Wednesday, December 26, 2007

War opposition solid

Even though violence in Iraq seems to be subsiding (or taking a vacation), most Americans still oppose the war and want U.S. troops to begin withdrawing sooner rather than later, at least according to this CNN/Opinion Dynamics poll. That shouldn't be surprising, but perhaps it is to those who take evidence of the surge's success as reason to make an indefinite commitment to substantial numbers of troops in Iraq rather than as a reason to start winding down the commitment. Reading through this morning's Las Vegas Review-Journal, I was struck (perhaps I was prepared to be struck, this being Christmastime and all) by stories about religious leaders paying especially close attention to calls for peace in their Christmastide greetings. Christians in Baghdad were joined at Christmas-eve Mass by both Shia and Sunni clerics declaring a solidarity that hasn't been much in evidence lately.

Post-Christmas haze

Well, it's the day after Christmas, and we're in Las Vegas. Jen, Steve and Tom are back working the real estate stuff, and I'm at relatively loose ends. I'm testing the Register laptop I'm planning to take to New Hampshire, so the keyboard seems tiny, but I think I'll get used to it. Had pre-Christmas at our house Sunday with Alane and Joe, Ange and Sky and various offspring, then I worked until 2 Monday and we came up to spend Christmas with Steve and Tom. It was vaery pleasant. I now have machines to translate music from both vinyl and cassettes to MP3s or CDs in digital form, so, I guess I have an almost full-time retirement project, if such a day ever comes. Meantime I'll do a few at a time. Both Christmases very pleasant.

And maybe even an event-driven blog from time to time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Budget goofiness

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the bloated budget Congress passed and the president signed this week. Play games with money for the Iraq war (which eventually came with no strings or even pretenses, but in a way that allowed some Democrats to vote against it and look tough), and include lots of earmarks, which everybody condemns but all legislators love. I especially liked Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin's response to the effect that he can't wait to put out a press release to brag about all the goodies he got for Illinois. So long as legislators think their job is to get a piece of the booty for themeselves and their constituents we'll have elections that are advance auctions of stolen goods.

Fire in old Executive Office Building

There was a fire in the wonderfully ornate Old Executive Office Building this week, with most of the damagedone in the Vice President's ceremonial office. Do you suppose Cheney had been doing a slow burn over the release of the National Intelligence Estimate that makes it unlikely we'll get a war with Iran next year, and he finally just burst into flames?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tucker Carlson on Ron Paul

MSNBC host/anchor (I think he still is) Tucker Carlson has an interesting piece on his travels with Ron Paul in Nevada, during which he introduced him to Dennis Hof, who runs a legal brothel and who, with most of his workers, decided to endorse Ron Paul, creating a little stir of publicity a few weeks ago. Interesting that it ran in The New Republic; if I learn more of the story behind it I'll pass it on. I suspect it might not have been the first place Carlson tried to peddle it, since it's been a while since the incidents described. Or maybe it's one more instance of the "mainstream" media (whatever that means) paying more attention to Dr. Paul given his (or his supporters', to be more precise) impressive fundraising ability.

I've mentioned before that I first met Ron Paul when he was first elected to Congress back in the 1970s, and while we're hardly intimate friends we have run into one another at various events over the years. Last time was at the first debate, in Simi Valley last Spring. I think Tucker exaggerates the flatness of his delivery, but Ron Paul is not the most scintillating public speaker ever. Must be the ideas.

If the election interests you

The Register has a new blog, dubbed "Horserace '08," on the presidential election. Its contributors include not only our three Register editorial writers, but philosopher Tibor Machan, Freedom Newspapers' official philosophical guru and writers from other papers in the Freedom Communications chain. I'm especially taken by the contributions from Scott Shackford, whom I don't believe I've met, a Gen X-er who's editor of our Desert Dispatch in Barstow. Our idea is to view this year's "advance auction of stolen goods," as Mencken put it, from a libertarian perspective. I suspect we'll have more news of Ron Paul than any other newspaper or media company, and perhaps more than all the others combined. I hope you'll like it, bookmark it and return to it often.

CIA going after former employee who talked about waterboarding

At this point I don't know whether this is a serious effort to punish him and his lawyer is just putting up a brave front or whether his lawyer is right when he says this is routine and he doesn't expect prosecution. But the CIA has asked the Justice Dept. to investigate whether former CIA officer John Kiriakou, a former CIA interrogator in Pakistan, made public classified information when he told various media that the CIA had waterboarded Abu Zubaida, one of the two al-Qaida operatives the tapes of whose interrogations were destroyed.

Here's an account of his original WaPo interview, about 10 days ago.

Kiriakou's lawyer, Mark Zaid, said this is "a routine act the CIA undertakes even when they know no violation has occurred." He went on to, in essence, inform the government through the media that if charges were filed it would become a First Amendment issue, and that a filing could result in publicity and other stuff coming out that the government might not want to come out.

Whatever happens in this case, it is pretty apparent that this story has legs. I don't think the government will be able to sweep it under the rug. In a way, that's a tribute to the founders' scheme in creating a government with three "equal" branches, with the idea that they would serve to check the excesses of the others. It doesn't always work as well as the founders would probably have liked -- otherwise we wouldn't have such an imperial executive branch -- but sometimes it does work.

Whether it's because it's an election year with an opposition party in control of Congress or because some individuals have remembered, as they sometimes do, that they're sworn to protect the constitution, not the current occupant of the oval orifice, there's at least the possibility of some unwelcome publicity if not necessarily personal accountability. Despite the ignorant mutterings of some sofa samurais about how torture is essential to "protecting" us, even those who authorize it know it's wrong and almost certainly illegal, and their actions show they didn't want its use to be public knowledge. Some people may not be capable of shame, but at least they understand that acknowledging that U.S. government operatives have used torture is bad PR.

Kiriakou is potentially interesting. He has sorta justified the use of waterboarding back then and said it led to getting useful information from Zubaida -- shortly after 9/11, when the government was scrambling and improvising and most people thought another attack was probably imminent. But he now says waterboarding is torture and "Americans are better than that ... Maybe that's inconsistent, but that's how I feel. It was an ugly little episode that was perhaps necessary at that time. But we've moved beyond that."

There's much more to discuss -- the FBI, for example, disputes whether Zubaida was all that important and whether waterboarding really elicited useful information. But with Congress determined to investigate, the CIA saying it will cooperate, and a judge who ordered other evidence not to be destroyed ready to hold a hearing even though the cases before him may or may not be related to the Zubaida tapes, we're likely to learn a great deal more -- infinitely more than the White House wanted us to know.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rage over 'roids

I know, I know. Major League Baseball is a private organization that can set its own rules for participation, including a ban on the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. I wouldn't have done it -- and of course I wouldn't have made steroids illegal or even placed them on Schedule III (mid-range of supposed danger of addiction, which is not a factor with steroids though there are other unpleasant side effects -- I wouldn't want my testicles to shrink). But the publicity over the Mitchell report on steroid use is a bit much. The line between vitamins, personal trainers and the like and steroids is arbitrary, and if those named really did do steroids, it might even be evidence that they're not the miracle muscle-building performance enhancers they're cracked up to be.

Here's a Register editorial pointing out a few cautionary thoughts -- like these guys are now guilty until proven innocent based on interviews with some pretty shady characters. Our sports columnist Mark Whicker also did a contrarian column, and he told me response to it was about 50/50. He also responded to readers in a subsequent column.

When will we let adults make their own decisions about their own bodies?

Turks, Kurds and U.S. problems

So now there has been not just an airstrike but a "boots-on-the-ground" Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. As this Register editorial points out, it puts the U.S. in a ticklish position. Turkey is America's oldest ally in the Middle East, and northern Iraq, which has effectively become a small version of the Kurdistan Kurds have always wanted (why people want to have a state to enshrine their ethnic group is beyond me, and probably one of the more destructive desires in the world today, but there it is; we have a lot of educating to do) has until now been one of the most stable and pro-American areas in northern Iraq. But the pesky PKK marxist guerrilla group has been staging raids into Turkey and killing Turks, from camps in northern Iraq, and the Turks are striking back.

As Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute told me in a phone interview, there is much to understand on all sides, and much to deplore. The Turks have traditionally treated their Kurdish minority abysmally (there are Kurds in Iran as well), though things have calmed down a bit and some Kurds even serve in parliament. The recently calmed Kurdish separatist movement went on for more than 10 years, so one can understand a Turkish desire to nip the latest manifestation in the bud. The PKK is a violent group, designated terrorist by the U.S. and most European countries, and pretty ruthless. It's unclear just what relationship it has to the Kurdish regioonal government in northern Iraq -- the government officially condemns it but there's evidence it ignores it and perhaps even facilitates it. The Turks want the Kurdish government to get the PKK under control, but even if it wanted to it's unclear whether it could accomplish it.

One presumes most parties don't want the situation to spiral into wholesale violence, but it could happen easily, and the U.S., as the occupying force supposedly charged with keeping order, is caught in the middle. Things get so complicated when we invade other peoples' countries and try to run their lives without knowing much of anything about their ancient and modern feuds and resentments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sensible sentencing reform

Here's the Register's editorial on the Supreme Court's decision restoring some discretion to judges when it comes to sentencing, especially on the absurd law passed in the wake of the crack panic in the 1980s that made the sentence for possession of crack 100 times harsher than the sentence for powder cocaine. Not that either of them should carry a criminal penalty or any kind of legal penalty whatsoever. Let people suffer the consequences of the use and take responsibility for their choices. Turning drug users into criminals doesn't do them or society anything but harm.

Destroyed CIA tapes

We'll probably never know for sure what was on those tapes of interrogations of two suspected al-Qaida members that were destroyed by the CIA. It seems likely they show torture or treatment tantamount to torture, but I'm not prepared to declare it so without something a lot more substantial than what we have seen so far. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to investigate the circumstances under which they were destroyed -- and not just to have the CIA itself and the Justice Department do it. The administration's attempt to block congressional and judicial inquiries into the matter are simply unconscionable. The excuse that to let Congress and the judiciary have at it before the executive departments have completed their investigations sounds just like that -- an excuse. This may be the most secretive administration ever, and especially dangerous in that it seems to see secretiveness as a primary principle of good governance. Good for the government, maybe, but not good for the people it is supposed to be -- ha ha -- serving.

Here's the Register's editorial on the subject.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Iowa debate coverage

For my sins I had to watch both the Republican and Democratic final debates in Iowa last week, two incredibly boring yawnathons, except perhaps for Barack's comeback to Hillary. Here's the Register's take on the Republican debate, and then its dissection of the Democratic affair. Both pretty dreary, but at least Ron Paul got a chance to talk about the foolishness of the war. He's the one I'll be watching with interest.

Tom Tancredo hired illegals

This one is just too much fun to pass up. Apparently Tom Tancredo, the Coloradro congressman who has made the scourge of illegal immigration the centerpiece of his tenure in Congress and his rather thinly-supported run the GOP presidential nomination, hired illegal aliens to do renovation work on his house in Littleton. In 2001 he converted his basement into a 1053 sq. ft. rec room and didn't ask questions about the laborers who did some of the work. When a couple of them found out about his immigrant-bashing reputation they went to the Denver Post with the story. For better or worse, the national media haven't picked this story up, probably because Tancredo is such a third-tier candidate nobody's peddling oppo research on him.

Blowback in Algeria

Here's a link to the Register's editorial arguing that the two bombings last week in Algiers, at the UN compound and Algeria's Supreme Court -- really nasty ones, with most news accounts counting the deaths in the 70s -- are to some extent "blowback" from the American invasion of Iraq. A number of news stories in the last few months, including some referenced in this blog, have told of jihadists in Algeria and Morocco traveling to Iraq to participate in the insurrection. Jihadists in Iraq get much more valuable experience in a real war than bin Laden's troops could ever get in those fabled training camps in Afghanistan. Terrorism experts have been worrying for some time that foreign fighters in Iraq will return to their home countries -- Britain, France, Germany and Spain are likely future targets -- to wreak havoc. The two suicide bombers in Algeria apparently didn't travel to Iraq themselves, but authorities are still looking into how they were trained. I'd be amazed if there isn't an Iraqi connection. It's one of the prices the world will be paying for years to come for the invasion of Iraq.

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the Season

I'm not finding it easy to find time to blog these days, though for mostly pleasant reasons. I'm a stickler for having our tiny white lights on every branch of the tree, including the interior, and that took about four hours -- then the ornaments. We still need to find which bin the garland is in and the lights that go with it. Tomorrow is slated to be a heavy shopping day. And on and on. You know, you're probably doing much the same.

It's also busier than usual at a newspaper during holidays, because everybody wants at least some time off and the paper has to be filled with something. Plus, with the increasing emphasis on the Web, we're blogging constantly, always mindful of the fact that revenues are down and we need to attract sets of eyes. We've just started an election blog in addition to all the others. I don't always feel like writing when I get home. Plus, I'm going to New Hampshire for several days prior to the primary through election day, and there's planning to be done.

Well, enough whining. I actually love Christmas and look forward to a joyful season. And there's still plenty going on in the world to notice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Choking off a correction

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Bushlet's subprime mortgage rate freeze program. The problem with such a program, even if it isn't mandatory, is that it doesn't allow the market to correct itself -- and it punishes those who were prudent enough not to try to buy a house they really couldn't afford or get involved in a subprime mortgage. Corrections can cause pain for a while as people pay for their imprudent decisions, but the pain is shorter than if government tries to stave it off through intervention. That only delays the correction, draws it out, and doesn't teach lessons that might prevent people making similar mistakes next time a boom seems as if it will go on forever.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why bomb Iran?

Here's a link to the Register's editorial last week on the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. If I do say so myself, it includes a pretty good succinct description of just what an NIE is, which implies why all of them including this one, are conditional even when the summary sounds certain, to wit:

"A National Intelligence Estimate represents the official consensus view of the government's 16 intelligence agencies, prepared by the National Intelligence Council under the direction of the Director of National Intelligence. Because of the necessarily incomplete and ambiguous nature of intelligence, especially about a society effectively closed to outsiders, NIEs are couched in terms like "judge," "assess," estimate, "probably" and "likely," further modified by terms like "high," moderate" or "low" levels of confidence. NIEs are supposed to be objective – free of bias for or against current policy – but different analysts, all of whom have personal preconceptions, often look at the same set of facts and come to different conclusions."

However accurate this one is -- I think its significance is that it is an official rebuke to Cheney and to some extent Bush, and I'm reasonably sure Cheney at least tried to suppress it -- it would be incredibly stupid to bomb Iran, however emotionally satisfying it might be to some people.

Agricultural welfare queens

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the farm bill the Senate is about to pass -- essentially a minoir revisions of the wasteful and utterly unnecessary system we've had in place since the 1930s, when farm aid was supposed to be a temporary Depression-era program that would end once farmers got back on their feet. Well, they're on their feet and on the take -- at least the corporate farmers who get most of the goodies from taxpayers.

People used to argue that without federal subsidies there wouldn't be a supply of food we could rely on. Can you imaginer anything more absurd? Food is an absolute necessity, but nobody would produce it without a federal program?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Drug policy reform seems closer

I just returned from one of the more exhilarating weekends in my life. The Drug Policy Alliance held its semiannual international conference in New Orleans and on Saturday night, at the awards banquet, I received the Edward M. Brecher Award for Distinguished Achievement in Journalism (ahem!), as did AlterNet, the progressive Web site, represented by Don Hazen. Since previous recipients have included Hugh Downs, the Economist magazine, Catherine Crier and Jacob Sullum, I felt quite honored. Ethan Nadelman, DPA's executive director, whom I have known for years, made the presentation and was very generous.

Ed Brecher was a science and medicine writer who in the 1970s did a pioneering book, "Licit and Illicit Drugs," for Consumers Union. It was a systematic listing of the benefits and drawbacks of hundreds of over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drugs. Brecher couldn't help but notice that many licit drugs were more dangerous than many of the illicit drugs, and that most of the harm from some drugs came from the fact of their being illegal rather than their pharmacological properties. He became an eloquent advocate for reform.

More exciting than receiving an award and being treated like royalty, however, was the spirit and enthusiasm at the conference. There were about 1,200 attendees, about 50 percent more than had attended any previous DPA conference, and from those I had a chance to talk with, most are intelligent, high-quality, committed advocates for drug law reform. I feel more enthused about the real possibility of changes coming than I have in some time. Especially gratifying to me were the number of students and young people, most members of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, which held its convention concurrently, who attended. These are smart and articulate kids. The future of the drug policy reform movement -- which I hope will be a short one because we get sensible reform soon -- is in good hands.

I also made my occasional pilgrimage to Bourbon Street and Preservation Hall, and got a chance to tour the Ninth Ward and other areas devastated by Katrina and the flooding that followed, about which I'll write in separate posts.

The '60s as the Good Old Days

Here's an interesting piece about what seems to be a bit of a trend. Advertisers are using imagery and music from the '60s to sell what seem to be pretty mainstream products: retirement planning with Dennis Hopper, Total cereal, Geico car insurance, U.S. Trust bank. Apparently a lot of people have pleasant nostalgic feelings about an era that featured a lot of divisiveness and controversy.

As somebody who lived through the '60s and viewed things from several places on the ideological matrix -- I thought of myself as a conservative and a supporter of the Vietnam war until maybe 1965 or 1966, became disillusioned with the war and became more libertarian, participated in some and saw plenty of protests, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago -- I have mixed feelings. Much of the political thinking was jejune in that era, but there was an openness and feeling of liberation -- great huge numbers of people smoking pot in public and the cops not doing anything, in part because arrests would have been bad for an image already severely tarnished -- that I don't think the country has had since, and that I really miss.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Modern revolution

Here's an interesting piece from the NYT's Roger Cohen, written from Caracas in the wake of Chavez's referendum loss. He notes that while Chavez excoriates Bush, trade between the U.S. and Venezuela keeps growing and demand for U.S. goods is high among consumers. He also contends that "globalization breeds nationalism," because in a globalizd world political leaders have less real power than they think they should so they compensate by stressing national identity and creating enemies to attack. Interesting.

Measles deaths decline

Can you stand a bit of good news? Worldwide, deaths from measles have fallen by two-thirds since 2000. The main reasons are an immunization program and the distribution of Vitamin A capsules. Both are relatively cheap. In Africa, which has long had the most measles deaths, the decline has been 91 percent.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My, my, an honest intelligence estimate

The biggest deal this week (so far), of course, has been the issuance of a new National Intelligence Estimate by the vaunted Intelligence Community, which concluded with "high confidence" that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. (Here's a link to the nine-page summary of the conclusions of the 150-page classified document.) That assessment takes all the air out of the sails of people like Norman Podhoretz, who have "prayed" for the Bushlet to bomb Iran. It is especially telling that President Bush has known about this assessment since August or September, yet talked about Iran's weapons plans in October as a possible cause of World War III. The attempt to whip up war fever continued, by both Bush and Cheney, even when they knew there was no remotely justifiable casus belli, at least in terms of the best judgment of the country's 16 intelligence agencies.

I blogged about the topic several times today and yesterday, noting the probablility that Cheney worked hard to keep this estimate from ever seeing the light of day, argued over the implications, tried to cover it up, and, as exemplified by Bush's statement today, acted as if it hadn't been issued. Yet its public issuance makes it virtually impossible for the neocon cabal to take us to war with Iran. (My colleague Justin Raimondo disagrees, and his warnings are worth considering, but I don't see how it can happen now.)

What this looks like to me is the entire national security establishment -- the military, the State Dept., the "intelligence community" -- putting Bush and Cheney on notice that it's not going to stand for their irresponsible talk about military action against Iran. I don't doubt they might still try (especially Darth Cheney), but it's been made much more difficult.

Bush-Maliki agreement a treaty, must be ratified or it's void

Here's a link to the Register's somewhat angry editorial on the agreement between Bush and Maliki calling for a contingent of 50,000 U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for the foreseeable future. We argue that that kind of a commitment is a treaty under the constitution, and requires Senate consideration and retification to be valid. I don't know if the commitment will actually be put in place, especially if the next president has a lick of sense. But it certainly shows what the Bush administration's preferred course of action is -- to stay in Iraq, perhaps as long as we've stayed in Germany or Korea.

Along the same lines, here's a link to the piece I did for last week on the same subject.

Returning illegally seized medical marijuana

Here's a link to the Register's editorial last week on the California appellate court decision ordering the Garden Grove police department to return medical marijuana to a duly registered patient, given that the prosecution dropped charges. After this was written I got a return phone message from the Garden Grove city attorney saying it would be a city council decision whether or not to appeal. However, a Huntington Beach patient, in a case judicially linked to this one, was told that the police expected an appeal and would not return his medicine until an appeal had been decided.

In learning about that case from Bill Britt, I also learned of an unconscionable and almost certainly illegal campaign of harassment by the HB police (or maybe one rogue cop) against this man. He has been stopped numerous times by the police -- one cop in particular -- and accused of some bogus traffic violation, then accused of driving while intoxicated. He's spent at least one night in jail. The cop specifically says that if he's tested for marijuana it will show up even if he last smoked it a couple of weeks ago (true that metabolites will, but they're far from evidence of being intoxicated).

This looks like a case of one rogue cop trying to nullify a law he doesn't like by harassing a known patient rpoeatedly. I don't know if the chief is aware of this or approves of it. I also have anecdotal evidence of a rogue cop in another Orange County city (I think it's Fountain Valley but my notes are at the office) doing something similar. If they can't seize their medicine, they'll just keep harassing them by charging them with driving while intoxicated. Anybody encountering such harassment should, if charged with alcohol intoxication, demand to have a breatalyzer test on the machine at the station and see the printout. Those machines aren't all that reliable, but the devices they use for field sobriety checks are notoriously unreliable, and I'm not sure they can even be used in court.

Time for a new foreign policy

I am inordinately proud of this piece I did for the Register's Sunday Commentary section, "Time for a New Foreign Policy. I call for a policy of strategic disengagement with the rest of the world, defining our military-security perimter as North America, and informing the rest of the world that we would trade with them but had no desire to interfere in their governance, politics or squabbles. I got a more active response in the form of e-mails and phone calls than from most of my bylined Register articles, with the positive responses slightly outnumbering the negative ones. The general gist of the negative responses was that a U.S. foreign policy of such "weakness" would soon lead to us being overrun by evil people, which indicated to me that they hadn't even begun to understand the argument, especially about how eminently defensible the North American continent is..

It serves as an introduction and perhaps even an outline of sorts for the book I'm working on. Pester me about it; ask me if I've made any progress this day or this week. Progress is slower than I had hoped.

Lowering military standards

Here's a link to the Register's Monday editorial on the way the military is meeting recruiting goals in the wake of widespread disillusionment over the Iraq war: by lowering standards, accepting more people with criminal records, and more people who failed to pass or barely passed standardized tests. It made the point that the way toward a military made up of competent and skilled people is not to move toward a draft (which would be a nightmare to reinstitute, as the military well knows even if some civilians don't) but to change policies to reduce the number of senseless conflicts the United States decides to involve itself in. I think most of the country is ready for that, but I suspect our elites of both parties -- with the obvious exception of Ron Paul -- aren't yet

Chavez fails in Venezuela

I never thought I might get tired of blogging, and it's not really that. I haven't run out of things to say; indeed, I was somewhat overwhelmed over the weekend by the surfeit of interesting events. So much to process, find links for and think of something arresting yet accurate to say. I don't know if I'll ever catch up, but here's a start.

I said most of what I wanted to say about the charming failure of Hugo Chavez to gain approval for his referendum on 60-something constitutional changes designed to centralize political power further, bring the economy under closer political control and allow the president to run for reelection for life (with longer terms, of course), in this Register editorial. Except for a couple of things.

When I talked to Ian Vasquez at Cato, he stressed the breadth of the anti-Chavez movement, and was especially pleased that so many students were involved. He said Venezuelans, like most people, were suspicious of concentrated power in the executive. I don't know how true that is, but I hope it is. By overreaching in a way that so obviously benefited him personally in his desire to hang onto addictive power, he may have sparked an effective long-term opposition that may prove capable of slowing down or squelching his grand design for oil-supported socialism in Venezuela. But I don't expect that he will give up his plans, even if he is chastened for the moment. Ian thinks he's a true believer, and most of what I've learned about him over the years suggests that he is.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Karl Dorrell fired

I have mixed feelings about UCLA firing football coach Karl Dorrell. On the one hand, Dorell, who was a marvelous UCLA wide receiver in the 1980s, had a decent NFL career and was apparently a good NFL assistant coach, from all that I can tell, is a thoroughly decent human being, one of the few athletes who really did serve as a role model for others (I've written extensively of the foolishness of expecting most athletes to be role models at anything other than athletics), and a pretty good football coach.

His players apparently were very fond of him. He seems to have been an excellent recruiter. And he took over a football program that had been marred by scandal -- the kind of scandal that comes from silly NCAA rules that pretend major-college football is an amateur sport, but those are the rules just now. Karl made the program honorable.

However, it seems, and the record bears this out, that he just might not have been ready to be a head football coach at a major university that expects its teams to be not just pretty good, but to contend for the Rose Bowl almost every year. He was probably unfortunate to share tenure in Los Angeles with Pete Carroll at USC, who has accomplished all the things we wanted Karl Dorrell to accomplish and maybe more. But these inexplicable things -- getting blown out by Utah, losing this year to the worst Notre Dame team in history, losing most of his bowl games -- seemed to happen every year. He had talent available, but he just didn't seem to know how to get the best from them. Yes, UCLA had crippling injuries this year, but all teams have to cope with injuries. What was strange was that the injury-ridden Bruins were capable of beating Oregon (injury-riddled itself at the time, to be sure) but not of winning enough big ones. So I can understand letting him go.

But there's still a sadness about the affair. Karl Dorell is so decent, so upright, that you wanted him and his teams to be better, and they came tantalizingly close often. But not often enough.

I wish him the best.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In Iraq forever

It might or might not actually be implemented -- it just might have destroyed whatever small shred of credibility the Maliki "government" has in Iraq -- but the "Declaration of Principles" Bush and Maliki signed Monday gives us a pretty clear picture of the administration vision for the future of Iraq -- 50,000 u.s. troops stationed there for years and years and years, providing security for the Maliki government and making Iraq something like a protectorate of the central imperial power, in the way the old-fashioned empires operated.Here's Justin Raimondo's outraged take on the agreement. At least a couple of smaller newspapers have eduitorialized against it, and the Register's indignant editorial will be in the Sunday paper.