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George Washington's Iraq Strategy

What Would George Do? A favorite question around here. As you know I go to GW for advice on many matters, though I've found him worthless at handicapping NFL games (he has a weakness for taking the points).

In any case, via Eric Kleefeld at TPM Cafe, we see this piece by Newt Gingrich invoking GW's crossing of the Delaware as an inspiration for what to do in Iraq. Gingrich just went to Mount Vernon to see the new exhibits, which include an introductory movie dramatizing Washington's decision to spring a sneak-attack on the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas Day 1776. Gingrich briskly leaps from the Revolution to Iraq, sharing his fears that the Baker-Hamilton Commission will attempt to manage defeat rather than recommend bold, cross-the-Delaware-type actions that could rout the enemy.

Gingrich asks: "Will the Baker-Hamilton Commission make a real contribution in helping us win the war against the Fanatic wing of Islam? Or will it be simply one more establishment effort to hide defeat so the American political system can resume its comfortable insider games without having to solve real problems in the larger world?"

First, let's dispense with the notion that George Washington can be drafted by Gingrich to prove a political point in 2006 involving Iraq. Please, Mr. Gingrich, go back to whatever you were doing and leave the pedantic, glib, feebly reasoned and logically tortured arguments to those of us who manufacture them professionally.

(Everyone knows that GW was a realist and skeptic who would view the Iraq occupation as reckless on its face. A foreign entanglement of the worst sort.)

Gingrich's prose is impassioned, but his prescriptions for "victory" are rather murky. I fear I can't quite discern Mr. Gingrich's battle plan. A passing reference to expanding the Afghanistan conflict across the border is the closest thing to a specific suggestion for military action. He reminds us who our mortal enemies are, and warns against appeasement, and says we need to win, and must therefore first learn how to win: "Learning to win requires much more than changes in the military. It requires changes in how our intelligence, diplomatic, information and economic institutions work. It requires the development of an integrated approach in which all aspects of American power can be brought to bear to achieve victory."

Fine, but what do we tell the soldiers? Where do we send the 101st Airborne? Where do we land the Marines?

I vote for Newt for Arm-Waver-in-Chief.

[More GW history: Here's a smart comment on Kleefeld's post from someone who goes by "slb":

"Gingrich is also overlooking (or deliberately ignoring) that Washington and his army were the insurgents in that fight. Their strategic position was the exact opposite of ours in Iraq. Washington didn't have to win; he had only not to lose, something he understood early on. The Vietcong were in the same position in Vietnam, and look who came out on top in that conflict.

"We are in the same position in Iraq that the British were in the American Revolution, and with even less chance of success. Gingrich, as a historian, surely knows that. The lesson to take away from the visit to Mount Vernon that Gingrich suggests for the Baker-Hamilton Commission is that the race is not always to the swift, and that insurgent forces fighting on their own turf, no matter how ragged and ill-equipped, have an inherent advantage over even the most powerful and professional imperial army, especially if that imperial force is not in a position to impose a ruthless dictatorship."]

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 28, 2006; 11:13 AM ET
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Next: Those Daffy Democrats!


Waaa, am I the first one here?

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

*posting from home because the tummy bug won this round*

I was always of the opinion that Global Thought was the next piece of big iron from IBM.



Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Why is a fanatic wing of Islam boosted to our mortal enemy in the first place. It's incredible to me that we are wasting lives, prestige, and money on what really, on the face of it, is a flea-sized problem. Yes, 3,000 lives were lost on 9/11, but why not declare war on the auto and petroleum industry for the 10's of thousands of lives lost each year in automobile crashes? Have we so little to be afraid of that we have to seek out enemies?

Posted by: untethered | November 28, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Terms of a treaty with Tripoli, drafted in 1796 under George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797:

"As the Government of the United States of America, is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity [sic] of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

See Thomas Ricks' "Fiasco" about the operations of the 101st Airborne in Iraq. Has the 101st Airborne changed now that Petraeus is no longer its commander? So what is Petraeus doing at Fort Leavenworth? Did Petraeus have anything to do with the study coming out of Fort Leavenworth that Ricks wrote about in the last week? Let me see if I can find the link.

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Interrupting briefly to report on a national emergency: Weingarten says in his chat that his chat is going on hiatus until April!

(Kids, you may look back upon this historic announcement like we old codgers remember when JFK was shot, when the first and/or second space shuttle crashed, etc. You'll tell your grandkids, "why, there I was, reading a Joel Achenbach kit when Curmudgeon broke in to give us the news.)

OK, you may now return to your umbrage over whatever pipe dream Newt Gingrich has now come up with, the twit.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

untethered, don't forget about Big Tobacco in that list, either...

Posted by: kbertocci | November 28, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Ricks, Page A01, Tuesday, Nov. 21
Flaws Cited in Effort to Train Iraqi Forces

Despite its central role in Iraq, the training and advisory program is not well understood outside narrow military circles. Congress has hardly examined it, and training efforts lie outside the purview of the special inspector general on Iraq reconstruction. The Army has done some studies but has not released them. Even basic information, such as how many of the 5,000 U.S. military personnel involved are from the National Guard and Reserves, is unusually difficult to obtain.

But the previously unreported transcripts of interviews conducted by the Army's Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., offer a view into the program, covering a time from shortly after the 2003 invasion until earlier this year.

One of the most common complaints of the Army officers interviewed was that the military did a poor job of preparing them. "You're supposed to be able to shoot, move and communicate," said Lt. Col. Paul Ciesinski, who was an adviser in northern Iraq last year and this year. "Well, when we got to Iraq we could hardly shoot, we could hardly move and we could hardly communicate, because we hadn't been trained on how to do these things." The training was outdated and lackadaisical, he said, adding sarcastically: "They packed 30 days' training into 84 days."

Sullivan, who advised three infantry companies in the Iraqi army, called the U.S. Army's instruction for the mission "very disappointing."

Nor were the officers impressed by some of their peers. Maj. Jeffrey Allen, an active-duty soldier, noted that all other members of his team were from the National Guard, and that his team was supposed to have 10 members but was given only five. He described his team as "weak . . . in particular the brigade team chief."

A separate internal review this year by the military's Center for Army Lessons Learned, based on 152 interviews with soldiers involved in the training and advisory program, found that there was "no standardized guideline" for preparing advisers and that such instruction was needed because "a majority of advisors have little to no previous experience or training."

Lt. Col. Michael Negard, a spokesman for the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, the headquarters for training, said he has not seen the Lessons Learned report and so does not know whether the training has been improved or standardized since that report was issued.

After arriving in Iraq, advisers said, they often were shocked to find that the interpreters assigned to them were of little use. Ciesinski reported that at his base in western Nineveh province, "They couldn't speak English and we would have to fire them."

Nor were there enough interpreters to go around, said Sullivan. "It was a real juggling act" with interpreters, he said, noting that he would run from the headquarters to a company "to borrow an interpreter, run him over to say something, and then send him back."

But he was better off than Maj. Robert Dixon, who reported that during his tour in 2004, "We had no interpreters at the time."

The Center for Army Lessons Learned study, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, found one unit that learned after 10 frustrating months that its interpreters were "substandard" and had been translating the advisers' instructions so poorly that their Iraqi pupils had difficulty understanding the concepts being taught.

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Well I'll tell you this, if Washington marched on Trenton in the middle of the night now he'd most likely be shot in the buttocks by a gang-banger.

Although they attempted to rehabilitate the Battle Monument for the most part that area is considered a no-go zone now. Unless you're carrying a Glock and a big bag of crack.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The sky report is boringly drab and dreary. Yesterday was beautiful, hazy sun and temps in the 60's. Wish I had appreciated it more.

Sounds like Newt wants a do-over. That's fine with me if he wants to volunteer to serve and take the rest of his neocon buddies with him to replace our troops. I just heard this morning about a 59 year old grandmother in the Air Force reserve who is leaving for Afganistan soon. If she can serve, so can they.

Just kidding. If there was a good solution to this foolish, misguided mess, someone would have thought of it by now. The best we can do is a phased redeployment starting asap.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | November 28, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, if you are referring to:

"Everybody knows what kind of dog, how old, your taste in collars, your favorite dog food recipe and so on."

Hey, blogs are banal, but why dog fashion instead of silly people fashion? There's so much more of it out there on the 'net.

After all, if the only thing you wear is a collar, wouldn't you want to LIKE it? I want to walk that guy on a collar and leash for a full day and see how mocking he is. He'll probably start his own "silk collar blog" the next day, because that's what humans do. Not dogs.

Compared to the bulky mobile nest linings that people wear daily, collars are minimalist in their elegance and highly functional, and ignored by the dog.

Know what? A REAL dog-written dog fashion blog would involve cool scents, flea remedies, and favorite type of carpet to roll on, favorite scents on their humans, etc.

Speaking of carpets-- one word: wool plush throw rug. The best for cats and dogs alike. There's something nice and scratchy about wool that hits sensitive skin under fur just right for the most incredible back sensation ever.

Let that jealous, barely-read columnist gripe about dogs with drool-worthy blogs. I still win the cute contest.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | November 28, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

hahahahaha, dmd and Shrieking; this cold snap is coming your way. Be afraid, be very afraid.

But seriously, go get your groceries and so some Christmas shopping now. The roads are appallingly dangerous here after 4 days of arctic weather.

When I left home this morning, the windchill was -40C (-40F) and that is cold enough to do all the things dr so eloquently enumerated: freeze the nose hairs, etc.

Posted by: Yoki | November 28, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry you had to see that column, Wilbrodog. I specifically advised Wilbrod not to let you see it, because I knew it would upset you. I was especially worried about the line, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." We here, of course, are perfectly well aware of your canine status, not that there's anything wrong with that. We're pretty broadminded here, and have no objection to interspecies communication, as long as it remains civil and you don't start that awful barking to the tune of Jingle Bells, for which other unnamed members of your species should be put down immediately, you should pardon the phrase.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I'll miss Gene's chats, an excellent source of lunchtime mirth.

Am I reading Gingrich's proposal correctly? All we really need to do is sneak up on all the bad guys and kill 'em?

Wow. Genius.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

The British found they couldn't get rid of Congress, the new state governments, Washington's army, or even Nathanael Greene's southern army, such as it was. And they couldn't restore institutions loyal to the Crown, except in a few enclaves.

I take it that the revolutionary battles were traumatic for the participants.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | November 28, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

And Nathanael Greene, at least, figured out how to use badly-trained militias.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | November 28, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The trickiest thing is finding out exactly who the bad guys are. It was so much easier when they all wore uniforms.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke - if it's the same strain that's been going around here, it should pass quickly. Hope you feel better soon.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, happened to beat Wilbrod to the Achenblog today.

I rarely bark to music. Now, I DO get into howling contests with ambulances, fire trucks and the like, but not when I'm inside. I do have an "inside voice" which bars howling. However, Wilbrod says I am the loudest dog around when I do use my voice.

Wilbrod says it was a group of dogs and cats that were doing the song, not just a dog, and they were trained to do it, so that trainer is the one who SHOULD be put down immediately. As well as the commerical producer.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | November 28, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I know its heading our way, I keep checking the weather, the fourteen day graph is depressing, one long downward spiral - Friday will be quite a shock to the system.

Prepare your banana belt jokes now.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Our assinie entanglement in Iraq would be beyond Washington's comprehension.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | November 28, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Achenbach, I know gibberish, and your Kit, sir, is not gibberish.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

You know, if we are going to look for historical figures to help with Iraq, I think we need someone more like a Lincoln than a Washington. I mean, the situation in Iraq is similar in many ways to the South after the Civil War - a ravaged infrastructure and ethnically-motivated terrorism.

And much like our own Reconstruction, I fear that the Iraqi moderates who might make it all work are going to end up shot.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Sky report: clouds scudding in on the south wind to sully an otherwise blue sky, still 69 degrees fahrenheit. We are such wimps compared to you Haute Mainers: the cold front hits here tomorrow and temperatures will drop into the twenties for a day or two, with lows in the teens. We also have the potential of a winter mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow. We're all petrified and preparing frantically. In our defense, Oklahoma is prone to freezing rain and ice storms which can leave a couple of inches of black (read invisible) ice on roads, down power lines, fell trees, etc.

I told my family that some of my imaginary Canadian friends lived where it was already VERY COLD, maybe even below zero.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

To solve the problems of Iraq with the help of historical figures, I propose that we should look to Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, or Blaze Starr. You know, someone who can distract them with better things to think about.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Ivansmom. Why I would rather be reading this so-called gibberish than the finest writing anywhere.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gingrich!
You should enlist, pickup the M16 and go over Iraq and fight like a man. Don't just sit there and fight from your stinking mouth.

Posted by: Gingrich who? | November 28, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Edison, Tesla, and Starr. Three people who really knew how to make sparks.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I'm wandering on topic now. Newt seems unaware that his points do not, in fact, constitute a coherent program of action. His paean to Father George is inappropriate not only for the reasons Joel mentions but because, as noted above, Father George was like the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade in today's conflict. I'm irked by the claim that we can't find a solution in Iraq unless we also solve the larger problem of terrorism etc worldwide. It is just this kind of big thinking that prevents motion forward. Why CAN'T we do something about our involvement in a civil war in a nascent state formerly known as the country of Iraq before we invaded and occupied it, then go on to the next thing? Apparently Newt's strategy is to expand the war to Pakistan, Syria and Iran. That'll help fix the problems in Iraq, yessir.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Blaze Starr, not bad. *Tim.

RD, that last got me laughing.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Can we impeach someone with the title


The only thing Newt and George have in common is Grey hair,and Newt's may be a wig too

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 28, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The simple but quite effective roadside bombs have brought us to our knees along with the glaring notion that we should never have gone to Iraq in the first place. Daddy's war amuck. Hey, who was George Washington's dad?

Posted by: Random Commenter | November 28, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, it sounded to me like Newt wanted to roll his World War of Sneakery out to anywhere there were bad guys.

You know, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, New York...


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

bc, what would Newts criteria be for bad guys? Who are good guys?

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, dmd, we are the good guys, because we wear white hats. I do, anyway, when I am captaining my 33-foot battleship. As for the bad guys, that would be anyone who doesn't agree with us.

I don't know why all this is so hard for you people.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Man that must be one big tub you have Mudge.

Must remember - do not disagree, this will be difficult as I have an inborn trait to go against the flow or rebel against being told what to think.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, winter is scheduled to start next Friday. Freezing rain might be on the initial offer, followed by snow and a cold snap. Pretty wintery start as they go.
I shall be in my driveway Thursday night changing the wheels of the second vehicle to steel ones fitted with winter tires under the glow of the portable lamp. It has become a bit of a tradition, hopefully this time it won't be snowing like Seattle in November. And of course the tire shops will be jammed packed with people clamoring for winter tires, as if winter comes as a surprise on December 01.

Re Iraq,
Maybe, just maybe if they weren't so many foreign powers interfering in Iraq's civil war the "faith based mêlée" would bring some closure. It certainly did for the US. Just maybe the Sunnis would understand that their minority status means they can't be in charge of everything all the time. Just maybe the Shiite would understand that being in the majority doesn't mean you have to exterminate the minorities. And everyone would understand you don't mess with the Kurds. But with Iran, Syria, Hamas, Turkey, the USA and whoever else in the mix the civil war will only bring death and destructions for years to come. Unless some non-faith based credible leader(s) emerges soon Iraq is in for a few rough years. I am not optimistic on this one.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 28, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Iraq 101:
Why are the Shiites and Sunnis fighting each other?

Power vacuum? Padouk in his 2:09 calls it "ethnically-motivated terrorism." Other? Here's how the scientist Richard Dawkins sees it, from his very recent book, "The God Delusion" (p. 21):

At the opposite end of the spectrum from pacifism, we have a pusillanimous reluctance to use religious names for warring factions. In Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants are euphemized to "Nationalists" and "Loyalists" respectively. The very word "religions" is bowdlerized to "communities," as in "inter-community warfare." Iraq, as a consequence of the Anglo-American invasion of 2003, degenerated into sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Clearly a religious conflict--yet in the Independent of 20 May 2006, the front-page headline and first leading article both desribed it as "ethnic cleansing." "Ethnic" in this context is yet another euphemism. What we are seeing in Iraq is religious cleansing. The original usage of "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia is also arguably a euphemism for religious cleansing, involving Othodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosnians.

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

(briefly taking up a thread from yesterday)

How is it possible that prominent Lebanese-Americans were discussed without mention of the awesome Cpl. Max Klinger (Jamie Farr)?

[Or did I somehow miss him?]

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Okay, first time post on here, but recently I picked up a book called "Bullet Proof George Washington" from Mount Vernon. I suggest you read this book Error Flynn, you'll have to accept that it's blatant christian propaganda but, it is a decent account of the amazing fact that George Washington was NEVER shot. Not by very accurate shooting Indians, French or British. I doubt if today's Jersey gangbangers could do any better.

Posted by: guitarfreak | November 28, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

OK.. got distracted by the link to the Mommy Blog on the wapo home page. Is this first comment after today's Guest Blog a joke? Because I certainly think it's hilarious. Maybe this is always the first comment:

How many times is "I" used in this essay? It's all about you, isn't it?

Posted by: | November 28, 2006 09:25 AM

Posted by: TBG | November 28, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Bob S,
I mentioned Jamie Farr yesterday, although I was working from my often-faulty memory. His real name is Jameel Farah, and he's from Toledo. Wasn't Danny Thomas from Toledo too? I really should go verify before I post, but you know how it is...

I'm working from home today because the roads here are an icy mess. Not much snow at all at my place, but it's very cold. The hummingbird feeders were completely frozen - watched a poor hummer chip away for about 15 minutes. I got a half-frozen fuschia with a few flowers out from its overwintering spot to get them by till I can thaw the liquid feeders.

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 28, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Hi all.

I hesitated before offering this link here, but since this is where it all started...

Happy holidays to all :)

Posted by: superfrenchie | November 28, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, there is nothing wimpy about fearing ice storms, they are not that common hear but they are very dangerous, makes driving in a snow storm seem like a piece of cake.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denize, but there's the rub. How can you have a strong non-faith based leader consistent with democracy in a region lacking any democratic traditions? If the country ends up with a weak, though democratically-elected, compromise government you end up with the armed militias running the place like Lebanon. If you tolerate a strong man who can temporarily unite the county, but isn't democratically elected, then you end up with pre-revolutionary Iran.

The thing lots of people are forgetting is that American options in the area really are quite limited. We passed on nearly all the political authority to the Iraqis already. We aren't an occupying force where our word is law, rather we are de facto "peacekeepers" trying to prop up a failing government in the face of a simmering civil war.

(Loomis I mentioned ethnically-motivated terrorism in the context of the American South - i.e. the KKK. I was trying to make a rough analogy to Iraq.)

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

TBG - I checked briefly into the Mommy blog yesterday & today. I even commented both times!

I (like you) was taken aback by that comment! I thunk to myself, "Wow, is this a new record for quickest pissy remark?"

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Howdy, 'french! Happy holidays to you, too!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 3:12 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Denizen, of course. And I meant unite the country, not county. Although even that would be a neat trick.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurk - Aaaah, I'm relieved! I'm sure that I just read right by it. (In my own defense, I was trying to catch up on several days worth of 'boodle!)

Jamie Farr is to Lebanese-Americans as Jimmy Durante is to...

Well, now that I think about it, they're both iconic figures in the world of noticeably-nosed smart-asses!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I have that inborn trait or gene, too, dmd. Hard to shake, isn't it? I could never do it. (I don't keep the battleship in the tub; too much risk from the submarine. And then my tootsie would get caught in the torpedo netting.)

Shriek, I really love "faith-based melee" to replace the Iraq "civil war." Wish I had that when we were doing the "hunger = low-level food security" schtick.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

>you'll have to accept that it's blatant christian propaganda

That's OK, we're used to that. They just call it "campaigning" now.

As for Washington getting shot I'm glad to hear he was lucky, but I wouldn't go through there in the day, nevermind at 4am.

And Welcome!

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I have, of late, been pondering Dr. Dawkins' thinking on religion. He posits that there is no God; therefore, religion must be recognized as an invention of Man. Yet, he persists in addressing religion as if it were imposed upon mankind, forcing self-destructive and fratricidal behaviors that otherwise would not exist. Nonsense. By his own reasoning, there is no outside power capable of imposing such a structure. Therefore, we are doing this to ourselves, and the relevant issue is not religion, but the human properties that drive us to invent and maintain religious identity. Religion, itself, is merely an epiphenomenon.

Either you believe religion really is a practice ordained by God, or you believe it is a sham invented by Man; either way, it is the creation of its creator and reflects the nature of that creator, in some way that may not be immediately ascertainable. Assuming, for the moment, that we accept Dawkins' assertion of no-no-theism (my own coinage), then Man created religion, to serve Man's needs and desires. Religion is simply a way of choosing teams, no less valid than shirts and skins, scissor-paper-rock, or I-Choose-All-the-Big-Tough-Guys-for-My-Team (okay, that last one has a certain logic to it). Anyway, religion is not the source of the problem, it is simply a mechanism to identify the members of Your Team. A secret handshake, a password, a code phrase. Getting rid of religion solves no problems at all. It creates problems, because people tie up their self-image in their team/gang/religious identity. Arguing for the elimination of religion, while it still fills a need among people, is just itching for a pointless fight. You need to figure out how to eliminate the urge to kill members of the other teams, or enlarge the notion of 'team', then religion will come along peacefully and fade away. Unless, of course, it really is an imposition from God. In that case, I hope Judaism wins, because Purim is the Best. Holiday. Ever. And the cookies are good, too. Circumcision, I'm not so fond of, especially for adult conversions.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurking - I hope the roads out there don't get too bad. As I recall the region doesn't really have that whole snowplowing thing down. Those "road turtles" complicate things too. Anyway - stay safe, stay warm.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

OK Padouk, I almost had time to say that Denize is my sister but you SCC'ed just in time. I have little hope of seeing such a secular leader. It won't happen.
Mudge, I borrowed the "faith based melee" hence the quotation mark. The guy was discussing Snow's insistance that Iraq is not in a state of civil war, the melee quip was the best. Snow is the Baghdad Bob of this administration, obviously. Remember the Iraqi minister of Misinformation, the guy insisting the US invasion was in it last throes while you could see the columns of smoke in the background ? I think Snow is not very far behind these days.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 28, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

It's Us and Them, *Tim.
Always has been.

Purim's fine, I like the triangular Haman's ear pastries (not the prune ones, though) and a good kreplach (sic?). The drinking and singing and shouting and everything make for a lively evening.

That Esther, she was a good one.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

>but I wouldn't go through there in the day, nevermind at 4am.

Oh, but let me hasten to add "please come visit our lovely city". Which it really is, in parts. But bring your peeps.

Tim, you're right on about religion as teams, especially in this case. What they really need is more sports to argue about.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

gasping for air here -- working whatever is left of brains out. . . .

Which leaves me to the cryptic message to everyone else but Linda Loomis: turns out we won't need to talk w/ you re: you know. . .
I figured you wouldn't be standing by the phone waiting, but I did want to pay you the courtesy of letting you off the hook.

Okay, folks, was that cryptic enough???

Going back to the mines. . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 28, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Road turtles ? We call them diplomatic cars around here. They are the ones with the red dip plates. They are driven by nice men and women from Africa, South Asia, West Indies and other warm spot who see snow for the first time in their life. They don't help traffic early in the winter.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 28, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse


epiphenomenon? Doo doo, do do do...


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

"The Vietcong were in the same position in Vietnam, and look who came out on top in that conflict."

Not the Vietcong. They were essentially wiped out and unable to participate in a meaningful way in the post war government. North Vietnam won the war and took the spoils. It was very much like the US Civil war.

Posted by: Gary Masters | November 28, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"The Vietcong were in the same position in Vietnam, and look who came out on top in that conflict."

Not the Vietcong. They were essentially wiped out and unable to participate in a meaningful way in the post war government. North Vietnam won the war and took the spoils. It was very much like the US Civil war.

Posted by: Gary Masters | November 28, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"The Vietcong were in the same position in Vietnam, and look who came out on top in that conflict."

Not the Vietcong. They were essentially wiped out and unable to participate in a meaningful way in the post war government. North Vietnam won the war and took the spoils. It was very much like the US Civil war.

Posted by: Gary Masters | November 28, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

At the risk of being repetitous, pedantic, and, yes, tedious: as I have said before, there is no way that a military victory can be gained in Iraq. So long as there are Iraqis left alive, there will be persons mobilized by the outcome of prior violence to fight against us and whoever is perceived as being our puppet. If even just 1% of the 26 million Iraqis take up arms against us, that is a force of 260,000, way more than we have in the field in Iraq. Perhaps if we were willing to simply kill everyone, regardless of the situation, we could achieve peace (the peace of the cemetery) on the battlefield. That would win the 'battle', of course, but lose the war -- the rest of the world would unite in the effort to bring about our total destruction, which we would deserve after committing acts of such evil.

From a standpoint of pure pragmatism, leaving aside issues such as morality which have squishy borders (viz., aggressive interrogation), we need to accomplish whatever 'victory' we can wrest from Iraq with a minimum loss of life. We need to persuade Iraqis that they can more easily, and more effectively, accomplish whatever goals they have by not fighting than by fighting in Iraq. Yes, there are outside agitators, but they can be effective on a large scale only with assistance from Iraqis.

What we need is to make Iraqis happy. I can think of three broad categories of methods to achieve this goal:
(1) drug the water supply. Immoral, of course, but it could achieve the desired goal, at least until we leave. The problem is that (a) it is evil; (b) response to psychoactive drugs requires careful calibration and selection of agents; and (c) a 'high' is not the same as happiness. Euphoria could induce greater violence, rather than eliminating the desire for violence.
(2) Disperse the Iraqi people to nicer places. This is my plan of sending 90% of the people on international vacations, with plenty of money, while our people and a relatively small crew of Iraqis repair the infrastructure. Anyone not participating in the reconstruction effort is an 'insurgent' and may be shot on sight. If this had been done early in Year 1, it would have cost less than we have spent so far on making negative progress. Unfortunately, we have thrown all that money and lives down a rat-hole, and we can't get them back.
(3) Make their lives better. That means, we need to make available effective cheap technologies to enable individual Iraqis to live modern lives at a high standard of living within the current crippled infrastructure. That means distributed clean power generation (so that terrorists cannot leverage their sabotage), cheap fuel or vehicles that consume much less fuel, and energy-efficient use of what limited infrastructure is available. In short: rechargeable batteries, LED lighting, Toyota Priuses, solar panels, and composting toilets with regular waste-removal services. In shorter: Earthaven.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

God plays goal for United.

Posted by: Boko999 | November 28, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The entire infrastructure in Iraq should be rebuilt by Iraqis--not foreigners. Who built it in the first place? They did.

The three best ways to make Iraqis happy are

1) jobs
2) jobs
3) jobs.

Posted by: TBG | November 28, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha, SD - no, the road turtles here are the little round things they use for lane dividers in addition to stripes. Because they don't have enough snow plows, and they don't use salt.

Ivansmom, ice storms are awful. The DC area gets those more than Seattle. I remember one when I lived in VA when a couple of inches of ice coated everything - beautiful, but you can't move. I'm lucky that I can work from home, and we had enough warning that we stocked up. I'm glad this didn't happen last week when my kid was here, borrowing my car. The rain was worrying enough. Beautiful blue sky and sunshine today - but temps in the 20's, which we're not used to! Very weird here how one area can get a lot of snow, while another gets hardly any.

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 28, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

epiphenomenon -- a word used by SciTim.

I yield the word-crown for enchiridion of yesterday, to SciTim aka [insert useful hat or moniker] Tim.

And, while word watching, the plural of Prius is PDG too.

PDG = pretty darn good

Finally, I think I prefer "squishy borders" to fenced ones.

Which leads me to my favorite song of all time, by COLE PORTER, if you can believe:

Don't Fence Me In

Fave recordings? Toss up between Liz Masterson imitating Patsy Montana or Rosemary Clooney.

Posted by: College Parkian | November 28, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

TBG, the reason why I do not endorse your prescription of jobs, jobs, jobs, is that terrorists/insurgents/homicidal maniacs randomly attack people who are lining up to get jobs, discouraging them from even making the first step. We need to do whatever it takes to help the Iraqi people get as far as feeling that they can apply for a job with relative safety. The 'vacation plan' could have achieved this by temporarily reducing the resident Iraqi population from 26 million to about 2.6 million -- a much more manageable number to keep an eye on and to look out for bad persons intent on committing homicide and/or sabotage. The 2.6 million would be resident general contractors and workers in the building trades, who would do the rebuilding on our nickel.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Who the hell cares what Newt Gingrich thinks?

How wrong do you have to be before people stop listening to you?

Posted by: Eugene | November 28, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Here is my solution, I suggest we try a little experiment, send all the men on a all expenses paid trip to somewhere, put the women and children in charge and see what happens, I would also dearly love to see this in Afganistan.

I have no predictions just simple curiosity.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

What the Iraqis really need is a charismatic leader who they also fear. Since Saddam is busy, we'll need to find someone else looking for a second chance.

Is Axel Rose still alive?

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

What about sending them Mel Gibson? He already agrees with the radical Islamists about the source of the world's troubles, he styles himself in his movies as a Strong Man. And who's got more charisma than Mad Max? Plus, he knows the value of oil (the juice, the precious juice).

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I think that if there were plenty of jobs (nonpolice, non-working-for-Americans jobs) there would be fewer insurgents and more employees.

If there were lots of jobs, there wouldn't be lines of people waiting to get them.

People resort to terrorism when there isn't something else out there. It's usually a last resort for desperate people.

Posted by: TBG | November 28, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Prefesser Smartypants warns 10 year old daughter in open letter.
Offends many.

Posted by: Boko999 | November 28, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

>What about sending them Mel Gibson?

NOW yer talkin'!

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Yup, 30 million (or so) Iraqi residents could have been temporarily relocated at $30,000 (or so) each for a year (or so) for $100 billion. Cheaper & more fun for everyone involved!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 28, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Dmd, Cf. Russia under Stalin; Rwanda, and other places where the sex ratio is left skewed after war or other genocide.

But yeah, it'd be nice to see women claim a better position in society.

I wonder if Dawkins has seriously studied how things work in communist countries? Because he sure seems to be fully behind Marx's quote "Religion is the opiate of the people."

And we all know how nasty painkiller addicts become when you threat them with withdrawal ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

TBG -- I'm with you on sending the men out of country and letting the women clean up the mess.

They may not let the guys back in after a year or so . . .

Eugene -- sadly -- there are no term limits on idiocy in Washington. You can have embarassed yourself with silliness and crazy ideas six ways to Sunday -- and your comments and essays will still be picked up, printed and thrown in the hopper to be taken as seriously as all the other loons.

I don't get how Newt doesn't get that we were the insurgents in 1770's. A lot of the early militia didn't wear regular uniforms either -- I suppose the Brits would have termed them unlawful enemy combatants -- I'm sure they were seen that way -- traitors and a bunch of backwater colonialists.

Newt is supposed to be an expert in American History.

Posted by: nelson | November 28, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

sorry -- I meant to credit you dmd -- not TBG

TBG -- jobs would have been nice 3 years ago. But when Bremer dissolved the regular Army (creating thousands of unemployed, well trained fighters) and then eliminated anyone with a Baathist background (which was about anyone who had held a job in Saddam's Iraq) from the workforce -- he pretty much created the insurgency. Yes, there were Saddam's fedayeen that were fighting before this colossal gaffe, but Bremer's moves stoked the fires exponentially.

I fear there is too much chaos, and too much desire for revenge for Iraqis to back away from the cycle of violence.

Jobs are wonderful -- but there seems to be not much society left -- the social facric is pretty much fallen apart -- I think most Iraqis are just trying to stay alive.

Posted by: nelson | November 28, 2006 5:13 PM | Report abuse

My general impression is that Newt is not a very good scholar. When I Googled his graduate degree, I found that his doctorate is in Modern European History, from Tulane. Perhaps this explains his lack of familiarity with American history, including his lack of awareness that we have, in fact, tried having a society without social secuirty and welfare and stuff like that. That's why we invented those things, because the alternative didn't work out. Same for a society in which business was unfettered by regulation. Newt also has suggested that orphanages might be a good idea to deal with problems in foster care programs, apparently not being aware that he did not invent the concept of the orphanage, and the failure of the orphanage concept is why we invented foster care.

I wonder if Newt's thesis advisor is/was proud of his intellectual progeny.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I should mention that I am not picking on Tulane; I am noting that Newt's scholarly background is somewhat off-topic for his career, or vice-versa.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

So, the first step in Gingrich's plan is to wait for the Tigris to freeze over....

Posted by: Les | November 28, 2006 5:45 PM | Report abuse

>Yup, 30 million (or so) Iraqi residents could have been temporarily relocated at $30,000

Methinks it would be cheaper to relocate the 4 million Sunni Arabs.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

As I've said before, I find it a little ill mannered to comment on another country's politics. I must remark, though, that when certain media pundits were assuring us all that Gingrich was really an intelligent and well-educated fellow (back in 1994-95), it struck me just the way it does when people say the same thing about Hollywood types (Goldy Hawn, for instance). It gets said, but no evidence has ever been produced that it is true.

Posted by: Yoki | November 28, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Now, now, Yoki; Newt really is well-educated. He just isn't well-learned.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Remember, send Boodle recipes to

Himself and I agreed last night that there is a downside to putting together the cook book. We've both gained a pound in the week that I've been trying out all these lovely new dishes, and I still have Christmas pudding and cat turds to go!

Posted by: Yoki | November 28, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Tulane University is in New Orleans. Big Mardi Gras party scene.

Education doesn't count for much without actual thought. And deep thoughts like how men love to hunt giraffes are important to the future of American civilization.


Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

>Goldy Hawn, for instance

Now wait one doggone minute there... Goldie Hawn is credited as executive producer on 10 films, director on a TV show and a couple of dozen movies as an actress, to say nothing of Laugh-In.

Besides that, she's been with Kurt Russell for about ever.

No way Kurt Russell would stay with a ditz. That's evidence enough for me.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Yes Error I understand Kurt has been nominated for the Nobel a few times :-).

To pick on one of my own per Yoki we could agree on inserting Pam Anderson as the Hollywood model. She is currently targeting the makers of POM for treating animals inhumanely. If I were PETA I would strive for someone with more, say, credibility. Perhaps its just me.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse

And Goldie isn't in elected office, or pushing her ideas for foreign policy (that I've heard of), or any other policy for that matter. From what I can tell, she's quite intelligent - it's the goofy laugh that does her in.

Newt is an idiot, not matter how many degrees he has, or what they're in. And pretty much irrelevant.

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 28, 2006 6:16 PM | Report abuse

>Yes Error I understand Kurt has been nominated for the Nobel a few times :-).

Well if you're going to judge people by how many Nobel prizes they have I guess most of us would fail.

Come on, have you ever seen any of his movies? That's one smart actor. Not to mention his staying with Goldie Hawn all these years, which any man would consider pretty darn smart too.

When was the last time you saw either of them blathering about politics or fad causes? That should show they're smarter than the average celeb right there.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Where Goldie and Kurt spend their summer.,_Ontario

Posted by: Boko999 | November 28, 2006 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Actually you are right I do not have fun with either one of them, but I must admit if I had never seen a Kurt movie I don't think my life would have been altered. Well there was the Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

SCC - I do not have a complaint with...

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

And as a Canadian how could I fault either Kurt or Goldie, they are fellow hockey parents!

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:30 PM | Report abuse

PETA: Advocacy, emphasis on VOCAL, not actual help for animals.

If you ever want to help homeless animals directly, contribute to your local shelter. Do not contribute to the ASPCA or HSUS (Humane Society of the United States). They are focused on advocacy and lobbying.

They do not give that much money to real shelters who do the actual work taking care of animals. After hurricane katrina, so many people wanted to send money to help animals. They sent it to the HSUS. Actual help to animals was far diminished in comparsion to actually giving it to shelters and rescue groups involved in the hurricane katrina rescue.

Now, advocacy has it place, but if you're not a vegan who refuses to wear leather kill or otherwise benefit from animals and thus believe that petkeeping is evil, PETA is very probably using your money to advocate for issues that are harmful to you.

The HSUS has its own political agenda as well, not all of whom people who work with animals daily would agree with.

Get informed. Never write checks blindly to "help the animals." Advocacy organizations are famous because they thrive on publicity, that's their game.

People who take care of animals have a full-time job and can't just lark off to protest against cruelty to lobsters, fur coats, whatever, or do photoshoots.

Think about it. Do you go home and feed your animals, or do you go out and march to be seen on TV? You can't do both.

With this very simple viewpoint, the dumpster dump of lots of pets put to sleep by the PETA was surprising only in that so many people actually THOUGHT that PETA would take good care of any animals in between protesting, press releases and so forth.

Learn the difference between animal rights and animal welfare.

Animal rights viewpoint: Animals have legal rights equalling people, even though they don't have the moral sense or social role of humans, nor are "rights" relevant in Mother Nature, red in claw and fang.

See, by their reasoning, Wilbrodog is a slave and should be sent up to the Happy Hunting grounds to lead a truly wild existence. (Never mind that Wilbrodog prefers his meat cooked-- well done.). I disagree. He's a shelter dog and I saved him from going to puppy heaven prematurely.

Animal welfare:
When we assume ownership and power over animals, we also assume responsibility for their welfare, psychological and physical. We should design laws and protections against animal abuse with that in mind.

I.e. Wilbrodog should have vet care, be fed well and treated humanely and his need taken in regard for a long and happy life, and be allowed to "wash out" if the service dog life is no longer for him. There should be real legal protection against abusing dogs, and for me to get the evidence required to redress such a wrong.

See-- big difference.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Kurt Russell? I thought he was dead.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

You're thinking of Bertram Russell, maybe?

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, I found this was a pro-PETA site.

But this: "Trying to build enough shelters to keep up with the endless stream of homeless animals is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound."

Well excuse me, it makes a BIG difference to the animals saved through the shelters, and those same shelters also encourage spay-neuter programs, have connections with rescue groups who will take specific breeds, and so on. Every animal adopted out by those shelters means a new person educated on humane petkeeping.

It's a community effort.

For instance, people will always commit crimes and be poor. The answer is not to sterilize and euthanize the whole population of the world and not try and help any of the people right now.

Here's an dissenting website:

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 6:45 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

> I must admit if I had never seen a Kurt movie I don't think my life would have been altered.

I recommend "Big Trouble In Little China" and "Escape From New York" for starters. Or try Kurt with Goldie in "Overboard". If light-hearted entertainment is bad then I guess Bing Crosby was stupid too. Of course I first saw Kurt on "Lost In Space", and I guess we're probably about the same age. Maybe it was just the spaceship, but he seemed pretty smart then, so...

Sorry, I just don't think it's fair to impugn someone's intelligence just because they PLAY a certain type of character. That's why they call it acting. Newt is a twit despite his edumacation, and a loud one, and supposedly serious.

Nice link Boko.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of sending the men out of Iraq, I recall an idea from someone high up there in the WH to send them somewhere to unwind a bit.

Las Vegas.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I thought Newt's desire was to hunt/see a moose in Maine?

Posted by: bh | November 28, 2006 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Error, first of all picture me smiling as I wrote my posts, no arrogance, no elitism.

Big Trouble in Little China not sure I have seen, I have seen Escape from New York and I admit I have a really really low tolerance for violence, no reflection on Kurt.

Overboard - I Liked.
I love silly movies, and it drives me nuts when reviewers critisize movies for their lack of depth, some movies just make me feel good - that is what I am looking for.

Lost in Space - the series on TV? I used to watch that all the time.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

>send them somewhere to unwind a bit. Las Vegas

Well, that's the real roblem, isn't it? But apparently they have some kinda religious thing against it.

That's the difference between religions and arbitrary "teams". You don't find that problem on pro sports teams.

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 6:55 PM | Report abuse

All I can say is that we don't rebel in Canada too often because the guy you rebel against might be the fellow with the big truck who can pull you out of the ditch next winter.

I submit photos of my yard for proof. Just imagine this and 'fricking freezing' temperatures too. that was Saturday, and since then we have another couple inches of snow.

You can tell me all the stories you want about Florida and Texas and how warm it is. I'm counting on them to keep me warm.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2006 6:56 PM | Report abuse

It looks really pretty though dr!

Stay warm.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Top 7 things you didn't know about PETA:

Ahhh... snow news is good news, right?

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Nice yard dr! Have any summer pics?

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm always amazed at just how angry some folks can get about vegetarianism and animal rights advocacy. And if you asked them why, they probably wouldn't be able to give you a very good answer.

Me, I get angry when I read cockamamie Web sites such as "petakillsanimals."

Posted by: Dreamer | November 28, 2006 7:23 PM | Report abuse

l.a. was a cool, blustery low-60s fahrenheit today. typical winter weather. except that the very few trees that turn colors are actually starting doing so and starting to shed some leaves...a process that lasts well into january...

well, i tried, dr.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | November 28, 2006 7:39 PM | Report abuse

It was 82 today here, dr. I took the dog for a walk this morning wearing a short-sleeved shirt, shorts, and sandals. This temp is still almost swimming weather.

We are bracing for Thursday morning, when *your* weather, *your* air mass is predicted to come our way with strong winds, and perhaps violent thunderstorms ushering in the winds. Then, the weatherman says, our temps are supposed to plunge. The first freeze of the season is expected Thursday night into Friday morning. We shall have to move or cover many potted plants. Are you sure you don't want to keep that cold air up in Canada for a little bit longer, like all winter long? The rain, however, we can use.

And hubby finally starts his "vacation" tomorrow, which really isn't a vacation in the true sense of the word because he's going to remove the last pallet of bricks from in front of the garage and lay a brick walkway to the dining patio. One of these days, one of these days.

Anyone catching Bush's address in Riga today? He says the reason we must stay in Iraq is because of al Qaeda. NBC countered with a segment and just blew Bush's lie out of the water. Good ol' Jim Miklaszewski over at the Pentagon.

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2006 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, my friends. Just too tired. Checking in. Good night.

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | November 28, 2006 8:03 PM | Report abuse

The best (and maybe the only good) Kurt Russell movie: Tombstone (although it was great not because of Russell but because of Val Kilmer, who stole that flick like the guys who robbed Brinks, and followed by Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn and Stephen Lang, who tied for second place movie theft, and Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton, who tied for third, and Thomas Haden Church, Billy Bob Thornton, and Billy Zane, who tied for fourth. Out of about ten men in that flick, Russell finishes tenth. But that's OK, it's still a great flick, and he was in it, and he didn't screw it up. All the other guys were better, that's all.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Sleep well Cassandra

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"Every country is like a particular kind of person. America is like a belligerent adolescent boy, Canada is like an intelligent thirty-five-year-old woman."

From "The Salmon of Doubt" by Douglas Adams.

Posted by: ac in sj | November 28, 2006 8:16 PM | Report abuse

"I ain't sayin' I've been everywhere and done everything, but a man's got to be some kind of fool to think we're all alone in this universe."

Jack Burton - "Big Trouble In Little China".

Sorry, you can call the politicians anything you want, but I love Goldie and Kurt. :-)

Mudge, how old were you when Kurt was doing "Lost In Space"? 973?

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Um. I don't remember Kurt Russell in Lost in Space...and I DO remember watching it. Danger, Will Robinson!

Posted by: ac in sj | November 28, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

OK, so this doesn't keep me up at night, I seem to remember a mom, 2 kids, a robot, and a dad. Is that right. I have absolutely no memory of dialogue all my memories are visual.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I stand corrected. I looked up Kurt Russell in and it said that he was in one (one!) episode of "Lost in Space." My tinfoil hat is off to you, Error, and your superior memory.

Posted by: ac in sj | November 28, 2006 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Bertrand Russell.

"Moore," I said, "have you any apples in that basket?"

"No," he replied.

"Moore," I said, "have you, then, any apples in that basket?"

"No," he replied, thus leaving me in a logical cleft stick from which I could find only one route of egress.

"Moore!" I asked, "Have you, then, apples in that basket?"

"Yes," he replied, and we were firm friends from that day forward.

Posted by: Yoki | November 28, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I just don't see what long-term objective we can achieve in Iraq through the use of military force.

My take on this is that our best approach is to disengage militarily, but to still keep a substantial presence in the region. Let the regional powers (Iran, Syria, etc) burn their resources fighting a proxy war in Iraq and after a two or three years, perhaps we re-engage if we see a compelling need or an opening.

I also am confused as to why we aren't pushing full speed ahead with reducing our dependence on oil. The benefits of doing from a strategic standpoint are blantantly obvious (this is even putting aside clear cut secondary benefits relating to global warming).

What's most frustrating is that G.W. Bush and cheerleaders like Gingrich refuse to define what a realistic "victory" in Iraq would look like. What is the endgame? The American people deserve a clear answer for a change.

Posted by: JP | November 28, 2006 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, just found this interesting, when I googled Bretrand Russell, saw this link to his archives at McMaster U. - right next door (town wise).

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 9:03 PM | Report abuse

I will miss Weingarten's chats. Very, very badly. I didn't realize how much time he spent on them and I am very impressed with his effort and understand why, with all other demands on his time, he needs a break. Maybe he and jw can test their respective mojos during the upcoming Nationals season. The return of the chat gives another reason to look forward to the return of baseball.

Posted by: pj | November 28, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

>OK, so this doesn't keep me up at night, I seem to remember a mom, 2 kids, a robot, and a dad.

Lost In Space? Yes, plus "Don" the pilot and "Judy", actually the 3rd child as it were. (Grown enough for Don, I think.) And of course Dr. Zachary Smith, saboteur and the character that drove all the plots. And I don't have any of them on tape.

The robot and Dr. Smith pair was classic. I feel an Amazon moment coming on...

Posted by: Error Flynn | November 28, 2006 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Oddly enough I remember the robot best, of course I think I also get it confused with "Pigs in Space" from the muppets.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Linda, its not our weather. We ship it in from Alaska. :)

It helps guys, it helps. Its nice to know that somewhere in the world its warm, and one can go anywhere without masses of down fur covering, containing, suasaging ones body. Side note, the down fur tube may not be stylish, but they sure are warm and this is parka weather.

I do have summer pictures of the yard, but they are all Mr.drs and are at the office. I will try to upload some soon.

I will always remember that it was in a Newt Gingrich moment that Mudge burst in to tell us the news about Gene's chats. I almost cried. I probably will cry next Tuesday.

I'm not sure if I'll cry because of the Newt gingrich moment or Gene, but I feel a real teary session coming on.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Error, I was 27 then. And never watched that show.

Didja hear that Bush and Sen.-elect Jim Webb got testy with each other at the White House? Cat fight!!!! My money's on Webb, no contest.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Geoscientist James Lovelock, the guy who coined the term Gaia for planet earth and came up with the Gaia theory, claims global warming is going to raise the temp. about 8 degrees Celsius (that would be 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which would be enough to make all you whiny Canuckistanis stop complaining about snow and ice, etc.(

Says Lovelock, this would pretty much destroy civilization as we know it, force billions of people to move to Siberia (which, he notes, is fortunately very thinly populated at the moment).

Sounds to me like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 11:09 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Not 46.4 degrees, but 14.4 degrees. But same effect.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2006 11:13 PM | Report abuse

mudge, i just thought you were doing a little achen-hyperbole there.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | November 28, 2006 11:30 PM | Report abuse

dr, make sure you're inside before you have that teary session!

-20 C is about the cut off. Between 0 and -20 if you're used to it and dress appropriately you don't have to be limited in any of your activities.

Posted by: SonofCarl | November 28, 2006 11:30 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* i remember that -20C crunchy snow weather, in a former life. also remember going to the airport to go home for christmas when it was about -30C out. good times.

now i think it's cold when it gets down into the 40s F at night. california people are the biggest bunch of weather wimps. used to make fun of wimpy california expats in that former life. and now look at me - i've gone totally soft i tell ya.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | November 28, 2006 11:41 PM | Report abuse

We're expecting frost up here, L A lurker. I'll have to bundle up in the morning. I have to go to SF tomorrow (always a pleasure) where it will be warmer, only 40 for a low up there. We must be getting some of that Canadian air here.

Posted by: ac in sj | November 29, 2006 12:54 AM | Report abuse

As a British General Newt said to King George.....
if we "cut and run" from the colonies we will be
fighting George Washington on the streets of London!

Posted by: Jay | November 29, 2006 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Feel revived, although a little sleepy still. Such a hard day yesterday, too tired to even talk. We have a busy day today also. The g-girl and I have a terrible cough. And some of the people I've been in contact with have this same terrible cough. Perhaps it is the warm weather.

Sorry you feel bad, Scotty, get better soon.

As to Iraq, I know folks are probably looking for an exit stratagey, but what exit could one make that is graceful from a mess that was created by us? I mean we did this. We went there looking for weapons of mass destruction, and looking to get rid of the man in charge. We bombed this country to h***, so what kind of exit can we make? I seriously would like to know. My questions are not meant to announce any agenda on my part, I just want to know. We looked bad going in, and from everything I've read, we're sure going to look bad coming out.

And on the question of religion, and we talk about this all the time, ususally in a negative sense, is there not enough of ugliness in the world that perhaps we could just focus on that? And when I say focus, I mean, maybe, just maybe, work to make it better instead of beating to death the thing that makes it better, the good part of Christianity, wherein we love each other as Christ loved us?

Loving someone does not make that someone perfect or without fault, but what it does is lifts them, and the one that is loving, up. I talk about race all the time, and the racism that goes along with that, calling it what it is, an ugliness that has been in our history since the beginning. I identify that ugliness, yet the people that I talk to about this "can of worms" are not people that I hate or have bad feeling towards. Just want us to do better with this. And I include myself in that "us". As a child of God through Christ, I am called to love, not hate, and for what it is worth, I try very hard to do that. May not reach the goal all the time, but always trying, always moving forward.

Have a good day everyone. This place is not our home, we do not come to stay. Our lives according to Scripture are like a vapor. While it is day, let us embrace that love that is found in God, through His Son, Jesus, and come to know that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

I've said my prayers, and as always, I've prayed for all you here on the Achenblog. Because I consider you my friends, real good friends, I ask for blessings and the good things in this life, and the life to come.

Posted by: Cassandra S | November 29, 2006 4:42 AM | Report abuse

Morning folks! today I'll be finishing up that boodler's data mining program I mentioned last week. It would have been finished a few days ago, but I've been having too much fun just using it for kicks and grins. Like looking up "Cheese" or "aliens" or "poop" or "Stripey" or "recipe" or "sky". You all have produced a wealth of information.

I'm calling it BoodlePop. It's pretty much done, except for the hard part - a little more testing, documentation. Maybe I'll post a link to it later this evening, or if the weather is good, tomorrow night.

Posted by: Pat | November 29, 2006 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Here's a little morning silliness, a little of the 100 best TV catch phrases,

Danger, Will Robinson made the list.

dr, hope this helps at 6:25 this morning, at the end of November 10 c, just plain weird. Was really foggy yesterday though, drove home through pretty thick fog. I also looked at some photos of Victoria in the snow, absolutely beautiful, they only had pictures just as the snow started in Vancouver but still pretty. I am sure the army are preparing now in case Toronto gets some flurries :-).

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Pictures from Vancouver & BC in the snow.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 6:38 AM | Report abuse

Oh dmd - those pictures make me homesick for the Pacific Northwest. It's the trees. That area does great tree.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Yes, RD the trees are amazing out there.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Morning all! *waving*

Thanks for your kind words, everyone, they did the trick. I'm back to my Boodling self today.

That's a good thing, innit?

And someone said the magic word -- SNOW!!!

*Snoopy dancing*

Hey Pat, good to hear from you.

EF, I often page homage to Dr. Smith around here when I read some of the language supposedly meant for "the public."

Oh, the pain...


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Hey kids! Here's an entertaining psychological experiment you can play on yourself! It's quick and easy. First, spend a few minutes reading the front page of The Onion ( Then quickly surf over to CNN (

Observe how long it takes your brain to figure out that you are no longer reading satire.

It is such fun to screw with your own mind.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse


Depending on your point of view concerning the state of civilization, CNN's content could certainly qualify as satire.

e.g. "X-Men illustrator dies in Superman pajamas"


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2006 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Cool suggestion, RD. My idea of fun.

The clouds are soft here this morning. so much so they are all over the ground. The front is coming! Danger! Everybody to get from street!

Posted by: jack | November 29, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Scotty you made me check the CNN page just to see if that headline was real, sadly it was. Missing the goofy Dobbs headline this morning though.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

This is a crazy country allright. -10C last weekend and +10 this morning. And guess what, a mosquito showed up while I was walking the dog. A real, living, flying mosquito red hot for my blood. sheesh

Padouk, I am with you that West Coast trees are beauties but I fear their wrath. A big one crushed an Audi earlier this month in Cathedral Grove.

CG is a token old-growth forest left by the giant wood/paper company MacBlo near Port Alberni BC. There are hordes of your favorite giant gastropod belly-crawling around the place too. It is a mandatory stop when going to one of my favorite place on earth: the Long Beach national park on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The CG park is small though so it is jammed packed during the peak hours in the summer.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 29, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Shriek it was -10 in Ottawa last night, crazy country is right that is a twenty degree difference over what 400-500 k? Low here tonight is expected to be 13c, hope it dries up before the temp drops Friday.

re: West coast of Vancouver Island - awe inspiring.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 9:08 AM | Report abuse

"Ornery sea lions bites 14 swimmers in 2 days" makes little sense but "Snoop Dog arrested again" tips the reader that this is the real news. He must have been working on recovering his street cred after the baton incident. The baton is such a wimpy weapon.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 29, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Just a quicky to let you know I'm still breathing *waving*. Had a bit of a rough patch--tooth abcess, which led to emergency root canal, which apparently led to an outbreak of shingles. Still busier than a cat in a rocking chair factory, so don't have much boolding time. Will try to check in a bit later.

Posted by: ebtnut | November 29, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Hang in there ebtnut, hope you feel better, my dad went through shingles - not a fun time.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 9:24 AM | Report abuse

SCC: boodling (more tea, please)

Posted by: ebtnut | November 29, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I beg to differ in regards to the editorial. We are over intellectualizing the Iraq conflict. Let's answer a few questions first:

1. Who are the insurgents? Are they the Iraqi people themselves? You know, the ones that went out, risking their lives, to vote not too long ago?

2. Why, all of a sudden, an interest in the Middle East?

3. What is going on, not just in our country, BUT in others in regards to Islam Terrorist activity?

4. Do the Iraqi people have the same right to live in peace as say...we do?

5. What is the VALUE of our lives?

6. Journalists and politicians have been saying for years that "it takes a village to raise a child"....does not that imply that in Global thought....Iraq..Dufar..ALL REGIONS WHERE THERE IS GENOCIDAL VIOLENCE...are our global village and we have a responsibility as humans to protect all children's right to life?...or is that just more rhetoric that sounds good in byte sizes?

7. Geez, I can't get over how we can so complicate something as basic as life for all people...into let's let the militants take over..what is it to us?

8. Shame on us for thinking that we are more special than THOSE people trying to stay alive while militant gangs try to take over THEIR country and THEIR right to live and work in peace. (Talk about another Vietnam?, their blood will be on our hands, just like it is for us leaving Vietnam...millions were killed upon our departure...and all that little country wanted was to live and work in peace...)

9. As Americans, we demand with an air of entitlement, the basic rights of living in peace, harmony, intellectual and religious freedom as well as relative security.....So, if I was an Iraqi woman trying to find work, raise my family, go to church and read a newspaper...I do not have the same entitlement? I am but one with no means of defending myself from these gangs trying to take over my street...but, I am to ...what? accept it?

10. I am not understanding the logic involved in our arguments.....We are just loving the ability to be punitive, finger pointing babies MORE than the responsible adults. If I lived in a domestic violent situation...what would you do? Intervene...say, I deserve it? or and let live? Would you not send the police to intervene, bring stability and other agencies for help???
Or would you point your finger at me and say...what?

11. Logic dictates a global thought process of all humans deserve the right to live with justice and peace..not just a select few..

12. Call me a nosey neighbor..but, I would knock on my neighbor's door if I suspected ANY type of "terror" within the home....should I not do the same in Iraq's home?...Dufar's homes...Africa's homes...their are more..but I am already on my soap box and it is time to get down.

Posted by: Ann | November 29, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little late posting this, but I was moved by Mudge's "I am a hero" posting from this past weekend:

Curmudgeon at the Bat
by bc, with apologies to Ernest L. Thayer

The outlook was quiet
for the Curmudgeon three that night,
the Mrs a-bed, daughter a-fed,
'mudge bathed in cathode ray light.

A computer mouse in his right hand,
TV remote in his left,
a peaceful night at 'mudge's,
his hands holding happy heft.

A Rough Draft Kit and Boodle,
and Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix" engaged our man's mind.
But as he chuckled at Achensatire, and listened to old race cars blat
His sworn enemy was lurking, a fruity little bat.

But Garner preceded Mifune,
as did also Eva Marie Saint;
so Mudge relaxed and multitasked,
as the hour was getting late.

O'er this tranquil scene, the winged shadow of melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little need of Curmudgeon getting to the bat.

But his daughter let fly a shriek,
to the wonderment of all.
And the bat, the much despised,
had broken cover in the hall.

And up the stairs Curmudgeon came,
under his breath he was a-b1tchin',
he found a furry flying mammal
strafing in his kitchen.

Then from the female throats and Mudge's too there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

it pounded through on the mountain
and recoiled upon the flat;
for Curmudgeon, mighty Curmudgeon,
was advancing to the bat.

There was meaning in Mudge's manner as his eyes surveyed the place,
there was menace in Mudge's bearing and a grimace lit his face.

And responding to the screams,
he gave the girls a pat,
but his gaze transfixed,
there was no doubt t'was Mudge against the bat.

Six eyes were upon him as he rolled up that day's paper
His waving it towards the patio door began a little later.

Then, remembering the fishing net he bought, now stored in his garage,
defiance flashed in Mudge's eye, as he would now the bat dislodge.

And when he returned with tool in hand, his foe perched in the air,
and Curmudgeon stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

"Have at you," Mudge shouted, swinging, "You filthy airborne rat!"
"I'm not a rodent," came the disdainful reply, "I'm clearly more than that!"

"Strike one!" the bat added, dodging deftly.
From the kitchen, up went a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.

"Kill him! Kill the bat!" the shouts came, as if from a far off land,
and they might have grabbed a gun to shoot him had not Curmudgeon raised his hand.

With a smile of Jack Nicholson intensity, great Mudge's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the chase go on.

He girded his loins, then waved his net, and once more the dun chiroptera flew, but Mudge again whiffed with his net at it, and the bat taunted, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened women, and the bat echo-answered "Fraud!"
But one furious glare from our man Mudge and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Curmudgeon wouldn't let that bat go by again.

The sneer has fled from Mudge's lip,
his teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence,
his net upon the plate.

And suddenly the bat flees the curtain rod, to freedom he tries to go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Mudge's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this mixed-up land sunrise is warm and bright.
Gordon Lightfoot is playing "Wreck" somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.

And, somewhere Boodlers are laughing, and little children shout,

but there is no joy in Mudgeville --
mighty Mudge has batted out.

Our hero left his netted quarry on the patio table that night,
to its own devices,
All that remained by dawn's first light,
A note:
"Net: $10. Beating Mudge: Priceless."

Lest I leave this last line alone,
with rhyme that's rather tatty,
Mudge hasn't been the same since that night,
I think he's done gone batty.


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It was once again freakishly cold. Ok, not freakishly, we have this regularly cold stuff, but on the way in this monring, the truck read -33C till we hit the city where the microclimate holds things just a little warmer, at -30.

Posted by: dr | November 29, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Uh, Hal, you there? Liz? Anybody from the copy desk? There's a small headline on the WaPo home page under News Columns and Blogs that says "Holiday Challenge Video Blog: Melanie Miller's Frig."

Yes, Frig. It is supposed to refer to Ms. Mller's refrigerator. I think I would have spelled it Fridge.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

dr, a little levity to warm you up, my pick for your 2007 Calendar, fresh from Sask. Nudity and potholes - interesting concept for a calendar.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse


Wonderful work!!! *LOL*

'Mudge, I'd seen the same thing. I'm sure they're just trying to increase their page views.


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I am sooooooooo verklempt!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Forgot to add: *standing ovation*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

When looking for historical guidance regarding Iraq, I continue to be surprised that the so-called Reconstruction period following the American Civil War is not examined.

The parallels are rich and extensive. Total war involving civilians and their property (even more so than in Iraq). Collapse of monetary, transportation, and agricultural systems. Military occupation. Federally appointed governors and commissioners closely overseen by military occupiers. Decades of hunger and disease. Power shift from a demographic minority to an uneducated majority. Vindictive taxation. Denial of any return of states to a union until new constitutions approved by the military are passed by each. A century long distortion in political party alignments all directly tied back to a severe and tyrannical occupation. It goes on.

We don't need to look to forecasts based on guesswork to figure it out. History details the implications of alienating use of force quite well.

Posted by: On the plantation | November 29, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

bc, Bravo! You're truly a Man of Letters!

Posted by: CowTown | November 29, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

It's well worth the wait bc. Bravo!

Posted by: ShriekingDog | November 29, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned the recent exchange between our Senator-elect James Webb and President Bush. It's so refreshing to see someone stick to his campaign guns, so to speak, and not fawn all over the president he so harshly criticized.

It helps that he served as Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, of all people. He's not dazzled by the White House flash.

This is from the Post this morning...

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Webb was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate this month with a brash, unpolished style that helped win over independent voters in Virginia and earned him support from national party leaders. Now, his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are getting a close-up view of the former boxer, military officer and Republican who is joining their ranks.


By the way, I heard the other day that when Webb takes office he'll be the only person in the Senate with a family member serving in Iraq.

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, folks.
I'm a sucker for epic heroic poetry.
And Mudge is a hero to me, anyway.

Plus, he's dead sexy when he's all oiled up and wearing his chain mail battle Speedo.

Hmm. Judging by the on-topic commentary, I 'spect that some blogger somewhere has linked to Joel's Kit.


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

A rousing round of applause, a standing ovation and even a wave (everyone standup and sit down in sequence starting NOW) in honour of bc. A tour de force, good sir.

Posted by: dr | November 29, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Someone I was talking to this morning raised an interesting question about Iraq. Pretend, for a moment, that there were no US troops in Iraq, yet it seemed obvious that the country was quickly degenerating into a civil war. What would be an appropriate resonse? Should we let them fight it out, or should we send "peacekeepers?"

The point is, much like thinking about cashing out an investment that has gone down in value, we need to think about the situation as it exists right now, and not get too hung up on how we got there.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Today, Tom Friedman at the NYT answers bc's question from yesterday about how the Iraqis will fare 20 years after war's end versus how the Japanes and Germans fared 20 years after WWII. As you may surmise, it is apples and oranges:

In his must-read new book about the impact of culture on politics and economic development, "The Central Liberal Truth," Lawrence Harrison notes that some cultures are "progress-prone" and others are "progress- resistant." In the Arab-Muslim world today the progress-resistant cultural forces seem to be just too strong, especially in Iraq, which is why it is so hard to establish durable democratic institutions in that soil, he says.

"Some may hark back to our successful imposition of democracy on West Germany and Japan after World War II," adds Mr. Harrison. "But the people on whom democracy was imposed in those two countries were highly literate and entrepreneurial members of unified, institutionalized societies with strong traditions of association -- what we refer to today as 'social capital.' Iraq was social capital-poor to start with and it now verges on bankruptcy."

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

bc - very witty. Sure to be on the greatest hits album.

A frig video and naked pothole people at the same time? Shocked. Shocked I am.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Padouk writes:
"...we need to think about the situation as it exists right now, and not get too hung up on how we got there."

Padouk, I couldn't disagree with you more strongly about this statement you made moments ago. (I did misinterpret your remark about the Reconstruction South yesterday, my fault for Boodleskimming too rapidly). But if you read Ricks and Wright today, the ending paragraph, below--since our newest strategy is to blame the Iraqis for the mess--is telling, and would certainly reenforce all the points made about our incompetence in Ricks' book "Fiasco"--and counters your point of view:

Blaming Iraqis for the woeful situation disregards recent history, some experts argue. Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert and adviser to the Iraq Study Group, calculates that because of policy missteps and other errors, the United States bears about 60 percent of the blame. "You can't say, 'We did this and the Iraqis didn't rise to the occasion,' " she said. "There's enough blame to go around."

Padouk, perhaps you don't have anyone really close to you who's got a child who's been in Iraq for several tours? I think we definitely need to remember--over and over and over--how we got there.

Interesting news bits from Ricks: It was the Saudis who summoned Dick Cheney on his current trip to Saudi Arabia. If you heard Ricks during a television interview yesterday, he says a strategy being bandied about is for U.S. forces to throw their muscle behind al Sadr, leaving the Sunnis to fend for themselves. Was that our goal going in, to support a Shia-Iranian theocracy for Iraq? And are we to wholly abandon al Anbar province because we're currently getting our fannies whupped?

The thrust of Friedman's op-ed is that we either get out in 10 months or spend the next 10 years and billions of dollars rebuilding Iraq from the ground up. Dowd writes about the likelihood we may ditch the latest puppet administrator, al Maliki, based on Hadley's very recent assessment (that reporting at the top of the NYT's website this morning.


Mr. Hadley bluntly mused about Mr. Malaki: "His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shi'a hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

It's bad enough to say that about the Iraqi puppet. But what about when the same is true of the American president?

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I am pleased to see decency has returned to the WaPo home page. Sally Squires must be very relieved.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Loomis - again I entreat you to read what I wrote and not what you think I meant.

I took no position, but just presented a way of thinking about Iraq that, I assert, is useful.

Indeed, if anything could be inferred from this little thought experiment it is that just as it is foolish to throw bad money after good in a failed investment, it is foolish to sacrifice more lives because of lifes already spent - which is, I believe, a position you would probably agree with.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I suggest that Gingrich and all the other would-be-masters-of-the-universe read Washington's Farewell Address and take it to heart.

Posted by: Paul | November 29, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I have been on that highway, and it is awful. The potholes are there. You may have solved a gift conundrum for me though and the money will go to a good couase.

Posted by: dr | November 29, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Loomis - I also enthusiastically agree with your point that how "we got there" is something than must be carefully and mercilessly examined, I just don't think that process helps us to much in determining where we go next in Iraq. The value of such analysis is to make sure that this fiasco never happens again.

And yes I do know people who have children who serve in Iraq. Including some whose children are now dead.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

bc, that was fantastic! Bravo!

RDP, I was all excited when I saw that there were going to be entreats on the Achenblog, but it turns out they're not what I thought.

SD, have you hiked the West Coast Trail?

Posted by: SonofCarl | November 29, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Washington's Farewell Address:

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Sorry, Padouk, I'm just too much of a realist to engage in thought exercises that begin with the word "pretend...".

"Pretend, for a moment, that there were no US troops in Iraq, yet it seemed obvious that the country was quickly degenerating into a civil war."

The same could probably be said for warring tribal factions in Darfur.

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Your words to their ears, Paul.

However, GW's clear intent was to retire from public life after imparting what he thought he'd learned as President and Commander in Chief.

Newt and the would-be-masters-of-the-universe need to remain in the public eye so's they can get paid.


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"On the plantation" -- let me see if I understand you properly. You seem to be saying that the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War was not merely handled poorly, but was a flawed concept from inception -- that even the notion of a Reconstruction directed by the victorious Union is inherently bad. Are you saying that the Union should have completed its devastation of the South, then abandoned them to figure out how to rebuild themselves on their own? Or are you saying that the War itself was a bad idea, secession was okay, the North should have simply acknowledged slavery as a cultural quirk of the new nation to its South, and gotten along as two nations, which might have further subdivided in the future? You see this as a better option? Just a guess here, and possibly off-topic, but I'm inclined to guess that you aren't black. Somehow, it seems like that might influence your opinions. Mere identity-politics, I suppose.

Ann -- you express a lot of rage and frustration. I can't identify what you think we should do, however. In some parts of your posting, it appears that you think we have a moral duty to intervene in places that you care about so much that you don't have time to waste finding out how to spell the name properly (Darfur). In other parts, it appears that you feel we should take our war-mongering selves out of Iraq and let the peace-loving people of Iraq find their own path to a life of peace and happiness. That is, the peace-loving survivors should find that path, after they have slaughtered the radically-different ethnic group(s) that we outsiders cannot distinguish from each other because their doctrinal differnces are so tiny on an absolute scale. Those are the folks from whom we have taken the chains and given the freedom to release their insane hatreds. But it's not our fault. Or is it? I really can't identify your opinion, I can only tell that you're angry about Iraq.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 29, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

On the Plantation claims to be surprised that parallels to the American Reconstruction period aren't invoked to compare to Iraq; OTP finds these comparisons to be "rich and extensive." I find them to be "dirt poor" and virtually non-existent. OTP cites:

"Total war involving civilians and their property (even more so than in Iraq)." "Total war involving civilians" during the American Civil War? Have you never read a book on the subject? Do you have any clue what "total war" means, even in the context of that era? "Total war against civilians" means basically massive killing of the civilian population as a matter of strategy and policy. There was not even any such remote thing during our Civil War. The closest you can come is economic blockade (which is NOT "total war") and Sherman's March to the Sea, which was but one single campaign late in the war--and even then there was no mass warfare and killing of civilians. As civil wars go, the American Civil War was about as civil as you can get. Great care was taken NOT to attack/disrupt/terrorize the enemy civilian population as a matter of policy, knowing (i.e., believing) that after the war there would be reconciliation.

And we are not engaged in "total war" against civilians in Iraq, either, by a long shot. Do you see any massive aerial bombing of cities? And shelling? Any rocket attacks? Massed armour? Do you see any uniformed enemy in conventional TOE ranks and structures? This is pure hand-to-hand counter-insurgency and guerilla warfare, the so-called "asymmetric 4th generation" warfare, but NOT "total war." (That our policy is stupid, counter-productive, and failing, is irrelevant to this particular argument.)

"Collapse of monetary, transportation, and agricultural systems." What freaking collapse of the monetary system in 1865-75 are you talking about? There was no collapse. How did the transportation system collapse? It didn't. Agriculture, yes, for a while, was disrupted, but it was restored as quickly as possible.

"Military occupation." Yes, but the so-called "military occupation" of the South was so different and so benign compared to this occupation that the comparison is beyond useless; it is a mockery of the term. Among other things, in the South, the military "occupied" that which it formerly "owned": it's own country. And there was virtually zero counter-insurgency then.

"Federally appointed governors and commissioners closely overseen by military occupiers." Oh, we're closely overseeing the Iraqi government, are we? Well, Brownie, we must be doing a heckuva job at it. How long were those federally appointed governors in the South running things? You already know the answer: not very long.

"Decades of hunger and disease." Decades? In the South? What book are you reading? And how does three years in Iraq constitute a parallel to "decades"? (Though I think it will in fact turn out to be decades in Iraq, but it never was in the South, at least not as a consequence of loosing the Civil War.)

"Power shift from a demographic minority to an uneducated majority." Uh, yes. Was this a bad thing in the American South? I thought it was supposed to be a good thing. Seems to have turned out OK, didn't it? By "uneducated majority" in the American South, one assumes you mean the ordinary (white) working Americans, right? (Becasue the former slaves were still disenfranchised for quite a long time--a century or so, anyway.) Whereas it was a disasterous thing to do in Iraq, viz. Bremer disbanding the army and Baath party, etc.

"Vindictive taxation." In Iraq? Yeah, that pops up in the news all the time. Good call. Those darn taxation policies--I'm so tired of hearing about them.

"Denial of any return of states to a union until new constitutions approved by the military are passed by each." And this was so horrible in the South because...?

"A century long distortion in political party alignments all directly tied back to a severe and tyrannical occupation." A severe and tyrannical occupation? Of the American South? A century-long "distortion" of political party alignment? Oh, yeah, now THAT was a really bad, really noticeable thing about Reconstruction. Shame on us.

"It goes on." Gee, I hope not. And I hope you weren't one of Newt Gingrich's seminar students.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer, Did you really read or hear about that animal dumping incident, and why PETA members were charged with CRUELTY to animals? Do your homework. I know those sites are biased.

I have very good arguments against animal rights advocacy. Most people actually working in the animal rescue movements, animal trainers, etc. believe in animal welfare.
They're the one actually risking their lives daily working with dangerous animals.

I'm very sorry you're upset. I have a relative who was involved with PETA thinking they were doing the right thing.

The matter of fact, I lived with vegetarians, I was vegetarian myself. I went to India-- the land of ahisma and all, and I saw far more animal abuse everywhere.

My friend told me the minute I got off plane that he had managed to get charges pressed against a neighbor for kicking a stray dog (pariah dog) puppy for wetting on his lawn.

I saw a schoolboy running home and smacking a foal in his face while nursing from his mama. I saw beggars beating their children in public. I saw a lot of hurt and sick stray dogs, a monkey that had survived an attack from a leopard and was highly adrenaline-charged and dangerous (silver monkeys can and will attack people) prowling among people.

I saw pigs living in families, rooting among garbage, dead camels, horses working who looked like they shouldn't be working at all-- so thin and roachbacked.

I saw interaction between different animals. It was hard to take. But that is reality. When people struggle to make a living, so do animals.

The stray dog problem in India is considerable enough that anybody getting bitten often has to undergo rabies shot. On the bright side, the stray cat problem is nil.

I'm of the opinion that the effort to wipe out the stray dog and cat problem will have the end result encouraging urban wildlife. No dogs wandering loose at night or at all?
Watch the coyote come in the city. Don't expect the coyote to be as nice as a dog. Watch mountain lion attacks occur in the suburbs, and so on. And watch the rat problem be chronic. Nature abhors a vacuum, and there is NO way that cities, full of garbage and food, will go unexploited.

Heck, sugar cane fields in India attract tigers because they're good hunting spots.

Now, when I see people advocating wholesale slaughter of all stray dogs and cats, I find myself hoping they get et by a mountain lion.

As for vegetarianism, there are humans that can't go vegetarian at all. They should have the option not to.

I grew up next to a hunter and fisherman. He and his wife instilled a great love of nature in his children and me as well. It is not a paradox to love nature and like hunting. I think hunters spend far more time in nature than most of those animal right advocacists.

The best argument of course, is that humans cannot render themselves powerless to deal with threats to their ecosystems and survival by hamstringing themselves with "animal right laws" that cannot possibly be followed logically.

You keep a snake, you take care of it. The snake eats mice. So you get arrested for cruelty to mice, or you get arrested for starving your snake. What's your solution?
Anybody would just free the snake so you're not liable-- and the snake then promptly dwells inside yor apt building and grows big and bigger and then tries to eat a dog, a cat, or a child.

You see, you are actually punishing charity to animals by making any person who wishes to help or take care of animals even more liable by law than they already are-- and the laws in place are stronger than you'd think.

That's my argument against animal rights. It's not really in the best interest of society nor the animals themselves.

I'm of course all for better treatment of animals. I don't believe in terrorism. I worked in medical research, and I tell you, the security on research animals are far tighter than on most banks.

Two guesses why. This drives up the cost of medical research.

I've heard the arguments against animal research, and you know, what they offer as a substitute just doesn't work.

I would like to minimize unnecessary animal research but most biologists go through lot of paperwork as it is to comply by research ethics guidelines. It's much stronger oversight on the process than almost anything a human gets to do to another human (and that includes child protection services).

They have to comply by USDA standards-- which are insufficient, I admit. (I buy cagefree eggs, just because I saw what USDA-legal cages do to chicken feet).

Anyway, don't assume the other side has a good argument. It's just not noble. It's practical.
We are here, we are a part of nature. To deny this, is to deny our own humanity.

To tell a family of 4 they can't hunt for food to survive a winter in a rural area where the parents are out of work or earning minimum wage can be cruel.

Animal rights takes a great toll on those who are trying to survive, and I do not believe the ends justify the means here.

You can choose to disagree with me, that's fine. I do love animals, but I'll stick with what I can do, rather than telling others what to do and think.

I invite you to read about animal collectors-- those nutty ladies who wind up with 100 cats in a house and they've run out of money to take care of cats and so on.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

To my great chagrin I never did the West Coast trail. For a few years I travelled to Esquimalt, Nanoose Bay or Port Stanley quite often for my job. I stole a few hours or a day here and there to visit around the Island. I badly need to take a proper vacation on the West Coast. Watching three-foot long steelhead trouts patrolling the cristal-clear small inlets in search of prey is something that will stay with me forever.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 29, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

No one cares about what they learn through history or just old regular living. If that situation existed, the one I speak of in the above sentence, would we be in Iraq at all?

I certainly believe that we should remember how we got in Iraq, and say it loud and clear, and every chance we get, whether the subject comes up or not. Call it exactly what it is, a bloody mess, and call names.

Posted by: Cassandra S | November 29, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree Cassandra.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, Cassandra.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, I think you are misinterpreting RDP's posting. He is not saying, I believe, that there should not be an assessment of what we did to make things the way they are. He is not saying we should "pretend" we had nothing to do with it. Those things need to be assessed -- it is important to understand our responsibilities, and it is important to understand the lessons of those strategies that led us to failure.

He is saying that the formulation of a new strategy needs to be based on the situation as it is presented to us at this moment. We need to assess the range of possible outcomes from the present situation, identify the possible outcome that is best (or at least, "least bad"), and follow the course that will get us (and Iraq) to that outcome. That outcome may not be what we truly want, it may not constitute a moral justification for this war, it may not expiate our guilt or responsibility for our hand in creating the current situation -- but it is the best we can expect to achieve, and so we should work to achieve it (whatever it is), because all the other options lead to outcomes that are worse.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 29, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

YES, we should all remember how we got there and tell it over and over and make sure we don't repeat the mistake.

But I don't think the fact of how we got there will help us now get out.

We're there. It's awful. It was machismo and stupidity that got us there. But it's going to take skillful brilliance to get us out.

We've got to remember the stupidity in order to find and elect the brilliance. That's what is important and what we must remember.

Am I rambling? Sorry....

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

No worse than I was just now in the Post that Shall Never End.

Maybe we should get off topic. Anybody catch Doonesbury lately?

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I think that word "pretend" caused the confusion. Perhaps I should have just said, "Let me postulate the following Gedankenexperiment."

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 29, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Oooh, let's have a pretend Boston Tea Party!

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather pretend Joel has written a new kit.. about how Weingarten was just kidding when he said no more chats 'til April.

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The books on Reconstruction that I've read are
-Eric Foner. 1988. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
-Allen W. Trelease, Allen W., White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction. I think the original edition was University of North Carolina Press, 1971. Reprint by Lousisana State University Press.

Trelease's version of Reconstruction was, in a word, terrorist. Foner's was just as nasty. Basically, southern white successors to the seccessionists regained power through killing, intimidation and a bit of insurrection.

Southern poverty didn't begin with the war (poverty in North Carolina was a concern to the British authorities before the Revolution), but it may have worsened. In the 1920s, pellagra was widespread, as it also was among peasants in places like Italy and Romania. You get the disease by eating hardly anything but corn.

Sherman's troops treated Georgia fairly well--railroads were torn up, but even in Atlanta, the nicer parts of town were left standing. Savannah surrendered peacefully. South Carolina got the treatment.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | November 29, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

TBG, that kit could be called "Looking for The Good Humor Man."

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Sky report today is at least better than yesterday. Still dreary but the sun is trying to escape from it's cover. Sometimes I can see the round outline through the overcast. Temps aren't too bad today, 50's. Having seen the snow pictures from Vancouver, we here have nothing to complain about.

bc, great job on bat vs. Mudge. As I am still unemployed, although now looking, I am trying to finish my Christmas shopping. I've got one friend who is very difficult to buy for, everyone else is pretty much done.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | November 29, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Oh, you don't have to get me anything, Bad Sneaks, really.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, *clapping loudly* on animal welfare vs animal rights
The religion-like attitude of the animal rights activists makes me uncomfortable.
When it comes to actually improve the fate of a species it looks to me that organizations largely made out of hunters like Ducks Unlimited or fishermen like Trout Unlimited do a lot more than the PETA-type of organizations. And lobster makes a mighty meal.

Tune cootie central. The Achenchoir was certainly waiting for this Abba news with trepidation. Two grafs from the Times, Nov 29

Abba fans who already own all of the group's CDs and DVDs and have seen Mamma Mia! numerous times, but who still want to affirm their devotion to the Swedish superstars, will soon have a museum in Stockholm to visit.
The museum is expected to attract half a million visitors a year when it opens in 2008. "This is what Stockholmers have been missing," said Kristina Axen Olin, the city's Mayor.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 29, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Profound words from Desmond Tutu today.

Posted by: dmd | November 29, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey, anybody in the DC area looking for a job? I've got two contractor positions (most likely will wind up on my "team," though I'm not the "supervisor" of these jobs), one as a Web developer, the other as a PAO-type writer position. Very good pay, good bennnies, and you don't have to call me "Sir" or anything!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I see that it has been changed to "Miller's Refrigerator." My work here is done.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

David Ignatius's blog item makes me wonder whether Moqtada al-Sadr could have been provoked by Newsweek's demonic cover photo of him?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | November 29, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

New kit.

I may add some stuff to it in a bit.

bc, that was boffo!

Posted by: Achenbach | November 29, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

If I knew what a PAO-type writer was I'd apply, Mudge. (I assume actual knowledge is helpful?)
You know where to e-mail me.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, your 11:19 post took a good bit of your energy and attention to impute and to project my individual interpretations rearding a series of actual historical events. You pretty much missed on each attempt.

What I thought to evoke was a historical memory of those events (i.e. the Reconstruction era in the American South) as having parallels in Iraq, and being causative of very broad and long-term consequences which can provide a perspective on the future of Iraq and its people.

I made no interpretations, as fanciful as your response was in projecting a multitude, except for the simple one that was implied: There is a pattern and a better perspective to be recognized through examination of our domestic history.

But I'll toss in a second one for your pleasure, because you put such effort into your post. There are lessons in terms of management to learn from longitudinal study of military and political use of force on a large scale with the goal (of what is referred to today) as nation building. There aren't a whole lot of cases to look at, displaying how dictates, policies, and differing culture of an occupying power affect the future of the submitting people for decades and decades. This is a supreme one. If your emotions don't allow you to see the case as anything beyond a sounding board for your fixed and false presumptions, then that's your intellectual loss. But I would venture a guess that it gets studied at our nation's military academies.

Posted by: On the plantation | November 29, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Dave of the Coonties, your 11:43 post cites two key outcomes following reconstruction: White terror as a political reaction (often related to disenfranchisement of confederate veterans), and disease as a result of poverty amplified by destruction of infrastructure. Official corruption was also a big new feature in the reconstruction culture. [I actually own a 1871 state bond signed by Rufus Bullock, the New York transplant who became the Repulican governor of Georgia -- a bond that immediately defaulted as it was never authorized by legislature, while the proceeds were pocketed by governor and cronies, including Hannibal Kimball, another carpetbagger who later became accepted by polite society.] I would suggest these outcomes have their clear parallels in Iraq.

With respect to white terror, sometimes I think we conflate the political power battles of the 1870s with the more pure expressions of racial hatred during 1910-30s. I believe a well managed reconstruction in the decade following the war would have averted much of the institutionalized racism implemented in the 20th century. It is with this sort of caution that I think about any partition plan for Iraq.

I have always preferred to look first at original source documents to understand the period. Correspondence, business records, tax invoices, travel receipts, appointments, business failures, loan notes, newspapers, public notices, land surveys, etc., to gain a feel for the times. Up to about fifteen years ago, the diligent amateur seeker could find a wealth of this type of evidence.

One publication from the federal government circa 1938 (I since gave the document to a writer as research for their work, so don't have it any longer to give you the exact title) was a commission report to FDR on the conditions and cause of poverty in the South. The statistics were astonishing in terms of malnutrition, rickets, TB, VD, and accidental injury. The legacy of a harsh occupation had its effects on all segments of the population up to that day. Many parts of the American South were a third-world nation well into the 1950s.

The more unexpected and interesting factoid I stumbled upon, and confirmed by visting and speaking with subsequent generations, was the establishment of a significant enclave of Freed Black citizens in west central Georgia, specifically in Heard County. The few descendents I have met (a few still retaining their land) had a special presence that stood out to me. They had a stand tall, look you in the eyes, confident and non-defensive sense of self respect that was striking. Apparently, these freed persons (i.e. emancipated individually before the beginning of the Civil War, and migrating to lands recently vacated by Creek and Cherokee natives) were successful farmers and woodsmen pretty well insulated from the troubles of the war.

There's no substitute for original documents to get a feel for a previous age. Official history is only a piece of the story. I think the history of our reconstruction period suggests that attitudes in Iraq that are now being formed will be a powerful conscious force for a hundred years hence, and so we must take great care to be wise. Perhaps the basic human decency of our troops there will be the finest legacy we can leave for the good citizens of Iraq. At this point, I don't think our official actions are going to be a favorable memory for most Iraqis, however well intended our deciders may be.

Posted by: On the plantation | November 29, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Having gone to public school in the era 1950-62, which were pretty optimistic times, the South was always clearly the poorest part of the country, often the butt of a jokes. And we also learned that there was a Civil War (good and bad tactics, industrial production, drunken generals, Gettysburg address, railways, etc.) and a Reconstruction, and there had been a KKK, but never that those had any causal relationship to the state of the South at that time. The difference between North and South seemed to be accepted as just the natural state of nature. (I hardly every saw a black person until I was in my teens.)

Posted by: LTL-CA | November 29, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

PS -- I lived in West LA at the time.

Posted by: LTL-CA | November 29, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

PPS -- In those days "ethnic" meant driving across town to find the Greek restaurant, or that a Hungarian and German soccer team were playing and weren't those Germans great to have risen from the ashes like that and make Volkswagens while the spectators were all aware the referee was a Hungarian Jew so how could he possibly be impartial. How simple we were.

Posted by: LTL-CA | November 29, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

LTL_CA, your post at 10:39 PM is interesting in that it is so typically true of the 1950s, and even a decade or more beyond.

In that war there was a winner and a loser, and the winner did their best utilizing a variety of divisive strategies to keep the defeated under heel for a century. It was only when the relatively peaceful civil-rights revolution threw off the yoke of regional oppression that some equitable equilibrium was established.

In today's regional divisions within our nation, I am surprised that your homestate California (where I lived for several years) and others west of the Mississippi haven't used their ascendency to take more political control at the federal level. President Reagan was a cornerstone, and maybe Speaker Pelosi from the opposite camp will be equally impressive. Personally, it would suit me fine if the federal capitol uprooted and moved to Denver. After all, some places, perhaps like Iraq, just cannot be fixed.

Posted by: On the plantation | November 30, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

How is Bill Gray today? The season is over and he was right! Fewer hurricanes than last year!!

Posted by: AGRES | November 30, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

On the Plantation,
If I remember Trelease correctly, Athens, Georgia was a destination for many black refugees from violence in the surroundings. Foner is of course very sympathetic with the radical Republicans.

I don't know that the South's gross poverty had much to do with the Civil War. The plantation areas had been prosperous only for elites. When North Carolina was nearly as poor as Mississippi (circa 1960), there were pockets of relative affluence. Morganton was a distinctly lovely town, and Charlotte and Winston-Salem seem to have done reasonably well with tobacco, textiles, and industries relocated from the North to take advantage of cheap labor. A few years later, NC discovered economic growth with the help of governor Terry Sanford and his development chief, Skipper Bowles (father of Erskine, who's now president of the entire state university system). Statewide banking led to intense competition between North Carolina National Bank (now Bank of America) and Wachovia. They even had ATMs and encouraged impoverished grad students to have credit cards. For a while, NC was importing college grads to its cities while still exporting young adults from no-growth rural areas.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | November 30, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Dave of the Coonties,

Athens is east of Atlanta, and was swept up in Sherman's march to Savannah. As a town, I don't think it amounted to much to begin with at that time. The bigger venue on Sherman's route was Milledgeville, actually the capitol of Georgia at the time plus the site of a military academy, so it was really targeted. Atlanta was a railroad terminus, and was reportedly only chosen over Macon as the replacement capitol by the victorious Union during the reconstruction because it was better endowed with bars and cat houses.

The Freed Blacks I referenced were not fleeing refugee blacks, rather I was referring to a completely different class of folks, fully emanicipated Blacks, each having a document so certifying, and usually having attained that status by luck or merit or buying themselves out before the outbreak of the civil war. These are the folks who independently formed their enclaves on settled land and were not particularly the displaced refugees. Freedom from Lincoln for the other former slaves could not have amounted to much in practical terms as their options were very narrow. They gained mobility and (for a short time) a form of vote which was heavily corrupted by the system of martial-law governance, while they lost stable employment as, in effect, their former masters were bankrupted, held in detention, disenfranchised, and heavily taxed on any assets they had remaining as reparation for the war. This opened up the whole agricultural system to the dismal sharecropping arrangement, which was barely better than slavery, but was totally unprejudiced in its exploitation in that it would subsume both whites and blacks of little means beyond their capacity to labor.

The whole Winston-Salem prosperity thing was long after the war. Reynolds innovated the factory-made pre-rolled cigarette. I spent quite a good while in W-S during the 1990s, and endlessly insulted folks by telling them that Winston-Salem was the city that exported more death than Baghdad. (The estimated annual number of premature deaths due to their product was 250,000 -- about the population of the city today.) Please don't get me going about NC culture because I'm presently trying to digest my supper.

Posted by: On the plantation | November 30, 2006 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Give you the big amount gold for free!The activity starts now!Experience it together now!

Posted by: power | December 7, 2006 3:40 AM | Report abuse

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