Monday, March 31, 2003

www.iraqbodycount.orgwww.iraqbodycount.org
www.iraqbodycount.org
(come back and click your "reload" button to get updated numbers)

Friday, March 28, 2003

Yesterday, we woke up renters and this morning, we woke up homeowners. Escrow closed on schedule yesterday afternoon, March 27.

Right now, we're leasing the house back to the old owners till they're able to move in a few days. Yep, we're not only property owners, but we're now landlords as well. What a change.

Our expected move-in date is now Saturday, April 12. This is starting to get exciting...

Visit our new house (online)

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I've just added a bit of clarification to the article I posted yesterday - I'll add that in here, too:

But, now that the commitment to war has been made, can we "just pull out"? The unfortunate answer is that pulling out with Saddam still in power would simply make a bad situation worse for everyone except Saddam.

What I do believe can happen (and must happen) is a peace agreement brokered by one of our moderate Arab allies (Saudi Arabia has hinted that they want to do this - Egypt and Jordan may be other possibilities). This agreement should put Saddam in exile, at a minimum, and end the US & British invasion.

This accomplishes the goal of removing Saddam and allowing a peaceful transition to a moderate regime. This would disarm Iraq and put the US in a better light internationally for being willing to negotiate and use diplomacy. Most importantly, however, it accomplishes the larger goal of discouraging terrorism. Let me explain:

By including moderate Arab leaders in the process they demonstrate to the Arab world that they can "stand up to the west" and solve their own problems. This grows the power of the moderates and takes away the recruiting edge of Osama bin Laden and other extremists. If these populations see that secular leaders can protect their interests peacefully, they'll have no need to turn to terrorism.

Read the full article at Writing.com

Sunday, March 23, 2003

In this morning's hate mail came the suggestion that I "go live in Iraq." I guess that somebody was offended by my posting of the Pope's anti-war comments yesterday. I realize that while I've posted several anti-war links, it has been a while since I've clearly articulated my position here. So, to recap...

1) I'm not a supporter of Saddam's. I agree that he's an evil dictator. I agree that his eventual displacement would be a good thing. What I disagree with is the idea that it is in our immediate interest to force that displacement.

2) The upholding of international law and conventions is a force that has prevented many wars in the last fifty years. (Yes, even with those that have been fought, more have been discouraged). World opinion does matter, and without the approval of the U.N., this war lacks legitimacy. We have shifted the world away from a standard of requiring international backing for war, to a standard of anybody can initiate any first strike that they believe is in their personal interest.

This is already biting us in the ass as Turkey makes offensive moves against the Iraqi Kurds against our wishes. Why? Because they see it as a preventive move to keep their own Kurdish population from demanding independence. We'll soon be caught in battle between these two "allies" of ours to keep the war from devolving into total anarchy. Israel, too, has announced their intentions to retaliate should Iraq launch any scud attacks into their territory, as happened 12 years ago. Last time, when international law and coalitions were the norm, Israel understood the larger interest in keeping them out of the war. In the new world lack-of-order, thanks to W, it's every country for themselves.

3) Yes, I'm sure we can crush the Iraqi army in a relatively short time. Which, of course, shows that they never posed any real threat to us, but that's another point. What terrifies me is how many decades are we going to be stuck in Iraq to keep some sort of peace after the war? Does anybody really believe that the Iraqi's can hold free and open elections just a few months after the war ends and come up with a leader they can all rally behind (and will be friendly to US interests)?

As pointed out in point 2, the Kurds are already rumbling about autonomy and their own state. Other groups within what we call "Iraq" will also demand independence as their payback for "helping the US overthrow Saddam." Think the rivalry of warlords in Afghanistan led to democracy? Think the break-up of the former Yugoslavia was pretty? Wait till you see what happens here. To keep a peaceful single unit (which is in our interest in terms of control), the most likely bet is an Islamic fundamentalist take-over (see next door to Iran to see how well that works with American interests). The best possible scenario is to install a dictator who is on the CIA payroll. Not so good for the Iraqi's, but at least there'll be some stability. Just don't kid yourself that this has anything to do with "bringing democracy to the Middle-East."

4) There was never any convincing tie between Saddam's Iraq and Osama Bin Laden. Powell tried to sell the flimsiest of links to the UN, and failed. We have never been a country to deliberately, publicly, and proudly, make a first strike in a war. That point has given us a certain moral high ground to stand upon, even while we've set up situations that forced others to make first strikes. "Preventive war" is a new doctrine for us, and a dangerous one that places ourselves closer to the terrorists we claim to be fighting than the peacekeepers we claim to be.

We could not get UN support, because we have no clear justification to make an offensive move against Iraq at this time. And don't give me the crap about our just enforcing the orders for Saddam to disarm. First of all, we haven't proven that they have weapons of mass destruction. Second of all, any armistice that tries to disarm a nation permanently is doomed to fail. At some point any sovereign leader has to push the limits of that armistice. A sovereign nation has a right to prepare for its own defense. Sorry, but that's just the way it works.

5) Eighteen months ago, following 9/11, we were in our strongest position in the world community we could ever hope for. Any nation who was ever going to be on our side, was on our side. That's power. We could have accomplished much to bring about world peace from that position. Yes, world opinion matters and it gives one strength. W's "leadership" has squandered that position, and turned allies into enemies. Rather than protect the American public and our interests globally, this has made the world a much more dangerous place for us. This first strike action, against the wishes of the UN, is the greatest recruiting tool Osama bin Laden could have hoped for. We have proven his point.

We are creating terrorists with this one-sided, "we don't care what you think" policy. We will be paying the price for W's stupidity for the next 25 years. Rather than lead the world against terror, we've destroyed coalitions, made enemies, isolated ourselves, hurt our business interests, and encouraged similar cowboy behavior in other nations.

6) I am a patriotic, Constitution-loving American. I love that I have the right to question the leadership skills of our president. That's something worth fighting for. Replacing one evil dictator in Iraq with another (or worse), is not worth our blood.

I could go on with more points, but you get the idea. Wrong war. Wrong time. I will not take the reader up on the suggestion that I "go live in Iraq." I will continue to speak out against unjust wars because I love this country, and believe in the essential goodness of our people - despite temporary lapses in reason and leadership.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Pope Says War Threatens Fate of Humanity
Pope John Paul II on Saturday denounced the war against Iraq as threatening the "fate of humanity" in his first public comments on the U.S-led attacks.

"When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is ever more urgent to proclaim, with a strong and decisive voice, that only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united society," John Paul said. "Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men."

The pontiff said that peace is "a gift of God and a humble and constant achievement by men."
Read the full story @ Yahoo! News

Friday, March 21, 2003

This speech was delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 19, 2003, by Robert C. Byrd - a Democratic Senator from West Virginia. Posted at TomPaine.com. I have to say that this perfectly expresses what I've been thinking these last few days. A quote from Thomas Jefferson that keeps coming up for me is, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justness cannot sleep forever."

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat U.N. Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.

The case this administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on 9/11 and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names and many addresses.

But, this administration has directed all of the anger, fear and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?

A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I, along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

According to "This is London", the war has started. Over at CNN, however, we're merely "Poised to Strike". Do you suppose that's the difference between a free press and one that merely passes along official press releases?

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I've been playing around with a new writing site, called (of course) "Writing.com". It's actually been around for a while, as Stories.com, but I've resisted getting involved until now.

Some of my resistance was due to the bad taste left in my mouth after the Themestream and The Vines episodes. And, some of my resistance was because the site always seemed to be so confusing and poorly organized.

The confusing part is still somewhat true; there's a million things going on and different levels of membership, and buying and selling of "gift points", etc. - but, it's possible to fairly easily join, read, and post without having to worry about learning everything all at once.

I finally signed up at the recommendation of my good online writer friend, Doris Lane. Visit Doris at Writing.com too.

My Writing.com "portfolio"

Thursday, March 13, 2003

By now you've all heard the wonderful news that 15-year-old kidnap victim, Elizabeth Smart, was found alive yesterday after a nine-month search.

This is wonderful news, and I don't mean to take anything away from it with this clip, but I just found this hilarious:
Mitchell [the suspect] was described by his stepson, Derrick Thompson, as a "weird" man who had talked to God in the desert after taking 10 hits of LSD. "They said they weren't on drugs," Thompson told the Deseret News of his stepfather and his mother, adding, "But we think that was a lie. We think that's how they communicated with God, that and listen(ing) to the Steve Miller band."
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go dig out "Children of the Future" from my LP collection and converse with the big guy...

Police probe mystery of Smart's return

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Last week I posted the article about a lawyer who was thrown out of an Albany, New York, shopping mall for wearing an anti-war message on his t-shirt. The offending saying on the shirt? "Give peace a chance."

This week it's a high school student in Massachusetts who's getting hassled. Luckily, the principle relented after checking with his lawyers (smart lawyers, for a change), so the kid didn't miss any school. Still, the thought that there'd be any question of this being a free speech issue is amazing. The kid's offending t-shirt? "Who would Jesus bomb?"

Principal Asks Student to Hide Anti-War Shirt - Yahoo! News

The big lie here is that all Americans are 100% behind the president and this misguided war effort. Even when polls in favor of the war run high, the figures are only 55%. And the 45% of us who are opposed are being robbed of our voice, and our right to speak out.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Progress on the house continues. Buying a home, it turns out, is a full-time job. With the loan guy alone I've had to sign and fax him at least 25 pages of documentation. Then with realtor there've been disclosure statements and inspection reports, etc., and I'm just getting started with the insurance. And, they all tell me, just wait till we close - then I'll see the real paperwork.

We passed the termite inspection (no live infestation), we've got loan approval, the appraisers said it's worth at least what we're paying for it, and then yesterday we passed the main property inspection. So, at this point, there's very little that can get in the way of our closing on the 27th of this month!

It may, however, be a little longer than that before we can move in, as the folks who live there now aren't sure when they'll be able to close on their new house. So, we may be renting the house back to them for at least part of April. No big deal, we've waited this long to buy a house, we can wait another few weeks to move into it.

More pictures and details and stuff (yes, the house now has its own web page)

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Dear Friends,

The message below from Dr. Helen Caldicott contains a viable means to achieve peace at this crucial time.

Please act on this quickly. The new moon (the next one, around March 15) is a common time to fly bombing raids (so the bombers can't be seen in the night). The war could start in less than two weeks. Please help stop it!


---------------------------------------------------------->


Subject: An Appeal from Dr. Helen Caldicott to the Pope
From: Dr. Helen Caldicott
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 11:01 AM

Dear Friends,

I write this appeal for your help as a pediatrician, a mother, and a grandmother--and I am writing about the lives of tens of thousands of children.

Although the current administration has demonstrated it has no reservations about slaughtering up to 500,000 innocents in Iraq, there is one person whose life they absolutely will not risk. That person is Pope John Paul II.

The Pope has already formally denounced the proposed war, calling it a defeat for humanity, and also has sent his top spokesperson. However, to stop the war, he now must take a historically unprecedented action of his own and travel to Baghdad. The Pope's physical presence in Iraq will act as the ultimate human shield, during which time leaders of the world's nations can commit themselves to identifying and implementing a peaceful solution to a war that the world's majority clearly does not support.

To persuade the Holy Father to take this unusual but potent action, he must hear from you and millions of others around the world who have already been inspired to stand up and speak out for peace. A mountain of surface mail, email, faxes, and phone calls are our devices to inspire him.

Please understand that your taking just a few minutes right now to communicate with him may ultimately spare the lives of thousands of innocent people who at this moment live in complete terror from the threat of an imminent U.S.-lead military strike on their homeland.

So here is what you can do to be a part of this powerful final action to stop the march to war in Iraq.

1. Do not simply "forward" the letter below. Its power depends upon your sending it directly, as a personal communication, to the Pope.

2. Simply cut and paste the letter below into a new email. Also cut and paste the Vatican email address we have provided.

3. At the close of the letter, type in your name, city and state--no need to include your address.

4. Either email, accreditamenti@pressva.va, FAX ([from USA] 011- 39-06698-85378--from other countries drop the 011 prefix--or send a hard copy of this letter to the addresses in the letter below. DO NOT put "Italy" anywhere on the envelope, as this will send your mail into the Italian mail system which is separate and independent of the Vatican system. Should you wish to phone the Vatican directly, (from USA) dial 011-39-06-69-82--all other countries must use their appropriate international prefix.

5. Pass this original email on to as many people you can so as to assure a critical mass is reached in this action.

6. Note that as you and others begin sending your letters, faxes and emails, there will be a simultaneous effort to alert the media of this action, so as to be sure it is publicly known throughout the world.

Thank you for participating in this formal request of the Pope. We just may stop this war in Iraq--and save these children's lives.

Dr. Helen Caldicott


---------------------------------------------------------->


Sample letter:

His Holiness John Paul II
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City State
Europe

Your Holiness:

I write to you today out of a sense of great urgency. As you know the United States of America is on the verge of launching what may be one of the most cataclysmic wars in history using weapons of mass destruction upon the Iraqi people, fifty percent of whom are less than 15 years of age. Conservative estimates are that such a war will result in the death of 500,000 Iraqis.

It seems clear that, at this time, you are the only person on Earth who can stop this war. Indeed, your physical presence in Baghdad will prevent the impending slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and force the international community of nations to identify and implement a truly peaceful resolution to this unprecedented, preemptive aggression.

I implore you to travel to Baghdad and to remain there until a peaceful solution to this crisis has been implemented. The lives of the people of Iraq rest in your hands--as does the fate of the world.

With hope,

Your name, Your City, State, Country

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

This just arrived from one of my email correspondents. I had to keep checking that I was really on CNN.com, it's so unbelievable. I thought maybe I was on the Onion, but this is no satire:

Man arrested for 'peace' T-shirt - CNN.com
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.
When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing ... police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall "was like a private house and that I was acting poorly."
As I'm sure Mr. Downs knows, and the town of Guilderland is about to find out, a mall is not "like a private house" - According to the U.S. Supreme Court it is a quasi-public space and your constitutional right to free speech cannot be abridged.

The case that set that standard is known as Pruneyard, and comes from a shopping center here in San Jose. A Vietnam era protest included passing out photos of children mutilated by U.S. bombing. The court said that while the protest may have been in poor taste, it was within the law and the Pruneyard management had no right to kick the offenders out.

Twitter Feed