succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, April 17, 2004

I fucking love West Virginia

Driving home tonight way too fast on windy West Virginia backgroads and I'm drunk off my ass and not getting sick and the windows are down and everything smells wet and earthy and green and like home. And I remember that I haven't been here in months and as many years as I spent planning to claim somewhere else as a birthright, damn am I happy to be from West Virginia. And Nate and Reen's wedding was today and Sara and Jennings and Kate and I are back at Kate's house and I'm so happy I could burst and I'm home.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Damn. I just might have to start reading a lot more of the WaPo on a regular basis. The conclusion of a great editorial by E. J. Dionne Jr., as pointed out by atrios:

Now Bush has the nerve to say that those Americans concerned that Iraq might turn into Vietnam are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The Vietnam analogy, he said Tuesday, "sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy."

No, Mr. President, what sends the wrong message is when our country doesn't put enough troops on the ground in the first place to do the job right. It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure. It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic. And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing.

I actually agree with the president that it's good Hussein is gone, that it would be a great thing to bring democracy to Iraq, that it would be a disaster if this venture fails. But if we fail, the fault will not lie with Bush's opponents. It will lie with an administration that thought it could pursue a series of radical theories all at once and not worry about the impact of reality on its plans. If Bush wants his war to succeed, he owes the country more than he offered this week.

Aight, that's all for me for a bit. I'm off to Pittsburgh tonight, Wheeling in the morning, and Nate and Reen's wedding tomorrow afternoon! Congrats to Nate and Reen! See you kids later...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

March for Women's Lives
We made the WaPo! Some fun facts:

"The diverse list of co-sponsors includes college student groups, rabbi associations, environmental organizations and the NAACP, which for the first time in its 95-year history endorsed an abortion rights march."


"Cohan said organizers have already surpassed the 1992 overall bus count of 1,000"


"A contingent of globalization protesters will join the women's march, as will a feeder march of anarchists and other activists organized by the Radical Cheerleaders of D.C."

Richard Cohen

I just might have to start reading this guy on a regular basis. In reference to Bush's weak "press conference" (to use the term loosely) the other night:

"I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world," Bush said of the effort in Iraq. But the next sentence was even more disquieting. "And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better." It is one thing to die to defend your country. It is quite another to do that for a single man's impossible dream. What Bush wants is admirable. It is not, however, attainable.


Some people might consider this religious drivel and others might find it stirring, but whatever it is, it cannot be the basis for foreign policy, not to mention a war. Yet it explains, as nothing else can, just why Bush is so adamantly steadfast about Iraq and why he simply asserts what is not proved or just plain untrue -- the purported connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, for instance, or why Hussein was such a threat, when we have it on the word of David Kay and countless weapons inspectors that he manifestly was not. Bush talks as if only an atheist would demand proof when faith alone more than suffices. He is America's own ayatollah.

Several investigative commissions are now meeting in Washington, looking into intelligence failures -- everything from the failure to detect and intercept the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to the assertion that Iraq was armed to the teeth with all sorts of awful stuff. But what really has to be examined is how a single man, the president, took the nation and part of the world to war because, as he essentially put it Tuesday night, he was "called" to do it.

If that is the case, and it sure seems so at the moment, then this commission has to ask us all -- and I don't exclude myself -- how much of Congress and the press went to war with an air of juvenile glee. The Commission on Credulous Stupidity may call me as its first witness, but after that it has to examine how, despite our vaunted separation of powers, a barely elected president opted for a war that need not have been fought.

And speaking of untrue things that Bush said during his press conference, a quote in this article contradicts his claim that it's international terrorists aiding the insurgency in Iraq:

What officers here say they are not seeing is a sharp increase in the number of foreign guerrillas involved in the fighting. That element, said (Army Col. Dana J.H.) Pittard, is tiny -- perhaps "about 2 percent."

I've also been freaking out more lately about how Bush and his cronies are repeatedly caught in big, huge lies and yet, imho, there's been a distinct lack of outrage. But that's a whole 'nother post and I have papers to write.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Had the following e-mail correspondence throughout the day with my former advisor Eric (who, by the way, just got tenure! yay for Eric!):

Any chance you'd be interested in a position working with us when you're done?

to which I respond:

If you guys don't mind waiting another 3 years, I certainly wouldn't mind having a job after graduation!

And he says:

That would be fantastic if you were interested in a position here. You are a known and excellent quantity, and in a couple years I am likely to be in a position to have several postdocs and new faculty working with me. The timing could work out quite well. Let's touch base about this periodically. I am sure that you are going to have other prospects, too, but this is a good group with whom to work, and we could do a lot of fun and meaningful things together pretty quickly!

Obviously, three years is a long time from now, and it might be even longer if I'm a slacker (or even slightly unmotivated) about my thesis. Nevertheless it is so incredibly awesome to be wanted. "Lucky" seems like a really inadequate word for describing my good fortune in getting to work with Eric.

In other news, Atrios posted this about the media today:

"TV producers choose which issues they want to cover and who they invite on to discuss them. Then they pretend they're just passive actors, passing on the news of the day. It's a lie. They control what and who they show."

Which, surprise surprise, reminds me of a West Wing quote:

"I don't like being a stenographer. And I don't like writing gossip. I read a column last week where a lady bemoaned a decade of scandals she's had to cover as if the news was to blame for the quality journalism. I don't know if there's ever been a more important time to be good at what I do. Can you imagine how much I don't give a damn about what Toby said to a staffer?"

Ok, back to writing. I promised myself one more page on the health and human rights paper and two more on the flu paper before bed. I think I can...I think I can...I think I can...

I got to hear Ashcroft talk about evil biology and evil chemistry again! I can't believe no one has told him how stoopid that makes him sound and told him not to say it again. Ah well, at least if we're all going to hell in a handbaskest we'll be entertained on the way.

Yet another comparison to Vietnam. Richard Cohen gets in several good points:

"In almost every way but one, Iraq is not Vietnam. Here's the one: We don't know what the hell we're doing."


"In the first place, minorities make revolutions, not majorities." (this is in response to the point that the majority of Iraqis are pro-American)


"These were the hard truths of Vietnam. This is how the base barber, the smiling guy who kidded with GIs as he cut their hair, could be Viet Cong. This is how the trusted legman for some American news outlet could be an enemy intelligence officer, now available for interviews in Ho Chi Minh City cafes. This inability to read the culture, to discern friend from foe, is what produced such frustration and the occasional war atrocity. Even with our eyes open, we were blind as a bat.

It is the same in Iraq. We went to war for the wrong reasons, and with too few troops and too few allies. Just about every expectation turned out to be misplaced. The occupation has not been financed by oil revenue, as we were assured. The Iraqi army and police are not, as promised, up to the task of maintaining order. Americans were often greeted as liberators, but also as conquerors. The United States did not commit enough troops to intimidate looters and the civilian leaders we backed turned out to have larger followings in Georgetown than in Baghdad. Victory remains possible, but first we'll have to figure out what victory is."

and lastly:
"The lesson of Vietnam is that once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right."

In other news, I have this research paper due in a few weeks on Influenza. I'm supposed to be updating my professor's computer simulation model for determining how best to vaccinate the public. Problem is, there isn't a lot of literature out there on the specific questions he's asking, and I'm somehow supposed to come up with 10-15 pages! I went to see him today, with the hopes I could knock it down to 3-5 pages, but he explicitly said he didn't want 5 pages. So now I'm going to end up with 3-5 pages of useful information with an additional 5-7 of crap filler. And he's "really looking forward to my paper because it's something he's very interested in and will hopefully help with the work he needs to do this summer." So no pressure or anything. Sheesh.

And since I know we all have oodles of time on our hands these days (/sarcasm) bake a little something for your local Bake Sale for Democracy this Saturday, then hop on a bus headed to DC for the March for Women's Lives next weekend!

Monday, April 12, 2004

I just got way too excited about the fact that Bradley Whitford is going to be at the March for Women's Lives. I'm such a West Wing dork.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

As usual, atrios is more succesfully articulate than I:

"Like Jim, I have immense sympathy for the troops - even those (hopefully few) who may be guilty of committing horrible unnecessary atrocities. In their situation I can imagine my behavior could be atrocious as well. I have no sympathy for the people who wrongly put them there, or for their cowardly non-enlisting supporters. They put these men and women in an impossible situation. One should not be surprised by their reactions.

War- any war - is about weighing the costs against the benefits. The moral calculus for different people will vary, as we have different beliefs about threats and consequences, and different weights placed on our deaths vs. their deaths, on military vs. civilian casualties, on the overall cost, etc... But, no matter what the benefits of "success" are (what that is I don't even know), as the situation and perception about the actual costs - in lives and in money - change, it's perfectly rational for peoples' perceptions about this adventure change. To not change your mind in the face of changing facts is the insane thing. To believe that "winning" is all-important, even once we've lost any sense of what that means, is a belief which simply sacrifices more lives to spare some fragile egos.

Pointing out that it was a mistake to send these people to their deaths does not dishonor them - it rightly dishonors the civilian leaders who sent them there. These people served their country when asked, even if their civilian leaders can be faulted."