Goodreads Profile

All my book reviews and profile can be found here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bush and Torture

So what's the problem? Personally, I don't believe that torture should ever be used; it doesn't work according to interrogation experts; is harmful to the torturer; backfires; and is immoral. That being said, I fail to understand the Republican and Bushy hand wringing and failure to admit they think torture is a useful weapon. The constant refrain we hear is that if we knew someone had information the revelation of which would save thousands of lives, we should use any method available to us. So admit it; you believe torture is useful. Stop being so disingenuous. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Rice and the Axis of Evil

The United States missed a huge opportunity after 9/11 to influence the course of Iranian politics but, as usual, blew it. Iran, which had reason to dislike the Taliban, saw 9/11 as a opportunity to create stronger ties with the United States. They actively helped the U.S. in Afghanistan and supplied information about Al Qaeda, often actually capturing terrorists who sought refuge in Iran. Very secret negotiations were being conducted between Iran and the United States that provided support for reformer in Iran who wished to bring a more democratic regime to power.

That all changed with Bush's "Axis-of-Evil" speech that linked Iran to North Korea and Iraq, a long-time enemy of Iran, and the threat to Iran implicit in Bush's speech that we would engage in regime change in those countries. Condi Rice, who should have known better, did not recognize the import of the language and thought Bush's speech was simply a recognition of our support for democracy (despite the fact that we don't have one - one of life's little ironies.)

Reference: Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation by Barbara Slavin

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Miscellaneous musings

I fail to understand the Democrats' obsequious manner with regard to Bush's funding of the war. "Support the Troops" should mean bring them home now. By not cutting off funding, the Democrats are supporting Bush's bankrupt policies, which continue to become more incendiary and irresponsible, particularly with regard to Iran - $20 per gallon gas anyone?

The latest request for funds brings the cost of the war perilously close to a trillion dollars. Interest on the debt alone will approach $700 billion - that's debt, mind you; about $8,000 for every American. Right now that paper is owned by the Chinese. Not a good idea.

In the meantime the Republican candidates continue to self-destruct. How nice.

Recommendation: DVD "Deliver Us From Evil," a horrifying documentary about the Catholic Church's failure to address the issue of clergy pedophilia.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Retirement and Steamboats

Well, here I am recently retired, hoping for lazy days filled with books, both printed and audio, an environment that has yet to manifest itself as the "proverbial "honey-do-list gets longer rather than shorter.

That being said, I ran across an article about the current fleet of steamboats that still ply the Mississippi ("In Twain's Wake" by Wayne Curtis, Atlantic November 2007.) It sounds like a marvelously languid experience. Curtis has a way with descriptive phrases and several that struck my fancy included his description of the calliope: "Its sound was exactly the opposite of a pipe organ’s: Where the latter rouses one with deep bass notes, the calliope thrills with piercingly high ones. It is, however, a thrill I believe best experienced only once."

Sitting around on deck as the steamboat glides up the Mississippi had its charms too: "Afternoons and evenings were spent eating, attending history lectures, and sitting in deck chairs, where the vibration from the engine created a Magic Fingers effect; inevitably, I would find myself in a row of dozing passengers, our heads secured to our chests with great hawsers of drool." That's a vivid nautical image.

The boats stop at assorted locations along the way and Curtis's description of the tourguide at one plantation broght a chuckle: "wandered over and joined an early tour, led by a hoopskirted guide who spoke in that singsong monotone used to hypnotize tourists and make them think that tarnished table settings are interesting."