Tuesday, June 21, 2005

This has been bugging me all day.

The local news was all over it this morning.

Wonkette mentions it.

And you know what? This isn't that interesting. Cars get stolen all the time. It isn't karma or ironic. What would be ironic is if Frist's young son got shot in the head.

And I apologize right now for saying something so harsh, but at the same time Frist was mistakenly "diagnosing" Schiavo, much worse things were happening right down the street from him. Nobody cared.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Quote of the month, from the LA Times:
Hussein Muhsen, an aircraft engineer with Iraqi Airways, described a loud blast followed by a mountain of dust rising in the air. Blood and human limbs splattered down on the hoods and roofs of the cars, Muhsen said.
Strange how, as the violence in Iraq, we become inured to this kind of story. The last month or so it's been like,"Uh huh, whatever, what's happening with the Michael Jackson trial and the Runaway Bride?" Meanwhile even the righties are questioning the course of events in Iraq. This from the National Review:
“This has become an Iranian city,” contends Salaam Wendy, a Basra native who recently returned to his hometown for the first time since he fled to Canada in 1986. “In the ’70s and ’80s, you used to find bars, nightclubs, casinos — and no women wore hejab. Today, you can’t even find secular books or music CDs, the religious parties have such control of the city. This isn’t the place I remember.”

The shadow of religious fundamentalism falls across other areas, too. Take, for instance, Basra Province’s “elected” council, the first such body in the long history of the region. I put “elected” in quotes in deference to the cynicism of numerous Iraqis, who claim that the religious parties fixed the balloting: One young man who acted as a poll-watcher on January 30 told me how he saw party members direct voters to cast their ballots for the United Iraqi Alliance slate of Islamic candidates. The result is that many members of the Governing Council are party hacks with zero concept of democracy.
Indeed, the Guardian has reported that Basra is completely out of the control of its police department, run instead by party militias.

The reason the Administration isn't making progress in Iraq is that they don't even understand the country or its people. There has been simmering ethnic and religious conflict in Iraq for generations. Saddam's regime was not merely a corrupt autocracy forced upon the people by violence; it was the domination of the country by one group, the Sunni Arabs, and had a strong base in that community. The hundreds of thousands of deaths you hear about took place in the context of a low-level civil war against armed groups such as the Kurdish persh merga, Iraqi Hezbollah and the Badr Brigade. These groups still exist and some of them are busy abducting and killing their enemies as you read this. These aren't just "ancient hatreds" or prejudices, there are real stakes here. Which communities get the money and jobs from the oil industry, for one. The role of religion in society is another big one. I'm not in any way trying to justify Saddam's behavior when I point out that when we attempt the same task as Saddam did - maintaining the unity and territorial integrity of a multi-ethnic Iraq - we end up using some of the same tactics, such as torture, assassination, and military attacks on densely populated areas.

I hear a lot of people say what they thing would help in Iraq, but their ideas are all military - send more troops, pull the troops out, train Iraqi troops, etc. But there is no military solution to what is essentially a political problem. A solution needs to constructed under which all ethnic and religious groups can feel equally respected, but none dominate the others. This means that oil money must be distributed according to an equitable formula. It also means the establishment of the separation of church and state. You cant have a role for religion in the government of a country in which religions is a source of conflict and not unity. That applies to Iraq as much as it does to the United States. The Sunnis aren't going to accept rule by Shiite clerics, and the Shiites don't want to obey Sunni law either. Secular Kurds don't want to lose their freedom, nor do Iraq's much-abused Christian minority. Iraq doesn't need Patton, it needs Harold Washington, a mayor whose unsung contribution to Chicago politics was to figure out how to distribute spoils equitably. It was a rough few years, but since then the intra-Machine conflicts have been pretty low key. Stability in Iraq is possible, too, but you don't get there by blowing shit up. The Sunnis need to be cut in.
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Monday, June 13, 2005

Street Sense

Yesterday when Jen and I were in DC, on our way from the Metro station to Eastern Market to buy some peaches, we ran into a Street Sense vendor and bought a copy. The suggested donation is only $1 but we gave $2. The guy selling there apparently was the subject of a poem in that current issue. Of more interest to me was his deep, rich speaking voice, his personality and his self-confidence. Giving him money and sharing a minute with him made me want to, you know, end homelessness.

The next time Jen and I have a party catered, we are going to use Fresh Start Catering. We saw an ad for them in Street Sense. Unfortunately, we hardly ever have parties and when we do, we just get a keg - no catering.
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

NPR interview

NPR (local WETA 90.9FM) had a very interesting interview this morning (very early) with Ramez Maalouf, journalism professor at the Lebanese American University concerning how allegations of Quran desecration and detainee abuse are portrayed in the Arab media. If you follow the link you can hear the audio - it begins at 2:11.

And if you listen all the way through, you get a nifty piece of music to take you out. But I don't know what the actual radio term for that is. "Bumper"?
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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Damn, he's such a dick, or, "The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism"
[This is what happens when I drink and read WaPo...]

from WaPo

President Bush's portrayal of a wilting insurgency in Iraq at a time of escalating violence and insecurity throughout the country is reviving the debate over the administration's Iraq strategy and the accuracy of its upbeat claims.

While Bush and Vice President Cheney offer optimistic assessments of the situation, a fresh wave of car bombings and other attacks killed 80 U.S. soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis last month alone and prompted Iraqi leaders to appeal to the administration for greater help. Privately, some administration officials have concluded the violence will not subside through this year.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Housing Market and Blue State v Red State

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) this morning released a report about how US home prices continue to rise across the country. The report provided some statistics about which states saw the biggest increases and which states saw the smallest increases. Whenever I see lists of states, my pissed-off, looking-for-a-silver-lining liberal mind immediately cross-references the blue state/red state matrix.

The report states that,

"The biggest price increases in the HPI during the past year occurred in Nevada, with a 4-
quarter increase of 31.2 percent. With the latest annual data, California overtook

Hawaii to become the state with the second fastest growing house price appreciation."

[red state], [blue state], [blue state]

and then,

"The smallest increases occurred in Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Indiana and Texas."

[red state], [red state], [red state], [red state], [red state]

And if you look at the full 50 state list, at the bottom you have Iowa and Michigan in 43 and 44 but then you have to go to #28, Minnesota before you find a blue state. At the top of the list you have DC (#4), MD (#6), and then RI, NJ, VT, DE, ME, NY, CT, OR, and WA in places 9-17. NH breaks the streak at #18, but then you've got PA and MA at #19 and #20.

In the top 26, 17/26 are blue states and in the bottom 25, 21/25 are red states.

I used this map for reference.

I heard a quote a month or two ago that "real estate" is the new "sex", and that no one talks about sex at aprties anymore - only real estate. It also seems that you can't watch 30 minutes of consecutive news on TV (local, network, or cable) and not hear something about the "housing bubble".

See? No one wants to live in a red state. Even the number one state on the list, which granted is a red state, is nothing but a big desert that happens to have a place called Sin City in it. And we all know that red staters HATE sex and greed.

random reader: "But wait Bob. YOU live in a red state!"

me: "Ugh. Don't remind me. But I live in a very blue county: Arlington County: 2/3 for Kerry. And last year the assesment on my condo went up 27%, which would put me ahead of CA and over the past 5 years, it has gone up 217% which crushes everyone."

[No bloggers were injured in the production of this first-ever original analysis.]
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