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My Afghanistan Advice

I'm here to help the president figure out this Afghanistan thing. Unburdened by knowledge of the facts, I feel uniquely free to offer creative advice. The first thought that comes to mind is that Obama should remember the famous words of Woody Allen:

More than at any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

It's that kind of situation. Not a lot of good options. But in weighing the advice from his generals, senior policy advisers, senior political advisers, congresspersons, pundits, and such foreign policy luminaries as Henry Kissinger, George Kennan, Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk -- some of them teleconferencing from beyond the grave -- Obama should heed one piece of advice above all: Trust no one.

I don't mean he should ignore advice. He should just remember that even the best and brightest sometimes get it catastrophically wrong. The consensus can be just as wrong as the fringe opinion. It's the dangdest thing, but even experts laden with medals and credentials and awards and international acclaim have been flat-out wrong, repeatedly, when it comes to wartime counsel.

This is not because they're dumb, or evil, or warmongering, necessarily. It's because of what you might call the universal law of human civilization, which is that things rarely go as planned. Battle plans don't survive contact with the enemy. Pretty much any policy will incite unintended consequences. This is particularly true when so much of the success of a strategy depends on the behavior of people beyond our control -- not just the enemy, but also our Afghan partners.

New strategies have one advantage over old strategies: The new ones haven't had a chance to show their flaws. They're perfect on PowerPoint.

Obama is in a tough spot (ya think?). Any strategic path he chooses will inspire spittle-spewing criticism from armchair generals who have never supervised anything more complicated than a Moveable Type account. They will question his basic character and moral fiber and call him a [choose one: warmonger, appeaser]. The one thing he can't do is worry about the short-term political ramifications of his decision. Don't even let the folks from the political shop into the room. If Obama forthrightly explains to the public what he's doing and why he's doing it, the public will be supportive in the main (look for an uptick in his popularity immediately after his decision).

The most important thing is that he gives American soldiers a battle plan that will plausibly work (and won't leave them in remote outposts getting overrun by the Taliban). The battle plan should be in service of a political objective that is worth the sacrifice in blood and treasure.


Great moments in truthiness: FCC will try to enforce a rule prohibiting bloggers from hyping products and services that companies have paid them to hype. I guess I'm not so naive as to be shocked that this has been going on. But I've probably been a gullible reader countless times, swallowing the rave review without pausing to think that it's just a paid advertisement in effect.


Michiko Kakutani reviews David Finkel's great book "The Good Soldiers."

Kakutani: 'Like Michael Herr's "Dispatches" and Tim O'Brien's "Things They Carried," this is a book that captures the surreal horror of war....'

What'd I tell you.

I'm not a neutral party on this book, seeing as how I work one cave over from David. But keep in mind that every single person in this building writes books -- seems like -- and I don't make a fuss over 99 percent of them. I'm hyping this one because it is extraordinary and is going to last.

Here's another great review from Daily Kos. I'd quote the last line, but don't want to jinx him.

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 6, 2009; 8:40 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Two Guys With Much in Common
Next: Asteroid of Doom


First again????

Holy Sacred Cow!

Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I recall something Dick Cavett once said (and he must be my all-time favorite talk show guy) in regard to an interview he had. IIRC (and I'm not sure that I do), there was some guy on his show talking about the military -- and this might have been during the Vietnam War period -- early 70s maybe? The guy was talking about these military people with all the lettuce on the fronts of their uniform (i.e., ribbons and stripes and stars and whatever it is that are attached in some form or another), and he said (and I'm paraphrasing here): "That's really cool . . . . if you're 12."

Well, okay, it was funnier when he said it, but it stuck with me. I've known a few military types with lettuce on their uniforms, and they always struck me as being pretty constipated in their view of the world that exists outside the confines (a word picked deliberately) of the military.

In regard to Afghanistan, my view is that if the women and girls are protected, then the rest will be what it will be. If the Taliban take over, women and girls are toast. Not that they aren't anyway, alas.


Your work is cut out for you, Joel.

Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

And one more thing: Only the president is in charge of all the crises, foreign and domestic, present and future. Some of the people offering him advice will have a more limited frame of reference.

Posted by: joelache | October 6, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Nobody has ever given me anything for being a blogger, so I'm in the clear.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 6, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"Only the president is in charge of all the crises, foreign and domestic, present and future. Some of the people offering him advice will have a more limited frame of reference."

All due respect to the boodler-in-chief, I take some issue?, umbrage? with that statement. How often have we seen the president (this one and all previous) undertake some politically expedient, or even cynical, action strictly because it was the easy course. I would suggest that one of the biggest problems with America, generally, and the President, specifically, is the reluctance to take an unpopular stand in the long term interest of the country in the face of overwhelming political pressure/criticism. Many of the people offering advice will have a much longer time frame than the 2010 mid-term election.

In this particular instance, I am much more inclined to believe that McChrystal has the better understanding of the tactical and strategic decisions necessary to "win" in Afghanistan. That said, it is certainly up to the President to decide, notwithstanding his campaign position, that we don't want or need to "win" there, and a "draw" may be acceptable.

Posted by: Awal | October 6, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Just to be clear, I said "the president" in that comment as a reference to the office, not to Obama specifically.

It's interesting that you bring up political expediency -- I've been thinking for a while that one problem we have in DC is a general unwillingness of anyone to advocate any position that might involve pain off any kind. It's like political death if you utter the words sacrifice, for example.

Posted by: joelache | October 6, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

awal, I am confused. What is it that we are trying to "win?"

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Joel, along those lines, there is a basic disrespect for the national position and the executive with regards to Congressmen meeting with the Honduran junta and also bad mouthing the White House in China.

I didn't realize that Jane Fonda was a Republican role model.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

So, Obama must be acting under Article Two, Section Two? I guess Article I, Section Eight, Clause 11 has gone the way of the dinosaur, since the clause has been gthering dust since WWII.

I'm reminded of an e-mail exchange with the historian (could be former by now) at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His take (and I agreed wholeheartedly and was of the exact same opinion) is that our military/top brass/president take the "white-guy (Obama is half-white, granted), Father Knows Best" approach regarding foreign entanglements, foreign broad enough to include our past Indian wars. In short: We tell others what is best for them--and try to enforce our wishes and our culture militarily, without ever asking their opinions or understanding their viewpoints, traditions, culture.

Pulitzer-prize winning author, journalist, and Loomis Chaffee grad Chris Hedges calls, in his most recent book of five essays, this entanglement just another imperial war.

And our strategic objective(s) is what again in Afghanistan? Or should we be fighting the Pakistanis and al Qaeda where they are physically, as well as virtually?

I'm with NYT's Bob Herbert column today--far more on my mind since I attended a going-away lunch yesterday for a fellow who was laid off last Tuesday from my husband's company, with this coming Friday his last day of work. He has two kids and a wife who isn't employed outside the home. He sat in the same area as my husband's now-small work group, but reported to a different manager. We just celebrated five weeks ago, with another lunch, the fact that he kept his job during the most recent job cuts. My husband's group of three just celebrated having been retained about six weeks ago, the same day that five employees were let go from the same job group in North Carolina. When the leases are up for buildings that Wells has around town, the folks are now being moved, relocated, and housed in buildings at the old World campus. Change for the old-timers who put in a number of years with World is hard.

Posted by: laloomis | October 6, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

"awal, I am confused. What is it that we are trying to 'win?'"


I don't know if you're being intentionally obtuse or not, but I think that's the fundamental problem. What does it mean to "win" in Afghanistan: Is it ongoing protection of women and other minorities from Taliban rule? Is it a semi-functioning democracy without Taliban intimidation and attacks? Is it a full, pluralistic, Western democracy combined with rebuilt physical infrastructure? Is it military destruction of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and warlord rule (including capture of Mullah Omar and bin Laden) combined with some or all of the preceding items.

In my mind, it is certainly the first and likely the second plus some infrastructure and some element of military defeat. Otherwise, we are almost instantly back to pre 9/11 Afghanistan, and I don't see how that's acceptable to anyone--either morally or politically.

Posted by: Awal | October 6, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Yeah. We never works with opposition groups, and shoot, the people we have working on this stuff are all space cadets who can't find these places on a map let alone have a basic understanding of the viewpoints, traditions and culture. And hey...we don't need a reason or an objective. Nope, we just wake up one day and think...hey, calendar looks kinda empty...let's go goof with Country X...we haven't screwed with them in a while. Sometimes, for giggles, we wait until there's a new regime in power in Country Y, then toss something at 'em just to see if they're on their toes.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 6, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Awal that first "win" needs to be defined. What is it we're trying to accomplish? Obama should provide that definition to Gates and McChrystal and ask them what the probability of that "win" would be at current troop strength and with McChrystal's doubling-down strategy. Assuming they give him an honest answer, it should go a long way to determining the course of action.

Posted by: Raysmom | October 6, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

SCC, obviously, work

Posted by: LostInThought | October 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse


I think you're being ironic; if so, I think there's a lot of evidence that what you write might be closer to the truth than you let on:


Posted by: Awal | October 6, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"White-guy" approach? Well, then -- I didn't realize that the President's ethnicity had anything to do with the value or effectiveness of military policy. Huh.

Personally, I can't say that I always know best, but I do know that I don't envy the President's responsibilites and fully-loaded Christmas Tree of Crises. But I haven't seen this President take any approaches that could be characterized by ethnicity. Or old TV sitcoms that propogate stereotypes.

The Dilemma do Jour - or this week's episode? - is Afghanistan (not Iraq or Health Care or the Economy, or Iran, North Korea, China, or...), and I doubt the President's children will concoct some madcap scheme gone awry involving a lemonade stand to raise funds to end the war. And that the President solves by talking to the other kids' parents, then everyone says they're sorry and shakes hands. Cue laugh track and roll credits.
The End.


Posted by: -bc- | October 6, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Awal, didn't mean to leave you hanging... work. But, I am wondering, if we weren't there to get bin Laden, originally, would we bother to go there to address the Taliban issues now?

I, too, share those concerns about women, but I am very concerned about women and children's health here in the United States.

I know that it isn't an either or proposition, but I think we owe it to our own people to take care of our health needs, as it is (clearly in my mind, but not in others) both a moral and a welfare of the nation issue.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Hi everyone!

I guess I have to formulate a spittle-free response. My avatar in a game I play is named ArmchairGeneral, I administer WordPress and Moodle accounts, much more than Moveable Type.

When I do have a response, I'll present it on some snazzy Keynote slides embedded in my blog, and I'll admit that I've received free software from Apple.

Posted by: abeac1 | October 6, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, the premise of the win would be? That we stay there? Can we even imagine being able to change the Afghan society with a military occupation?

I am not very well informed on the strategies of the Russians before us, but are we now repeating their approach?

Further are we helping or hindering the situation in Pakistan by being in Afghanistan?

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree that we need to define "win", and that isn't easy in this context. I doubt that the protection of women and minorities from the Taliban - much as I support that outcome - should qualify in and of itself as a "win", though it may be a prioritized goal.

In Afghanistan, in addition to diplomatic and political involvement, we are using military force. Military intervention may be justified by the need to remove or neutralize a threat to this country, which is contained in that country. Thus operations against Al-Qaeda are accepted as necessary. Arguably the Taliban also poses a threat to our security, by either (a) direct operations against us, or (b)so destabilizing the country as to allow and encourage terrorist groups (and use of international drug trade to finance quasi-military or other hostile operations against us); or (c) by actively encouraging or partnering with terrorists who are also working against us. These are examples; I'm sure there are more.

The key to the legitimacy of these examples is the existence of a real threat to this country. I believe a change in Afghan society which protects women and minorities from Taliban oppression is important. However, essentially, as a goal, that amounts to protection of one segment of another country's society from other people in that same society. I don't suggest that is never a legitimate goal of diplomatic and military policy. I do suggest that our policy-makers must look long and hard at any course of action which includes military intervention and has as its goal the internal change of a society which may have only incidental benefits to our country, and which does not address a direct threat to our country.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 6, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm firmly with bc on this one: my hackles went up instantly on that "white guy" remark, too.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Imom, my question to you is can you imagine a way to expect any benefits from our efforts against the Taliban to hold after we depart? The war lords are in our out depending on self-interest. I understand the (1) we are there; (2) they shoot at us; (3) we shoot back logic about the Taliban, but when we leave ...

That was my point about the Russians.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse


Seriously, Hey Mudge!

Did you get to read the neat piece in the Post about Orly Taitz?

I don't know why it just came to mind.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm not arguing with you at all, Weed. Afghanistan has historically proven to be remarkably resistant to change from any outside party, and I see no reason we should be any different.

I was trying to indicate that I don't think we have any chance at all in justifying (to them, if not to ourselves) a military intervention in Afghanistan purely to change their internal societal structure, or even their governmental structure. I think the Taliban treatment of women and minorities is immoral, unethical and shortsighted. I believe the warlord system has not, overall, served the citizens of Afghanistan well. I support diplomatic and political efforts to change these things, which I view as problems. Without more, should they justify use of military force?

Speaking of "more", I notice nobody has mentioned the potential strategic position Afghanistan may play in energy resource planning - that mythical pipeline in the general neighborhood.

I went back and found the "white guy" remark. I think it is amusing. The speaker apparently lumps the U.S. (and probably Britain and France) foreign policy as paternal and imperialistic. That must be white guy stuff, right? I'm sure no other gender, race or ethnicity has ever been imperialistic or paternal in international relations. Just ask the countries in Africa or Asia (especially Japan's pre-WWII neighbors).

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 6, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The White Man's Burden

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

more here:

Posted by: yellojkt | October 6, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I thought about reading it, Weed, when I saw it first thing this morning, but decided not to. I knew it would make me even more furious than I was at first blush. I saw Jon Stewart intwerview her a mobnth or two ago, and determined she was in serious need of some psychotropic meds. And I understood that she herself was not a U.S. citizen, either, correct?

Over the past month or two, I have decided there really are two distinct Washington Posts, the online Post and the dead-tree Post. I have decided I pretty much don't like the online WaPo at all, and mourn the marked decline of the post-Len Downie deadtree version. I seriously don't like its ed/op-ed division under Fred Hiatt at all at all at all, have almost no respect for its Web staff, and although I still like and admire a handful of the deadtree folks, I now think they are in the minority rather than the majority of the people still on L. Street. I understand that economic conditions may have forced the Post's hand regarding all the buyouts, etc., and while I may be sympathetic, I don't have to like it. And I don't like what has happened one bit. I used to think of the WaPo as "my" paper, and was proud of it, used to root for it almost like it was a sports team. No more. Now I just root for a handful of the remaining individual players, like Joel, Shales, Robinson, Dionne, and a few others. I have very little respect for its news division upper management, the assignment editors, witness the Orly Taitz piece and some of the political reporting. The Style section seems to have lost its zing and pizzazz and cheekyness. And of course Book World, which I loved, is gone, and they can blather all they want to about reviews still being in the Style section, but to quote a well-known ad campaign, if they don't get it they don't get it. And they don't.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I would offer up the concept that when the goals of a war necessarily involve an occupation, it should be understood as an occupation. The U.S. occupied Japan. Historically other nations have long occupied other countries. The mechanical logistics of that are important, and that is why policy by Bush that such realities simply don't exist is what led us to government by psychopaths. OF course, the Obama administration inherited that.

Ex soldiers vehemently inform me that soldiers are not taught how to do occupation. They have learned it on the fly only. An administrative bureaucracy is what is needed to conclude the conquering of another nation. It doesn't serve anyone to ignore that. It costs real megadollars and these logistics are supposed to be in view before the first soldier goes in.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 6, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Front Page Alert, BTW...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Imom, got it. Agreed on all questions. (but they are still questions). Somewhat rhetorical, however.

I just made myself lunch... come on over!

diced onion,
spring onion,
chili pepper,
1/2 small green pepper,
sauteed in a bit of oil, worcestershire sauce, Louisiana Hot Sauce...

oregano, basil and some garlic

deglazed a bit with a 1/2 glass of white wine and a bit of water.

stirred in about 10 table spoons of sauce on hand:
1/4 homemade BBQ sauce
3/4 rich tomato sauce (cooked for 2.5 days)

Put in some pulled pork that I have reserved.

Finished it off with some pasta.

(would have put over rice, but that had been snitched)

If you don't mind a bit of kick, it was very hearty.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Is it me or is it easier to discuss Afghanistan here than the discovery of Ardi?

I still wish I could have read Joel's discussion. Can we reschedule it, but call it something else?

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Ardi, I'm still trying to figure out where Mojo Jojo fits into the evolutionary tree...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

rt! that is almost the identical technique I used on my .67 pork chop (cut into pieces) for lunch, served with the last third of my boule and some tzatziki to cool things off. I used Vietnamese hot sauce and a bit of soy sauce. No green pepper, saving that for a "salad." Cost update and picture to follow after I run an errand in the pouring down cold rain. The new Twins stadium seems like a wonderful idea until a day like today when they're in a one game play off and everyone has come in from the hinterlands to see it.

I must say, I'll probably be ready to kill for a fountain coke with plenty of ice by the time this is over.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Mudgekins -- I completely agree with your 2:02 rant. Completely. Totally.

I'm sure mommy (Katherine Graham) is spinning pretty quickly in her grave as to what sonny-boy has done to her paper (dead tree and live tree versions).

Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

A couple of weeks ago, Joel addressed the Augustine Report on Human Spaceflight. One quote from that document has stuck with me, and I've found myself thinking about it almost daily. It needs to guide our definition of "victory". It is as apropos to Afghanistan or health care or TARP spending as it is to space flight. It needs to be (one of) the guiding principles of this country for the next several decades:

"If, after designing cleverly, building alliances with partners, and [contracting with appropriate third parties], the nation cannot afford to fund the effort to pursue the goals it would like to embrace, it should accept the disappointment of setting lesser goals."

I may pay to have that emblazoned on DC buses and Metro stops or engraved anywhere else it might get attention from the government (The Palm? Good Guys?). Anyone else want in?

Posted by: Awal | October 6, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I've heard that, too, Jumper, about soldiers "not being taught how to occupy." But I don't find that a satisfactory answer. Our military has been occupying captured territory ever since 1863, and we damn well have better learned how to do it by now. We seemed to have done a pretty good job right after WWII in Europe and Japan, and we've done OK in Korea for 60-some years. Then we somehow seemed to forget how to do something we once did pretty well.

For a long period prior to 9/11 the Conservs had a general prejudice against the practice of "nation-building." They said it didn't work, and we should attempt it. And then came along the NeoCons and President Cheney and Vice President Wolfowitz, and suddenly we were up to our eyeballs in nation-building. And of course the first thing they did in Iraq was screw it up royally, dismissing the Iraqi army and doing de-Baathification, thank you, Paul Bremer.

It would also do well to keep in mind that guys like Petraeus, McCrystal and McMasters are the "reform" guys, the ones who said the previous five years we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan were wasted because we were using the wrong strategy dictated by the previous gang of military experts (who were run by the Bush admin NeoCons).

So part of the problem is not to ask, "What do we want to do in Iraq and/or Afghanistan?" It is to ask, "What do we want to re-do, now that our first five or six years have been wasted? And do we think we can get it right the second time around?" (Because it still isn't a given that the Mulligan will work.)

And there's just all that "I told ya so" baggage littered all over the place, too, which makes it hard to think clearly.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

SCC: should NOT attempt nation-building

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

mudge, you reminded me, good luck to Gen. Patreaus. Hoping for the best.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Also, while I'm at it, why does a bag of M&M Peanuts contain 97 blue M&Ms and one red M&M?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Because it's a blue bottomed bag of M&Ms for the blue bottomed guy?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 6, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Because they didn't use to make them blue, so now they're so excited to have blue ones that they overdo. (After how many years?)

Posted by: -bia- | October 6, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The answer is they're all brown, red, yellow; Mudge is just viewing them through blue-bottomed glasses?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 6, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I think you've pretty much nailed it.
It's complicated because there really is a cost to any action.

War is costly in lives and treasure and innate corrosiveness. Yet we've seen the Taliban in action. Further it isn't just Afghanistan we're worried about, it's Pakistan, and India, and the whole region.

The situation lends itself to neither "Bring our troops home 'cause war is, you know, bad," nor "Nuke 'em till they glow so you can shoot 'em in the dark." It's complex and demands complex thinking.

Because more than seeking a solution that does the right thing, what we are really seeking is one that does the least damage.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | October 6, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

As a Canadian I was always a Smarties fan, do young american girls use the red M&M for lipstick like we used the red smarties for lipstick (circa grade 3?).

I do not have a lot to say about Afganistan but dearly hope smarter minds than I find a way to fix the country - a terrible place for women (worst or near worst in the world).

Posted by: dmd3 | October 6, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Just realized my "near worst" may be like nails on the chalkboard to the editor types, grammar experts - my most heartfelt apology.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 6, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

mudge, you reminded me, good luck to Gen. Patreaus. Hoping for the best.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Computer is time traveling.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Weed, ask it who won the Tigers-Twins game, please.

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I saw an expert guy on Bill Moyers not too long ago who was advocating a small, long-term presence in Afghanistan with small, long-term goals. He thought a big increase in troops would be a big mistake, because it would mean that the American public would get sick of paying money and lives that much sooner, leading to a sudden withdrawal, straight from all to nothing, which would have big negative consequences. He made a good case. He said he had been talking to the administration folks, though he wasn't sure how much attention they were paying to him.

He also said that Obama is now politically locked into a big increase. I didn't find him as convincing on that point.

Wait, let me find a link:

Looks like his name is Rory Stewart.

So that's what someone else said. No idea what I think myself, really.

Posted by: -bia- | October 6, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

This is an outrage. If I don't get at least three red M&Ms in my next bag, I am taking my business elsewhere. I will not be trifled with in such a cavalier fashion.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse


I think it is jammed in "Conn Yankee in K. A. court" mode.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't Joel all over this story?

I feel so embarrassed when I have to get my extraterrestrial search for water news from Wonkette.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, it used to irritate me that particular company thinks there are two servings in that tiny little bag (maybe even 2.5?) Really...who did they think I was going to share that with? I'm sure some marketing genius thought it a nifty way to get those numbers more in line with the RDA. I really shouldn't criticize them too much, though since apparently a serving of olives is two, and not the whole bottle.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 6, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Weed, have been off at meetings and unable to respond until now to your 1:00.

When I say "win," what I mean is "what is it you want to achieve?" That is, before the generals can determine how many troops, etc. are needed, they need to know what it is we hope to accomplish. I believe there is no way to determine resources needed unless you know what it is you're trying to accomplish. Which is why I believe McChrystal's report assumes a lot (primarily about what the objectives are).

I have no preconceptions about what "winning" would look like; but sure as anything I hope Obama does before he starts determining what should be done. (i.e., first determine what you want to do, then how you are going to do it).

I am not saying in any way that I believe we should have a presence in Afghanistan; merely that if we do, we sure oughtta know *why*

Posted by: Raysmom | October 6, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Laughing, LiT. I never look at "serving size" unless I want to be seriously depressed, seriously outraged, or seriously amused. (Or occasionally all three.)

I think my wife once pointed out to me that the serving size for a bag of Oreos was 2 cookies per serving, or something totally wacko and bizarre like that. 2 Oreos? That's like...what? 9 seconds of foreplay. After 2 Oreos you've still got 95% of your glass of milk left.

It occurs to me that one solution would be to give Afghanistan back to the Russians.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 6, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The problem with defining success in either Iraq or Afghanistan, whether mentioning the word "winning" or not, is that no matter how it is defined some will think it is impossible too-ambitious meddling (or imperialistic) and others will think it stops far too short and will produce a merger of terrorist ideologies whose leaders function so openly they go in together on office furniture for their nifty new world HQ campus. The future is probably somewhere between those two and won't be clear for a very long time-much longer than two presidential terms. Even if we "win" we could always come back later and screw it up (see First Gulf War).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, I agree. It's a stochastic process, as well. Each action causes a reaction, which may cause another action. I am sure that they are busy "gaming out" the withdrawal process.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Just in case you all thought I wasn't paying attention to the real news of the day:

GO TIGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And just in case we lose, please be kind (like you were with the Red Wings). Detroit really needs a break, yanno. . . . .

I know, frosti, I know. . . .

Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

ftb-you know I don't want the Twins to lose, but that doesn't mean I harbor any ill will toward the Tigers.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I know, frosti. Same here.

A friend of mine is having a total knee replacement on Monday. I faxed her exceptionally good karma and some chicken soup, just in case.

Still gonna wait for Medicare on my knee. She's on it already.

*going to check the score*

Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Detroit 1-0 in the third, last I heard.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that's not funny (giving Afghanistan to the Russians). I can't remember why Russia invaded, no doubt something about oil, but Afghanistan was doing ok before that happened. At least, according to the Kite Runner, it was. (I realize you weren't serious, at least that's what I hope.)

Someone will have to fill me in on baseball. I have no idea who the contenders are this year.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 6, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Another way to stop coherent thinking is to repetitively refer to opium drug lords as "warlords." Our allies. The warlords. coff

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 6, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Trusting no one may be good advice, but trusting O'Bama may be disastrous. What the hell does this Chicago rabblerouser know about military policy?

Posted by: ravitchn | October 6, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Contendahs? I got yer contendahs right here.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse


you have no choice. He won. Support him.

Anyway, what we have all been saying is that it already was a huge disaster. What's your point?


Funny. After eight years of Bush, we have to get up the energy to TRUST Obama?

Oh, lordy, please.

Well, have a great Tuesday... off to a meeting.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 6, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Probably about the same as George Bush did during his 9th month in office (and possibly more), ravitchn. Or Ronald Reagan did. (I'd mention Bill Clinton, but I suspect that would bring foam to your lips.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Detroit, 3-1, bottom of the 5th.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

seasea, ya got yer Rockies versus Phillies, Red Sox versus Angels,Cards versus Dodgers, and Yankees versus TBD (no, not TBG, though she could probably hold her own), who will be the winner of the Tigers game. 'Ems yer match-ups.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

When does declaring victory and going home become an option?

Posted by: yellojkt | October 6, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, yello, I don't think Dan Snyder will accept that option-- too much lost revenue. Zorn might, though.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

About those M&Ms. When my younger brother and his future wife were dating, she once presented him with a lovely glass jar filled entirely with the ones that are colored green. Evidently she had spent quite some time sorting them out.

We never speak of this.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | October 6, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Tigers lead 3-2, bottom 7th...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Very brave of her a gift of a rumored aphrodesiac to a man might not always be so well received.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 6, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I spoke too soon...

4-3, Twins, still bottom 7th.

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The green ones have aphrodiz... aphrades... aphridas... horny properties?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

The Tigers reliever just exiting the game would have greatly excited some Monty Python knights... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Tigers just tied it on an Ordonez homer...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

It's one of those 'pop rocks killed Mikey' urban legends.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 6, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

What channel is the game on? I tried to find it earlier, to no avail. Since I'm not rooting for either team, my jinx affect should be zero.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 6, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

It's on TBS, seasea...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Ta, Scotty.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 6, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

The blue ones are good luck, Mudge. I'd go out and buy a lottery ticket if I were you.

A comment on how quickly dogs learn. I'd walked Emma and Cutter (separately) 2 nights ago, the first time I'd done it in years. Yesterday I ended up working until 11:30 PM, dealing with a system upgrade gone wrong. I dragged in, collapsed in a chair and Emma took her leash off the hook and brought it to me. Tonight, we'll walk.

The upgrade is finally in and running, had a crisis on another system today. It was really nice to receive appreciative e-mails from my boss, my boss' boss and the head of the department which uses the first system. And the comp time is welcome too.

I love reading about the $15 week!

Posted by: -dbG- | October 6, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

This is quite the nail-biter of a game! Outstanding double-play to preserve the tie in the top of the 9th, and now the Twins try to win it...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

And on to extra innings...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 6, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

The bit about the green ones was well established when I was in high school back in the lat 1970s. And I tested it once as a teenager. Yep, I ate a whole handful of the green ones and found that whenever I saw a winsome lass I was overcome with lascivious desires.

So we know it must be true.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | October 6, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I knew they were gonna send him home. Tigers lead, 5-4.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

*faxing ftb some smelling salts, just in case*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Yoli, you can stop now. Sit down. Get some rest, put your feet up. Have a glass of wine.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Dogs always hope that
Owners learn better habits
to walk them far more.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 6, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Yoli? I don't know any Yoli. I mean you, up there in Calgary. You know who you are.

Twins hit a triple.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about the reliability of those green M&Ms. I once ate a dozen but only seven worked.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 6, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Still tied, huh. Ivansdad says I could find out about the baseball faster by watching it than reading the Boodle. Huh.

Any chance someone, anyone, will beat the Yankees this year? Any chance they'll lose the pennant? Please say yes.

That's a pretty romantic gift, RD. I knew about the green M&Ms, but I didn't know blue ones were good luck.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 6, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I need to eat a ton of blue ones to get lucky enough to need to eat the green ones.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

How old is Jim Leyland anyway? Hasn't it been a while since the Yankees have gotten to the Series? Good game - glad I don't care who wins.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 6, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

And side-by-side clawfoot tubs?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | October 6, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Had to look away from the game, lest I jinx the Twins.

Here's the flickr set from the challenge. Another carpy dinner pic, sorry.

Nothing particularly special today, but I am way over budget. But, there was enough left over from dinner tonight for dinner tomorrow. Instead of trying to portion out how much I ate tonight I'll just charge the whole thing to today and count tomorrow's dinner as free.

Lunch- pork glazed with Worcestershire, soy sauce, onion, and a sprinkle of sugar, bread and tzatziki as a dip. .99
Dinner-angel hair pasta with pesto and organic Italian sausage, and a side salad of cucumber, green pepper and tzatziki as dressing (and as much as I love it, I'm glad it's gone). $2.27

No recipes for these, they're just things I've been throwing together for years. The pesto was from a base I made from Mr. F's balcony garden and froze at the end of the season.

Total so far this week- $6.29

The dott and I are going out to lunch tomorrow.
Yoki-thought we'd handle dining out situations thusly- the challenge will be extended to include the next meal eaten at the same time of day on the day following the scheduled end of the challenge. In this case, lunch tomorrow won't count, but I'll have to count lunch on Sunday.

top of the 12th, still can't look

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Two things you need to know about that call:

(1) Umpires tend to call hit-by-pitch by sound, not by sight. A ball barely touching a jersey like that makes virtually no sound whatsoever, and the angle is awfuul. Impossible to call.

(2) Umps tend to disregard hit-by-pitch if it hits a billowing shirt, on the theory that if the batter had it tucked in crisply and properly, it wouldn't have been hit. Some batters like to pull their shirts loose so they bag out and hang over the plate. If so, the ump will let him get hit all day and not let him have first base.

I suspect on that one Marsh simply couldn't hear it.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

I take it there is a fierce baseball contest going on. I hope the losers are philosophical and the winners gracious.

Jeepers, just what do they put in this Sleepytime tea anyway?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | October 6, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Also, hit-by-pitch is NOT an automatic call. If the ump thinks you didn't try hard enough to get out of the way, you don't get the base. You seldom see it in the pros, on the theory that no fool would let himself get hit by a 95-mph fastball. But a slow hanging curve, a junkball, something in the dirt that you know won't cause injury--a batter might take one for the team. And the ump won't let him have it.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Twins win it. Congrats, Frosty. Sorry, ftb.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 6, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I was going to get incredibly angry with the local station for breaking in on SYTYCD, but it was to say the Twins won, so that's ok.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

ftb-if it's any consolation the Twins were in the same spot last year.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Huh? The baseball season is still on? It will snow soon FCOL. I'm repeating myself but please note that the Natinals/Spos have lost 103 games this year. The worst results since Karl Kuhl's Spos of 1976. They were very bad but the Olympics were on so just a few noticed. Nobody remembers but me. I could have used the green smarties back then. 103 losses is really bad.

Yoki must be torn apart by the dilemma, Canadiens against Flames tonight.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 6, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

frosti, my hat goes off to you. Now, take them Twins all the way to the end and win that World Series!

What a game, tho. The Tigers fought all the way to the end.


Posted by: -ftb- | October 6, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, congrats, frosti. Sorry, ftb. Good game, though.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 6, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

TWINS WIN! ! ! !

Posted by: KBoom | October 6, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh crap, 2-2.

It's Karl Kuehl BTW. A good man but not such a great coach. He's the man who brought Ellis, the Hawk and Cro to the big team though.

Re-crap: 3-2 for the flaming Cs.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 6, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Lost in the Middle: I totally do not get the parallel play claw-foot tubs.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 6, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Meaning, LiM, I get what you are saying but the twinsie tubs as an advert theme for little blue pills, aka big ole daddy's helpers...but then again, all those ads are bizarrely constructed. Remember the floating blue triangles in a horndog halo over the eyes of the man of a certain age? Pulled rather quickly.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 6, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Until 9/11, most Americans probably thought of an Afghan as something draped over the back of their sofa. So, I don't think that Obama necessarily has to be guided by the knowledge and sophistication of the American electorate on this one.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | October 6, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

... Or a hound lying on a rich lady's rug.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 6, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Only gnome-owned dogs
Qualify for punditry
And sage world advice...


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 6, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Toodles boodle and sweet dreams.

Right you are RipVWinCollege-"To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence." Sun Tzu

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 6, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I remember the ad where the guy throws a football through a tire - "Hello, Dr. Freud?"

Even my kids laughed at that one.

I didn't tell them that the guy'd had a handful of green M&Ms first. Sprinkled over raw oysters. Mmmmm.


Posted by: -bc- | October 7, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

*Exhausted Yoki checking in*

The move was great; the crew very pleasant (good thing since we spent the entirety of the daylight hours together).

90% of the boxes unpacked (but every cupboard and closet in disarray).

So tired...

Good night, Boodle.

Posted by: Yoki | October 7, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Way way back when, Muslim women worked together with men and held high positions as well. Someway along the line in one of the generations, a group of men (probably had a grudge because they we passed over for promotion) thought they needed to “protect” the women. I’m sure when that happened the women fought back, but they were outnumbered and received no backing from other men. After a couple of generations without strong women and the backing of men to regain their position, all was lost. Afghan women will continue to be subjugated by Afghan men. Whatever improvement the women are able to make for themselves will only be baby steps. Having said that, baby steps are better than no steps.

M’sian Muslim women often have to fight back when they felt they are being short changed by all the rules and laws passed down by the religious department. M’sian Muslim women receive very little backing from Muslim men when fighting for women’s issues. When non-Muslim women couldn’t stand to see Muslim women being subjugated, they voiced out but were always told to shut up by Muslim men because they were not Muslim.

Posted by: rainforest1 | October 7, 2009 3:06 AM | Report abuse

Today I was in the Supermarket looking for lunch. Music was being piped from a radio station. In one of her comments, the DJ said, "...refrain from using middle finger gestures when on the road..." I have never used middle finger gestures before and I think that's good advice. But what do you do when people deserve the middle finger? Like 80% of the drivers here. They think cutting you off is the right thing to do and they don't know how to merge.

Posted by: rainforest1 | October 7, 2009 3:21 AM | Report abuse

Here is where the Grown Locally and the Buy American crowds can share some common ground:

Posted by: yellojkt | October 7, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle!

rainforest-very interesting perspective on Afghan women. It rings too true.

Breakfast banana split-.49
total for the week-$6.78

A long day of work ahead-grant writing and bathroom painting. At least it's an interesting combination of different skills.

Go Twins!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Frosti, I'd say you're up very early. But good morning anyway!

Hi Cassandra!

Good morning, everyone.

I don't have anything pithy or interesting to say, so I'll be quiet.

Posted by: slyness | October 7, 2009 7:01 AM | Report abuse

*may-I-just-say-I-also-have-an-empty-output-buffer Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Aha! An explanation for the Boodle, at last!


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Gut morninkzz, ye Boodlers!

Joel got it right about Afghanistan.

The problem, as I see it, is lack of definition on what the U.S. is doing in the area. Most strategic suggestions on what to do next are based on wrong premises.

Several of my articles on the subject can be found in Useless Knowledge Magazine (google, if interested.)


Posted by: Braguine | October 7, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Dmd your smarties comment made me smile. thanks for the lovely start to my day. And thank heavens you gave me a blog topic.

Posted by: --dr-- | October 7, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | October 7, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Note to self read dr's blog comment later in the day when I have time. I am a muse I am so proud!!

Posted by: dmd3 | October 7, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Canuckistanis may want to know that Smarties are an entirely different candy in the US. I like these, in moderation, at Halloween. Can't recall ever eating them at a different time of year, much preferring SweeTarts.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I was aware of these. They are probably the reason why you cannot have Smarties and why you only get the awful M&M's.

Now what I want to know is does the Canadian embassy have to import them for staff? Do they come by diplomatic courier? Do they serve them as treats at important conferences?

Who would have thought we be so different in the candy aisle.

Posted by: --dr-- | October 7, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Two countries separated by sugar formulations...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

One more thing - do not trust a person just because they have no doubts. VP Biden has been many things but I have never seen him at a loss for words and when he was not certain. Dead certain, to be exact. That means totally without doubt. But still living, of course.

The one thing we should have learned in Vietnam - and many will demand we remember Vietnam - is that pulling back can lose everything. It discourages your side and encourages your opposition. The plan in Vietnam was to pull back to the coast and protect the populated delta. It failed because a retreat is the most difficult of all military operations.

Do not do that in Afghanistan.

Posted by: gary4books | October 7, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Sweetarts are great.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 7, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse


Front page now showing a photo tease for a Sally Quinn "interview" of "faith healer" Benny Hinn...

Sweet cheeses... *hanging head*

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I like those smarties as well Frosti, basically if it has sugar I like it, if it is sour or tangy even better. But I like Rockets better, here they are made in Quebec not sure if they are in the US - they were the candy that I saved to the end of my halloween treats, I could open the package and spread the little candies out and pretend I still had lots of candy left. After they were gone I had to raid my sisters stash which would have been rather plentiful.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 7, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Good morning. Thanks, Jumper, for the link to Brag's Afghanistan article, and thanks to Brag for mentioning it. I enjoyed it: cogent, interesting and informative. I'm glad to know a little more about the cast of characters involved.

We have Smarties here, I think, year-round. Or maybe we just have Hallowe'en candy year-round.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 7, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I always thought, as enterprises look for "smart vertical integration strategies," "synergy," "new paradigms," and all that jazz that the perfect merger would be Benny Hinn and Benihana. Of course this is only because of the mildly amusing juxtaposition of similar sounding names. However, considering some of the nuttiness perpetrated by business and the business of faith there's probably more going for such a combo than can be seen at first blush.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

So you could get healed by a person who flips an egg shell into his/her hat, frosti? Velly velly eeeeeeenteresting...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I was reading this article about Obama's Afghan policy deliberations this morning at the NYT, and the strange turn of phrase, "surgical strike" jumped out at me.

"But the public focus on efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda’s top hierarchy through surgical strikes could provide political cover for Mr. Obama should he reject the most expansive request for 40,000 more troops."

From Wiki, a definition: A surgical strike is a military attack which results in, was intended to result in, or is claimed to have resulted in only damage to the intended legitimate military target, and no or mininal collateral damage to surrounding structures, vehicles, buildings, etc.

I thought perhaps nurses or their union were boycotting an operating room?

And those predator drones that are operated from Nevada into Pakistan and against al Qaeda, I wonder how many were "clean" surgical strikes? How much destructive and devastating collateral damage--another odd linguistic term--has been inflicted during these strikes during the eight years theUnited States has pursued al Qaeda terrorists in the AfPak region?

My husband received the results of a very recent chest X-ray yesterday. He has a nodule on his upper left lung. The oncologist hopes it's scar tissue from a previous infection, but to be sure, my husband will have a CAT scan quite soon. I hope it's not the start of more cutting, or another surgical strike. A portion of my husband's left arm was removed because of malignant melanoma in August '08.

Posted by: laloomis | October 7, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Best wishes for your husband Loomis, and hoping for a good outcome.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 7, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Best wishes for Mr. Loomis, indeed.

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 7, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Best wishes to the Loomis

Posted by: Braguine | October 7, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, there is a lot of nonsense on the Internet about the origin of the term "surgical strike," written by people whose knowledge base does not pre-date the Internet itself. Some sites claim it goes back to the First Gulf War in 1991, or even to the 1980s, which I suspect is co-terminus with the origin of the Internet. But in fact, people with long memories and better scholarship know the term came into common parlance during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when it was discussed as one of the options of dealing with the Soviet ICBMs in Cuba. Bundy and Acheson, in particular, used the term to describe their suggested course of action, and the term was widely known and understood within the White House at that time. It appears in various books and memoirs about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Schlesinger's histories, etc. It also crept into use in Vietnam terminology.

I would speculate that it was a new coinage in or around 1962 to describe specific kinds of military options that were not commonly used prior to that time.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 7, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Greetings from Puerto Rico. Just dropping in briefly. Restaurant prices for mediocre-to-bad food remain startling. Restaurant prices for good-to-very good are so gobsmacking that we continue to seek out the overpriced crummy food, a good deal by comparison. You can thank me -- I am a faithful steward of the tax-payer-provided funds entrusted to me. I eat garbage so you won't have to pay higher taxes. We are here in Puerto Rico to support the importance of the Arecibo Radio Observatory, which NSF periodically considers killing, despite its starring role in a James Bond movie.

Already had a colleague deeply distressed when a blogger broke the embargo on her paper, putting it at risk of being pulled from Nature or, I suppose being blackballed on the next time she submits to them. Otherwise, pretty good. Went to the beach and got sunburned yesterday (it's not ALL work -- that's what I did all day Sunday). Tonight is the banquet. Rubber chicken!

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 7, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

SciTim-grieving for you. I'm eating better this week on $15 (or so, bet I'm over when the oil, butter and milk are fully accounted for)than I have in a very long time.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Tim, can we look forward to another excellent NASA-astronomer-based song-and-video?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, congrats on the move.

Hope you're sleeping in today.

*Tim, you *are* skating the Arecibo bowl as I suggested last week, aren't you? Eat all the rubber chicken you can, you'll need all the energy you can muster.

Plus elbow and knee pads.

Back to Afghanistan for a moment - it would be so much easier for the US government to decide what to do if there were some clear way to know what the Afghani population wants the end result to be.

And then a question I'd ask is -- *which* population?



Posted by: -bc- | October 7, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

*Which* population?* is an astute question.

And is Dr.(physician) Abdullah Abdullah now political toast, so to speak?

Thanks to Curmudgeon for the history behind the term "surgical strike." I would love to see a well-researched piece about its use over the last four or five decades and the corresponding use of force for each offensive.

When I think of all the tribal groups in Afghanistan, I think immediately (since I'm now reading the series) of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories. I mistakenly read the third book first, then backtracked to books one and am now nearing the end of two. I have book four under my roof and the fifth will be issued this month. The original Brits were pushed to the furthest western shores of Cornwall and Wales by the Anglo-Saxons over several hundreds of years. Britain was divided into five kingdoms by the late 800s--Wessex, East Anglia, Wakes, Mercia and Northumbria. The Danes posed a formidable threat to the entire island. It took generations for Britain to coalesce into its present state, helped in no small part by Alfred the Great. A protracted war of Saxons versus Danes and Christians versus pagans.

I was struck by a paragraph, about three from the end, of Bernard Cornwell's first book, "The Last Kingdom"--about bringing order out of chaos. Made me wonder if author Dan Brown had read this first in Cornwell's series about the time he was developing the plot for "The Lost Symbol" because "order from chaos" is a recurring theme in Brown's latest.

Is Afghanistan chaotic? Can we as an invading and occupying force hope to establish order of some sort there? Brag's observation that many men rotate under different names (rotating for pay and guns) as trainees was an interesting one.

Posted by: laloomis | October 7, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Wakes...Wales

Posted by: laloomis | October 7, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

You know what they say about rest and the wicked, bc. Thanks for all the good wishes. Things are coming together this morning.

Very interesting discussion on Afghanistan. Wish I had time to participate, having been there.

Posted by: Yoki | October 7, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

bc, point.

Fighting against the Taliban, whether we like it or not is against an Afghanistani faction, so to speak.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 7, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey friends! I just want to say that I finally got the the roasted zucchini and Fennel (i added some green beans) in pasta along with pepper, garlic, cannolini beans, mint and goat cheese.

No claims about being cheap, but I was sure that I wasn't having enough veggies and beans.

My own observation is that 20 minutes at 400 overdid the veggies for my taste, but it was still very good and a nice change up.

A half portion would make a wonderful mid afternoon snack, as well (for those lucky enough to fix something to get through the day.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 7, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Here is exciting NASA planetary science news:

Saturn has a giant ring of dirt around it that has nothing to do with the rings we see or think of.

Please note that Uranus was not mentioned by me or anybody else.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 7, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim,
If memory serves, Puerto Rico was always terribly expensive; and of course you're in sort of an isolated resort area.

The island has a grand flora, including palo colorado (Cyrilla racemiflora), a big tropical mountain forest tree that happens to live happily in wetlands on the US east coast, all the way to Delaware.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 7, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Lara Logan was on Charlie Rose last night. I didn't see the entire show, but she was talking about the Pashtoons and the Taliban. I found myself wishing that she was talking to Obama (and despairing that we've again gotten ourselves into a situation we don't understand). I couldn't get the clip to play on Charlie's website, hope it will work later. David Ignatious was on in another segment, talking about Pakistan, but I couldn't stay awake for it.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 7, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, you've been to Afghanistan? When you have time, tell us about it, I want to hear!

Posted by: slyness | October 7, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This out of one of today's WaPo editorials: "Mr. Qureshi declined to express an opinion about the deployment of more U.S. troops to southern Afghanistan, saying he was not a military expert. But he drew a contrast between NATO's operations in the south and Pakistan's operations against the Taliban this year. "Your troops went in and cleared the area. But once you came out, the Taliban came back in," he said. "What we do is: We go in, and we clear and we hold. When you do that, it requires more contact. It requires more resources. And it means more casualties." Well, that's kind of the problem in a nutshell. The Pakistanis can move in a hold an area becuase it's their country and their troops. In Afghanistan, it's not our country, and we don't have anywhere near the resources to hold large areas for any length of time, particulary when most of the residents don't want us there and many are sympathetic to the Taliban. The Afghan Army, such as it is, is not equipped to do the job either. Now, if we can really get the Pakistanis to cooperate on a major squeeze operation in the borderlands, we might make some serious inroads. That kind of operation might get support. But putting in another 40K with no real goal just doesn't make sense at this point.

Posted by: ebtnut | October 7, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

We are knee deep in Asian pears. Happy to fax them to anyone (especially those on the $15 per week diet). Also have cilantro, bay leaves.

And I've seen my mantis friend again the last couple of days. Likes to sun itself on the mock orange.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 7, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

YJ, speaking of Uranus (or avoiding the topic),DC was quizzing me on my astrological knowledge (she beats me every blasted time) but one of her questions stood out...which planet is blank? Apparently the correct answer is Uransus, because the heavy cloud cover (are those clouds? can we call them clouds?) don't allow a good look, so snaps look like a milky marble...hence, it's 'blank.' (She's too young to know what a 'snowy' tv screen looks like.)

Science and me are like milk and whiskey....a big No. Yet, That's My Girl! Must be something about skipping a generation or a mutant gene or something. Alas, she has my hair.

Have a happy day all, and hang onto your hat!

Posted by: LostInThought | October 7, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Uranus no longer is blank! It was blank in 1987 when it was visited by Voyager. Since then, it has moved by one season, and discrete clouds have appeared.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 7, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Good news delivered by the opening paragraph of a NASA press release:


PASADENA, Calif. -- Using updated information, NASA scientists have recalculated the path of a large asteroid. The refined path indicates a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 7, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

A lot of you probably know this, but one of the Dilbert cartoons a number of years back got banned in some papers. Dogbert the consultant had been hired to come up with a new company name, based on their involvement with electronics and astronomy. And the answer is....

Uranus Hertz

Posted by: ebtnut | October 7, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut -- if I had a mouthful of tea, it would be blurted out all over my computer. Very funny. I've given Scott Adams' Dilbert books to business people I know (and high up on the food chain, too).

Posted by: -ftb- | October 7, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

So, if we're still on Afghanistan, this particular author, in an op-ed in today's NYT, has looked at the geopolitics of that hemisphere--and named big players, specifically, China, India and Russia. The China part is interesting: we give our blood and treasure in troops so the Chinese can engage in lucrative, extractive endeavors.

Posted by: laloomis | October 7, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Re. Afghani populations: I was thinking of Iraq circa 2005/6, when I recall there was much international discussion of breaking that country into two, three, or four entities of undefined discretion and soverignty.

I wonder if that solution may be proposed again with regard to Afghanistan before it's all over -- talk about breaking down a problem.

I'm glad Uranus does not have a doppelganger planet. Yes, you know what that planet's name would be, and that I think this would be a case where it would be in no one's interest to go there.

Without the letters M.D. after your name, or at least an invition, anyway.


Posted by: -bc- | October 7, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "invitation"


*Tim, when I think of Uranus, I draw a complete blank, too.


Posted by: -bc- | October 7, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Saturn ring problem solved!

Posted by: kguy1 | October 7, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Dabbit. I thick I habe a code.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 7, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear. From the story about Saturn's rings: "Before the discovery Saturn was known to have seven main rings named A through E ..."

By my count A to E only gives them five names.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 7, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, that kind of "good news" is solidly in the department of "There was some majorly bad news before?"

I'm glad the earth is less likely to be wiped clean of all large lifeforms before I retire.

I suppose that IS good news.

I'll take my teddy bear and security blanket and go out for a few tequilas now.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 7, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

collegepark I responded ages ago to your post about the twin clawfoot tubs, but, apparently because I used a name brand in that post, it was not allowed.

Here it is again:
CP, I too am bewildered by the imagery of the clawfoot tubs. I think the original imagery they used was a man throwing a football through a tire swing. That's crude and odd, but at least it makes some sense.

Another thing, don't they even understand the logistics for geezers to embark and disembark a clawfoot tub?

Finally, am I the only one that always hears "see Alice"? It makes me think of Grace Slick. I think they should create a campaign around the song "White Rabbit" and rename the band Jefferson Bathtubs.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | October 7, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Back from lunch with the dott- $20 in a few minutes, but at least the food was excellent. My mental portion size calculator seems to have been recalibrated-not because I've been restricting portions but because I've been weighing or measuring everything I prepare, and everything has been prepared from scratch.

Far more of my lunch is now in the fridge than would normally have made it home and I am nearly comatose. No matter, I'll just grab an afghan and take a nap.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Afghans are pretty energetic dogs frosti, I'm not sure they would be the best nap companion.

Afghan H maybe? It used to be the best stuff, back in the dark ages. But again, maybe not the best nap taking companion...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Ooh, Frosti, you little minx, and with your hubby away....

Posted by: rickoshea1 | October 7, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, not another story of an Afgnani lover...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Monty Python meets Delivrance:

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

SCC Deliverance, as it were. False friends be dammed.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

SCC damned

Next post will correct a letter itself.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC the upper of the last d was a little too tall wasn't it?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

The last was an homage to self-fulfilling prophecy.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Is that shephard's pie leftover warm enough yet?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

SCC crap. e, not a.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

It's not even a shepherd's pie, it's a Cavendish pish FCOL.

OK, I'll quit, eventually.

I don't yearn for the time when the Buddas were blown up for the sake of religious purity by the Elighted Talibans. The taliban are stone-age religious morons. Not fanatics, just your basic morons.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh well. Pie and Enlightened.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 7, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

New Kit! asteroids of doom!

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 7, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

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