would be a girl or a boy, so when I was pregnant with Kelly, my best friend Jackie Gershwin said, "Why don't you call the baby Kelly, so if it's a girl, it works, and if it's a boy, it works?" And she thought the same thing with Jamie. The babies were named before they were born because Jackie said, "This way, we won't have to worry about it!"

Sounds logical enough. The fact that JLC's sister, Kelly Lee, also has an ambiguous name -- though slightly less so -- adds credence to the story. So there's not much here, either.

But consider this: JLC has never had children -- but she has adopted multiple babies. This is hardly evidence of being intersexed, of course, but it is a little strange: although 4% of American woman adopt a child sometime in their lifetime, it is much, much rarer for a fertile woman to adopt one or more children yet never give birth on her own. So JLC is definitely an aberration on this front.

Perhaps most interesting is reading how various websites treat the subject of this rumor -- even when they are "pro" Jaime Lee Curtis. Take the website "Snopes" -- the author of the article on JLC, Barbara Mikkelson, describes the whispers about JLC's intersexed birth as "A rumor, apparently. And not a very nice one," and later goes on to say that "Numerous children come into the world less than perfectly formed . . .

Woah, lady. Just because someone is born intersexed doesn't mean they are "less than perfectly informed." Nor is it particularly pernicious to speculate about JLC's intersexuality at birth; I suspect many intersexed or formerly intersexed persons would feel quite proud if JLC considered herself one of them, given her successful acting career and sexy image. (Well, sexy to some, I suppose -- I never got into her. Too manly.) And I have about 0% tolerance for people who want to protect the privacy of celebrities, who voluntarily put themselves in the public spotlight and get paid millions for it.

So, was JLC born intersexed? Probably not -- but we don't know for sure.

A much, much better political quiz

Takes a little longer, but does a much better job:


So what'd you score?

Hawks win! Hawks win!

The most intense Hawks win I can remember. I will have more to say later, but for now, enjoy this photo of Jordan Babineaux preparing to swoop in on Tomo Rony.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Clovis East High School football -- the wave of the future?

Clovis, California is a growing town/suburb of Fresno. It also happens to be my Dad's hometown, and my Grandmother still lives there. In fact, a few blocks south of where my Grandma lives, there's a new(ish) high school in the "Reagan Educational Center" known as Clovis East.

Clovis East, as it turns out, has an incredible football program. One reason why: the coach, Tim Murphy, almost never punts. 4th-and-5 from your own 30? He goes for it! You can read all about it here: http://www.fresnobee.com/494/story/20642.html

Mark my words: sometime in the next ten years, an NFL coach is going to try this. And it's going to work.

The best eight movies I watched this year

8. Pan's Labyrinth
7. Snakes on a Plane
6. Thank You for Smoking
5. Grandma's Boy (Funniest film of last five years)
4. Spellbound My smartass girlfriend informs me the movie I liked is actually called "Wordplay"
3. Fog of War
2. The Fountain
1. The Power of Nightmares (BBC documentary on Al Qaeda and Neoconservatives)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What's your political score?

This is an old test that purports to measure whether you are liberal or conservative, on a scale of 0 to 40 (Jesse Jackson to Ronald Reagan).


I scored a 17, almost exactly between Bill Clinton and Colin Powell. Sounds about right.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My NFL preseason predictions -- complete crap!

Continuing today's all-NFL posts, I thought'd be interesting to review my NFL predictions back in early September:

AFC East
Miami 10-6 (Actual: 6-10; I blame dsylexia)
New England 9-7 (Actual: 12-4; I wrote "Bill Belichick, certified genius, will somehow guide this team to nine wins despite having Pepsi Machine starting at wideout by week six"; I should have said 12!
NY Jets 7-9 (Actual: 10-6; I wrote "Chad Pennington is comeback player of the year." Not bad.)
Buffalo 5-11 (Actual: 7-9_

AFC North
Pittsburg 12-4 (Actual: 8-8; feels so good to have them missing the playoffs)
Cincinnati 11-5 (Actual: 8-8; did not anticipate arrest of entire team)
Cleveland 7-9 (Actual: 4-12)
Baltimore 6-10 (Actual: 13-3; This was my second worst prediction; they are still 13-3 and I still can't accept it)

AFC South
Jacksonville 12-4 (Actual: 8-8; schizophrenic team)
Indianapolis 10-6 (Actual: 12-4)
Houston 5-11 (Actual: 6-10; I wrote that "I was one of six people who thought it was a good idea to pass on Reggie Bush. I also supported the Iraq invasion. At least there's hope in Iraq -- the same can't be said in Houston." That whole "hope in Iraq" line is looking pretty dubious too. This is getting depressing)
Tennessee 2-14 (Actual: 8-8; what might have happened if they started Vince Young from day 1?)

AFC West
Denver 12-4 (Actual: 9-7; I wrote "At some point, Jake Plummer will implode. Then Jay Cutler will come in . . ." Sounds great, until you read the rest: "...and pull a Big Ben Roethlisberger on the AFC West, winning out the regular season and going deep into the playoffs before a heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship game." That, or miss the playoffs. Whatever.)
Kansas City 11-5 (Actual: 9-7)
San Deigo 9-7 (Actual: 14-2; I wrote "Team would be favorite to win the AFC if it'd kept Drew Brees." Well at least I was right about Brees.)
Oakland 4-12 (Actual: 2-14; They won't win four games next year either.

NFC East
Philadelphia 10-6 (Actual: 10-6! Yes!)
Ny Giants 9-7 (Actual: 8-8! Not bad)
Dallas 8-8 (Actual: 9-7; my quip: "Bledsoe drops back...dumps to the halfback....no gain. TO just punched Bledsoe...seems to be eating his spleen...oh my."
Washington 5-11 (Actual: 5-11; I should have just stuck with the NFC East, and I'd be hailed as a genius)

NFC North
Chicago 9-7 (Actual: 13-3; I still think they are out in one game)
Green Bay 8-8 (Actual: 8-8; Booyah.)
Detroit 7-9 (Actual: 3-13; here's what I wrote: "The RB sucks, the WRs are mediocre, and the QB is backup masquerading as a starter." Uh, why did I think they'd win 7 games then?)
Minnesota 3-13 (Actual: 6-10; I can't believe one of those 6 W's came against the Hawks.)

NFC South
Tampa Bay 10-6 (Actual: 4-12; Oops.)
Carolina 9-7 (Actual: 8-8; not everyone got on board the Panthers bandwagon)
Atlanta 9-7 (Actual: 7-9; that damn dyslexia again)
New Orleans 6-10 (Actual: 10-6; no one else predicted six wins, so I feel ok about this)

NFC West
Seattle 12-4 (Actual: 9-7; what might have been against SD, KC, and SF (twice))
Arizona 8-8 (Actual: 5-11; next year, this team will win eight games. Bank on it.)
St. Louis 6-10 (Actual: 8-8; not sure how this team won eight games)
San Francisco 3-13 (Actual: 7-9; as some may remember, I wrote that the Niners were "complete shit." Apparently they read my blog, because they promptly went out and kicked the Hawks' ass twice. This team has a good coach, a decent QB, and a phenomenal RB. If they get some help at WR and make some upgrades on defense, they will contend next year. The NFC West just got interesting. But you know what? They are still complete shit.)

I'm baaaack

Well, I went on vacation and forgot to tell my blog. Now I'm back, and like most of you, swamped with work, so I haven't had time to post anything here. So here's my current NFL playoff predictions (may be updated later this week when I've had time to do some research):

KC v. Indy -- Indy
Dal v. Sea -- Hawks!
NYJ v. NE -- Patriots
NYG v. Phi -- Eagles

Wow, not a single upset. Pretty boring.

Phi v. NO -- America's team!
NE v. SD -- Chargers
Indy v. Bal -- Colts (Ravens don't have a running game)
Sea v. Chi -- Sigh. Bears.

NO v. Chicago -- Saints
Indy v. SD -- Colts (that's right, they finally get to a Super Bowl with Manning)

NO v. Indy -- Colts again! Manning gets rid of the monkey! NO plunges into another depression!