November 21, 2006

News item: “US Catholic Church seeks to find root of priest sex abuse” (Hat tip: Free Republic). Here’s the gist of the story:

The US Roman Catholic Church has asked a criminology school to delve into the darkest pages of its history by probing the causes of a priest sex abuse scandal.

At a meeting due to end Thursday in the eastern city of Baltimore, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to disburse 335,000 dollars to fund the first three phases of a study by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It will be a groundbreaking study, never done before in the US, nor in the world,” Bishop Gregory Aymond, who chairs the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, told AFP.

“We don’t know what would come out of it, but we are going to tell the truth,” said Aymond, of Austin, Texas.

$335,000 for a study into the whys behind clergy sexual abuse. Are you kidding me? What a freakin’ waste of money, time, and effort. Note to Bishop Aymond: if you REALLY want to find out the “root cause” of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, it don’t take no genius (or $335K) to figure it out – heck, all you have to do is read further down in the same damned article (my boldings):

The majority of priests accused of sex abuse were trained in the 1960s and 1970s in seminaries where psychological tests and sexuality education have since been introduced.

A final phase of the study will make proposals on how to prevent sex abuse and help victims.

“Our goal is to ascertain the causes of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and if we need to change any method we have now,” said Teresa Kettlekamp, the executive director of the bishops conference’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, which was created in 2002, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.

But the study would also be useful to schools and youth groups, Church officials said.

“The pathology of abusing children isn’t unique; it’s a societal problem,” Kettlekamp said.

“We are hoping it will be a big, big help to the society in general,” she said.

The idea of the US RC Church spending that kind of money to find out why priests trained in the ’60s and ’70s abused children in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s is not only laughable, but a terrible waste of time and money on everyone’s part as well. How about this, Bishop Aymond, I’ll tell you what lies at the core of your clergy sexual abuse scandal, and it won’t take weeks, months, or even years for a report; and, better than that, I won’t even take a nickel of your money to produce it.

Here it is in a nutshell, Bishop: it’s called sin. Perhaps you’ve heard that term once or twice around the mulberry bush?

The fact is, every human being has their dark side and within them the potential or weakness to succumb to temptation and do very bad things, and, believe it or not, these impulses don’t go away simply because one feels or acts upon God’s call to ordained ministry in the Church. (Heck, I’ve been around A LOT of ordained people in the Church, and I can tell you that there’s no shortage of flaws and weaknesses there!) Because of this, the Church has a responsibility to those it serves to have in place processes and procedures to identify and winnow out those who, for whatever reason, actual or suspected, pose potential harm to the standards and credibility of that institution in any way. In this case, we’re talking clergy sexual abuse, but it could be any kind of clergy misbehavior or dereliction of duty. Without effective forms of administrative oversight and attention to performance, one should not be surprised when bad things are allowed to happen.

In this particular case, the RC Church was vulnerable to this kind of criminal misbehavior and scandal because of certain pre-conditions and societal developments that resulted in a “perfect storm” that hit the Church’s seminaries in the late ’60s and early ’70s:

* The vow of celibacy required by anyone seeking ordination to the priesthood in the Church;
* The sexual revolution of the late ’60s, where certain behaviors once frowned upon and/or kept “in the closet” were, if not legitimized, were certainly not held up to the same level of critique or condemnation as in the past;
* The post-Vatican II easing of restrictions on gays entering the Catholic priesthood (Stanley Kurtz of National Review Online has written a fine article about this in detail);
* In this new climate, RC seminaries became havens for predatory homosexuals (and heterosexuals, for that matter) looking to surround themselves with like-minded men who they could feel comfortable and safe around.

Add to this a male-dominant, top-heavy institution inherently slow to react and respond to complaints and criticism from its parishioners, resistant to self-correction, and prone to “circling the wagons” whenever things got dicey, and you have a climate perfect for abuse and protecting clergy with a history of abusing children. That this climate, in fact, existed has no better poster-child than the Archdiocese of Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law, who not only was aware of abusive priests operating in his diocese, but had them transferred from parish to parish to avoid having to deal with the problem directly or publicly.

The point I’m getting at here is that, if the US RC Church REALLY wants to find the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, it doesn’t need to spend money for high-falutin’ academic studies into its psychological or sociological aspects, it need only admit that it was slow to identify the magnitude of the problem and deal with it harshly and directly early on at the first sign of trouble. If the Church had perhaps stripped a few priests of their orders publicly, instituted no-nonsense policies and processes dealing with sexual abuse that included immediate suspensions of all priests accused of sexual abuse until their cases could be effectively (and fairly) investigated and penalties for bishops who refused to act swiftly and publicly (I know, I know, all these things easier said than done), things never would have been allowed to spiral out of control as they did.

So Bishop Aymond, keep your $335K and your “groundbreaking study” and invest it somewhere else where it will do far better good. Like, for example, mirrors for the bishops charged with overseeing RC seminaries, archdioceses and dioceses, because in that way, you just may find the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandals staring you straight in the face.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
November 20, 2006

Even though Arizona has a different kind of autumn than I’m used to (and prefer) – no gray days or chilly, rainy nights to curl up with a Johnny Walker Red (1 ice cube, please) and a good book or video – the days are still getting shorter, and the lack of sun turns this man’s thoughts to everything Amazon – Amazon.com, that is.

(BTW, just thinking – is there any other retail industry besides music retail that’s been more transformed by the Internet than booksellers? I mean, I can’t even remember the last time I was in a bonafide bookstore, or a reason why I’d drive to a Borders or a Barnes & Noble to buy a book.)

Anyway, here’s what’s on my reading table and video agenda for the next few weeks:

* The Brothers Bulger, by Howie Carr. I’m currently working my way through this fast-paced and engaging history of politics, murder, mayhem, and corruption, Boston-style, by Boston’s popular conservative talk-host. This history of Billy Bulger (career politician) and his brother Whitey (a killer on the FBI’s most-wanted list) reads like an A&E City Confidential episode. All I can say is, after reading this book, I’ll never think of the FBI the same way ever again.

* America Alone, by Mark Steyn. I love Mark Steyn. Not only is he one of the most widely-read political commentators on the scene, but he’s not afraid to call things as he sees them. Here, he takes on the subject of anti-Americanism and the rapid Islamification of Old Europe, and its ultimate impact on America. Oughta be a good one.

* The Last Honest Place in America: Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas, by Marc Cooper. The veteran journalist seeks to find out what makes “Sin City” thrive and tick the way it does through years of never-ending change. Just a little casual reading to whet the appetite for the Goodboys’ annual winter getaway weekend this coming February.

* Backstairs At The White House (DVD) – I’m really looking forward to seeing again via DVD this delightful mini-series from the late ’70s, which tells the story of eight successive Presidential administrations (Taft through Eisenhower) as seen through the eyes of the White House domestic staff. Based on the non-fiction book by Lillian Rogers Parks, I remember the characters as larger than life, and a joy to watch.

————–

One final thing – may I just say how much I enjoyed South Sea Tales by Jack London? It was simply one of the most enjoyable and enchanting collection of stories I have ever read. Even though the Hawai’i and the people and places he writes about are long since gone (they date from the early 20th century), the characters are unforgettable, and his prose as breezy as a tropical isle. If you’ve got your own trip to a paradise planned in the near future, or if you’re just looking for some escapist fare to pass the time on a chilly autumn day, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:54 | Comment (1)
November 19, 2006

bruce Unlike most people of my generation, I have to admit I was never much of a fan of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”, even back in its glory days of the late ’70s – early ’80s. So when fellow Goodboy Steve “Killer” Kowalski told me about the legendary “More Cowbell” skit (a spoof of VH1’s “Behind The Music” series with Christopher Walken [pictured] as a big-time record producer named “Bruce Dickinson” at a Blue Oyster Cult recording session for their classic signature song “Don’t Fear [The Reaper]”), I had no clue what he was talking about.

Turns out this is one serious cult classic, and as someone who feels as if he’s at least somewhat knowledgeable about classic rock and the pop culture scene of that time, I’m starting to think maybe I missed the boat somewhere.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a Washington Post story about the skit, which summarizes it as follows:

For those who’ve never seen it, the sketch’s hilarity probably defies a printed description.

…Suffice to say, Will Ferrell, who wrote the skit, plays a band member named Gene Frenkle whose specialty is the cowbell (and whose shirt fails to cover his flopping gut). Walken, ever intense, is the producer who is determined — good taste and common sense notwithstanding — to get more cowbell into the song’s recording. He urges Frenkle to “really explore the studio space” while whaling away on his cowbell — which Ferrell does, in a breathtaking bit of physical comedy.

Despite the obvious irritation of the rest of the band, Walken’s Dickinson persists. “Guess what?” he says between takes. “I got a FE-ver, and the only prescription . . . is more cowbell!”

Walken, an actor who has specialized in portraying the slightly unhinged, has described the six-minute sketch as career-defining. “People . . . I don’t know . . . I hear about it everywhere I go,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in October. “It’s been years, and all anybody brings up is ‘cowbell.’ I guess . . . you never know what’s gonna click.”

The skit is actually pretty inane, yet hilarious at the same time, and Walken’s right when he says you just don’t know what’s going to click and take off when it comes to pop culture. I’m wondering if the idea was to spoof someone like legendary rock producer Phil Spector.

(BTW, since the WaPo link to the actual skit contained in the article no longer works, you can view it here.)

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:31 | Comments (2)
November 18, 2006

As a follow-up to Thursday’s post about Iraq, I’ve found a few more interesting articles for consideration re: the various strategies and options available to the U.S. as our elected leaders try to figure out how best to extricate ourselves from the difficult position we find ourselves in at the present time. Like I said the other day, since our politicians don’t seem to have a clue as to what to do, they’d do well to consider the opinions of those who DO. Doesn’t that make sense? (Oops, wrong question to ask….)

* In Thursday’s National Review Online, Michael Ledeen (whose work I respect a great deal), offers up this analysis of the state of things and what the Iraq Study Group might do well to consider. I find this particular excerpt important, for it speaks to the need for a bigger vision, and consideration of the greater region we’re involved in militarily:

Instead of trapping themselves in an imaginary quagmire, the commissioners can help us face the real war. What’s going on in Iraq is not “the war,” which is raging over the entire world. The real question — the life and death question — is: How can we win the war in the Middle East, which now extends from Afghanistan to Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia?

That question forces us to devise a strategy to deal with multiple enemies instead of limiting our strategic thinking to the Iraqi insurgency alone. It forces us to confront the terror masters in Tehran and Syria as well as the killers in Iraq. If we ask how to win in Iraq alone, we are led into a fool’s errand of trying to convince our sworn enemies–Iran has been at war with us for twenty-seven years—to act like friends. But if we ask how to win the war, we can see that we have many good cards to play, and many real allies, from the Iranian and Syrian people to the millions of Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria, to several other oppressed groups throughout the region, and even to leaders who today denounce us.

Ledeen’s entire piece is worth reading, as he is making an extremely important point here. Those politicians on both sides of the aisle (and in the Administration) do a disservice to our fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan whenever they try to isolate their strategic goals, both military and political, whatever they may be, to a particular country. In the Middle East, EVERYTHING is connected geo-politically, with far-ranging implications no matter what we do, so it behooves us to not go myopic and simplistic when it comes to Iraq.

* Marc Cooper casts a dim view towards the redeployment strategy put forth by the likes of John Murtha (who incidently, lost his House majority leader election today) and John Kerry on numerous occasions over the past year. This part of his post is particularly stinging:

I still have no idea what [redeployment] means. And I’m sure I speak for about 299 million Americans on that matter. As I understand the term it means something like this: start pulling U.S. troops out of the line of fire in Iraq and re-position them “over the horizon” to some nearby regional bases (Turkey?). Once redeployed, the troops would be on standby, ready to intervene when and if things got really ugly in Iraq.

But things are ugly everyday in Iraq. So once again, what does redeployment really mean? Not to play dumb, what really lurks behind the term is an implied stalling maneuver. Start moving U.S. troops slowly, perhaps ever so slowly out of Iraq, at first under the political cover of redeployment and then eventually…eventually, I suppose, Americans won’t really care what happens in Iraq.

I don’t think this sort of Democratic obfuscation will wash. War is like sex. You’re either in or you’re out. Anything in between doesn’t count for much.

While I might disagree with Cooper, you can’t argue that he speaks for millions of Americans who think the best route is to give the Iraqi government a fixed amount of time to get their act together, and if they don’t, sayonara. To try and walk a fine line between staying and going without any practical concern for what that course of action would entail just to gain points politically – as Murtha and Kerry are clearly attempting to do – reveals them for the military geniuses they most decidedly are not. (Hat tip: The Belmont Club)

* A big tip o’ the hat to Scott at Power Line for this post with links to two important Weekly Standard articles by contributors Eric Egland and Frederick W. Kagan. While quite dense in content, they are nevertheless refreshing for the practical strategies they put forth, since both are authors well acquainted with the realities we face both on the ground in Iraq, and in the Middle East in general. Both are highly recommended reading.

* The UK Guardian has published this story speculating about a “final push” strategy to be recommended by the Iraq Study Group. Supposedly, this strategy focuses on four main goals to refocus the effort there and lay the groundwork for a lasting solution. The four points involve:

1 – A short-term increase in overall U.S. force levels inside Iraq, perhaps as much as 20,000 troops, dedicated to securing the capital of Baghdad – scene of the worst sectarian and insurgent violence, thus allowing U.S., coalition, and Iraqi forces to be redeployed elsewhere in the country.
2 – Cultivating regional cooperation to help stabilize Iraq, perhaps by convening an international conference of neighbouring countries, perhaps by more direct diplomatic, financial and economic involvement of U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
3 – Reviving the national reconciliation process between Shia and Sunni muslims, the Kurds, and other ethnic and religious parties. This process is a necessary prerequisite to the goal of persuading Iraqis and its neighboring countries that Iraq can become a fully functional state.
4 – A call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support the additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces. It will also stress the need to counter corruption, improve local government, and curtail the power of religious courts.

Captain Ed at Captains Quarters – a great blog, BTW, has also seen this report, and is not impressed by what he reads, especially if these points are approved at the expense of the “democracy movement” the President and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have stood by for so long.

Me, I’m thinking that this sounds about right – unfortunately, America hasn’t the time nor the patience to wait around for “true democracy” to sprout in Iraq. It may be unfortunate, it may well be unwise, but politically that’s the way it is. Besides, if we end up with a lasting, more peaceful solution than the chaos, corruption, and violence that is the present norm, we just might end up with some kind of a resolution that, while not exactly the kind of victory we originally hoped for, is something everyone can still live with.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:42 | Comments (2)
November 17, 2006

don ho

“Aloha, gentle Goodboys Nation readers, Don Ho here, and I’m happy to announce the ‘Ho’-fficial opening of The Great White Shank’s cabana tiki bar in Gilbert, Arizona. Get it? ‘Ho-fficial’? Nyuk nyuk nyuk…man, I love to entertain the folks…

“A tiki bar smack dab in the land-locked desert suburbia of Gilbert, Arizona? Madness, you say? Me too. And I think TGWS must be feeling a little wacked out about it as well, since he asked me to do the ceremonial unveiling for him – as if some Hawaiian entertainment icon doing it makes it seem so – oh, I don’t know – natural than some dopey Goodboys blogger. (BTW, I hear all Goodboys have to have a nickname – with a last name of ‘Ho’, I can’t even BEGIN to imagine what mine might be were I to be a Goodboy!)

“The ‘Shank tells me he got the idea of a tiki bar one Saturday while sitting outside, drinking his morning java. He was looking at his backyard when the thought occurred to him that an outside bar might add a little pizzaz to the same old boring suburban scene, dig? And it was then that he remembered a boat ride given by fellow Goodboy Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis around the lake this past Goodboys weekend and the tiki bar some enterprisng neighbor had set up for himself above his little beach.

“But where do you go to find tiki bars?, he wondered. And then came the brainstorm: he’d ask his wife to search the Internet for cabana bars, requesting only something simple, not too ostentacious, and not too expensive. How was he to know that her search would uncover a whole tiki subculture on the ‘Net, with exotic offerings of everything tiki you could imagine – bars, statues, barware, and lighting, in Hawaiian, Caribbean, Polynesian, Tahitian, pirate-themed, you name it. One site in particular, The Bikini Tiki Bar Factory, caught her imagination, but the cost was, shall we say, a wee tad more than TGWS wanted to pay. Nevertheless, one telephone call and an owner needing to clear some showroom space later, and voila!, an order is placed for one standard issue “Canary Bar”.

“Of course, nothing ever comes easy in these days of internet marketing. The owner of the site, who’s showroom, BTW, just happens to be in Las Vegas (no surprise there!), promised delivery of the bar in 2-3 weeks time. TGWS was alarmed – you see, he and the missus had a Hawaiian cruise scheduled two weeks hence. ‘If we can’t get it within two weeks, perhaps it’d be better to wait a few weeks’, he tells the owner. ‘Don’t worry’, the owner replies, ‘you’ll have it by then, no problem.’

“So, a week and a half goes by and TGWS hears nothing. Then, the Wednesday before they’re scheduled to leave for Hawaii, he gets a call. It’s the owner of the place, who says they’ve decided not to ship the bar to Gilbert, they’re going to DRIVE the assembled showroom model down to him. TGWS mentions the fact they’re scheduled for a 3 AM wake-up call on Sunday morning, so anytime before Saturday would be fine. ‘No problem’, the owner says, ‘I’ll call you tomorrow with the delivery timeframe.’

“Thursday comes and goes, and no call. On Friday, TGWS calls the owner for an update. ‘We’re loading it on the truck as we speak. You’ll have it Saturday morning.’

“Saturday morning comes and goes, and TGWS, he knows the direction this gig is heading, so it doesn’t surprise him when his cell phone goes off at 5:30 PM on Saturday afternoon. It’s the driver. ‘I’ve got your bar!’, he says, ‘I’m in Wickenburg (two hours away) and will be there as soon as I can.’

“Well, night is falling hard, and it’s now 8 PM – seven hours until vay-cay-shun wake-up – and his cell phone goes off again. It’s the driver. ‘I’m coming around your corner as I speak!’ And so it was. TGWS heads out front just in time to see this white pick-up come flying around the corner with this wooden monstrosity in the bed. ‘Glad you’re still here’, the driver says, ‘we gotta get this monster set up, and it is one heavy, bulky sonofabitch, I’ll tell you!’ He wasn’t kidding – this was quality stuff, no cheap PVC here, just solid beautiful wood and thatch. Two hours later, the bar is put together; five hours later, they’re up and on their way to Hawaii. Righteous, eh?

“As you can see from the picture below, during the daytime, the tiki bar adds a nice touch to the sandbox left by the previous owners. (I know what you’re thinking, and don’t ask – maybe the owners thought there wasn’t enough sand in the Arizona desert!) TGWS tells me this picture was taken before the final finishing touches were added to the bar – before it was stained, before the tacky lights were added for nighttime entertainment, before the tiki torches were planted, and before the bar stools were added…

day

“…And in this picture, Mrs. Shank models the tiki upon its completion. Pretty jazzy, dontcha you think?

night

“So there you have it – a little piece of the tropics smack dab in the Arizona des – Holy cow – I gotta roll, got a show to do! Tell TGWS when you see him next that I’ve done what I needed to do, and don’t forget to tell him also that I’m expecting a track or two of my music on his ‘Hawaiian Beach Part’ CD collection when it comes time to entertain. Me Ke Aloha Pumehana!”

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:25 | Comments (0)
November 16, 2006

The Dems want to set a timetable for withdrawal in the next 4-6 months.

The President is waiting for a special commission to tell him what to do.

The Iraqi government is reeling from the latest wave of violence and kidnappings.

Bye, bye Donald Rumsfeld, hello, Robert Gates.

So I ask: where the HELL is the goddamned leadership around here? And where, pray tell, is the President – you know, the Commander-in-Chief? He was everywhere the weeks leading up to the election, where has he gone since – into hiding? And where are the conservative bloggers (like here and here and here) on this? We’re always so quick to point out the Democrats’ failings and foolish strategy on Iraq, but why aren’t we seeing conservatives call the President out? Is this what we get from our head of state after an election gone south – crickets chirping? This nation, and its military and their families, deserve better.

Now is not the time for our elected leaders to go into hiding or get passive about Iraq. The only thing certain about the mess there these days is that the forecast is for more of the same unless the equation changes. Clearly, we’re in a strange no-man’s land waiting for the Iraqi forces to get up to speed and in significant enough numbers to make a difference and reduce their reliance on coalition (primarily American) forces. The question is, if nothing changes soon, what will there be left in Iraq for Iraqi forces to rely on? And what can be done to turn the situation around – if, in fact, it can be turned around?

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not looking to bash the Prez or scapegoat anyone. Like most people, I’m just looking for answers. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for anything dramatic from our elected leaders. Typical politicians – always quick to put our brave men and women’s lives into harm’s way, but heaven forbid if the going ever gets rough. And that holds true for Republicans and Democrats, from the White House on down. I’ll admit it – I expected more, and I’m disgusted.

Which is why I’ve started looking elsewhere for answers to the question: what to do about Iraq?

In today’s New York Post, Ralph Peters offers up his view that it’s time to get back on the offensive and start killing the bad guys, whoever they are and wherever they may be, no matter what the cost:

With Iraqi society decomposing – or, at best, reverting to a medieval state with cell phones – the debate in Washington over whether to try to save the day by deploying more troops or withdrawing some is of secondary relevance.

What really matters is what our forces are ordered – and permitted – to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.

That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them.

If you’re not willing to lay down a rule that any Iraqi or foreign terrorist masquerading as a security official or military member will be shot, you can’t win. And that’s just one example of the type of sternness this sort of fight requires.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

The good folks at Red State aren’t sitting on their heels. Today, they’ve posted a number of excellent and probing columns on Iraq, asking the kinds of questions and offering up the kinds of practical solutions that our elected leaders should be debating and considering. To give you an idea of some of their excellent posts, here are some worthwhile excerpts:

* Robert Hahn says the job is done, and since the Iraqis don’t want to play nice with one another, it’s time to get the hell out:

I had no problem taking out Saddam Hussein. And I believe that having done that, mostly for our own benefit, we owed the Iraqis an opportunity to construct a new government for themselves free of outside interference. And indeed there was outside interference, and I believe that we have done a good job of eliminating that.

However, it has become increasingly obvious in recent months that most of the violence now taking place in Iraq is among various flavors of Iraqis, and that the Iraqis themselves seem more involved with settling old scores and indulging in tribal and sectarian rivalries than in taking advantage of any “opportunity” to do otherwise. The American people have tired of having our soldiers blown up while they do that.

* Pejman Yousefzadeh is one of my RS favorites, and one whose opinions on Iraq I happen to share. His view is that Iraq is a regional problem, and every player in the region has a vested interest in establishing a peaceful and secure Iraq – most especially, the Iraqis themselves. But if no one gives a you-know-what, then there’s no point in us staying there. And if that happens (my bolding)…

Withdrawing American troops at this stage will do nothing to bring peace and quiet in Iraq. On the contrary, it will only create a power vacuum that will be filled by insurgents bound and determined to make Iraq their base of operations, just as Afghanistan was the base of operations for al Qaeda until the end of 2001. Sectarian strife and civil war will loom larger over the horizon absent American troops. I do not like writing this; nothing would give me greater pleasure than to argue that the Iraqis can now take over their own country and that American troops can come home. But that is just not in the cards right now. It is one thing to press the Iraqis to take over their own country. It is quite another to ditch them before they are ready to do so and to undermine our own security interests, our capability to deter threats and our general credibility in the process.

A final word: Iraq is an artificial state whose boundaries were drawn by Western powers. Should the Iraqi people wish to maintain those boundaries, their wishes should be respected. But if the Iraqi people are willing to consider it, neither partition nor a dramatic degree of federalization should be left off the table. Indeed, the circumstances on the ground appear more and more to make partition and/or federalization options that must be seriously considered . . . and possibly soon implemented.

* Dan McLaughlin shares Peters’ view (above) that it’s time to stop playing nice and lower the boom on instigators like radical Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and others like him, and that includes Iran:

While I don’t agree with all of his diagnoses of the Iraq situation, Ralph Peters is dead on the money …that Sadr must be killed and it is up to us to do it, because Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is clearly afraid of Sadr and accedes to his demands. If we do not kill Sadr now, we will live to regret the decision.

Sadr is an enemy for three reasons. First, of course, he has from the outset been virulently anti-American and made open war against our troops. Second, he is the chief progenitor of Shi’ite violence, especially in Baghdad, and the chief rival to the elected government for the allegiance of Shi’ites. And third, it is increasingly clear that his resources come from Iranian support, and therefore he cannot be regarded solely as a domestic Iraqi problem. And if we allow an Iranian proxy to make war on us without consequence, this does become like Vietnam, where the nation that landed at Normandy, Okinawa and Inchon was never willing, even after smashing the North Vietnamese military in the Tet offensive, to land a major force up the coast, seize Hanoi and force the enemy to its knees.

* Mark I believes the ultimate, and perhaps best, course may lie in the imposition of a model we used to establish order in Afghanistan:

How, then, can the Afghan model be applied to Iraq today? The two major lessons that I believe can be taken out of the Afghan campaign are:

1. To invest responsibility for the security and direction of the country in the hands of agreed upon indigenous leaders as soon as possible after the overthrow of an existing government; and

2. To secure the capital first and build outward to the outlying provinces.

America still has the opportunity to apply both of these lessons to Iraq and perhaps change the direction of the effort there.

First, the United States should continue to train and advise Iraqi army and police units. But the numbers of units so trained should be a decision taken by the Iraqi national and provincial governments. Furthermore, the national and provincial governments should be given complete responsibility for the units’ performance. Iraqi government members should bear the burden of the ability of these well trained forces to establish law and order and quell the violence. Before the mid-term elections, Prime Minister al-Maliki was requesting that control of the security forces be turned over completely to the Iraqi government. He should get his wish and all of the responsibility that comes along with it.

Second, American forces now stationed in relatively peaceful areas of the country should be drawn in to bases around Baghdad. These units should operate in conjunction with, but not under the control of, the Iraqi government forces in the city in a major push to secure the capital. I am not a tactician, but this effort should include: security cordons; visibility patrols, both joint and separate; and targeted raids on known insurgent hideouts. The raids can be, but by no means should they only be, undertaken as a result of intelligence sharing with the Iraqis. The troop presence in Baghdad, both American and Iraqi, must be dramatically increased. As long as the capital is not secured, the perception will be that the entire country is in a state of chaos. Once Baghdad is pacified, resistance in the remainder of the country will dramatically decrease as the inevitability of the Iraqi government’s survival becomes clear.

There are other posters there, and all of their columns are worth reading in their entirety; I encourage you to check them all out. Agree or disagree, it sure is a hell of a lot more intelligent and reasoned than the hysterical “let’s get the hell out of here, and now!” bleatings of the Democratic leadership about to take control of Congress and/or the apparent absence of our Commander-in-Chief.

There are no easy answers in Iraq, and to run away and hide, or reduce it to an intellectually lazy and misguided replay of Vietnam is not fair to either the Iraqi people, the brave men and women risking life and limb over there, or the American people who, with good reason, have serious misgivings about the state of things there. It is only through serious debate, an honest appraisal of the situation and every option available to us, and a multi-faceted and creative solution that the American people can get the leadership they deserve.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (0)
November 15, 2006

(Hat tip: Boston Red Sox Nation) OK, I don’t know what the title of this post says, so don’t blame me if it translates into “Hillary for President 2008!”. But I can tell you this – it sure ain’t, “Son of a bitch, the freakin’ Yankees beat us out again!” And I’m sure as hell sure it doesn’t spell out “J-o-s-e C-o-n-t-r-e-r-a-s”, either.

Whatever. May I say that I am 100% absotively, TOTALLY psyched at the news of the Red Sox winning the rights to negotiate with Japanese phenom hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is a big win for the Red Sox, in two ways: 1) it affords them the opportunity to sign someone who, by most accounts, is heads and tails above the bland array of free agent starters (i.e., Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito, etc.) out there this year, and 2) They beat the freakin’ Yankees at their own game of “Can you top this, sucker?”. I’m absolutely certain that, at this very moment, Herr Steinbrenner is downing double martinis at his local watering hole while at the same time chewing Yankee GM Brian Cashman‘s ear off over the telephone for hors-d’oeuvres.

God, it must wild on the Boston sports talk radio tonight. The Celtics $uck, the Bruins are in ruins, and the Pats have fallen to earth. It may be cool and gray in Beantown, but for Sox fans everywhere, the question is, how many days until the truck leaves Fenway Park for Fort Myers?

Sure, there’s this wee matter of being on the clock, having only 30 days to negotiate with über-agent Scott Boras to come to an agreement, but you don’t throw an estimated $51 mil at a problem and then walk away because of pennies on the dollar. Theo knows this is his big fish, and he ain’t gonna let him off the hook.

(Sure it’s a lot of money, but the way I figure it, it ain’t mine, and professional sports ceased to be true sport a long time ago. It’s now an entertainment industry and it’s all about media, marketing, and money. You can bemoan it all you want – but those days are long since past, and I’d prefer to just be a fan of the Red Sox and not worry about how many nations’ GDP the average professional sports team’s budget dwarfs every year.)

The potential of a starting rotation of Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield may not guarantee anything when it comes to baseball success in 2007, but you have to – at least on paper – figure the Sox would have one of the top starting rotations in the bigs. Everyone knows, of course, that World Series aren’t won on paper – eh, Joe Torre and “E”-Rod, but with a little bit of guts and more than a few dead Presidents, the Sox have made 2007 one of the most anticipated seasons in memory – at least since 2004.

The heck with all the sanctimonious baseball writers just itching to get their knives into the Sox and their prospective new hurler.

In Theo we trust.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments (0)

(Hat tip: Boston Red Sox Nation) OK, I don’t know what the title of this post says, so don’t blame me if it translates into “Hillary for President 2008!”. But I can tell you this – it sure ain’t, “Son of a bitch, the freakin’ Yankees beat us out again!” And I’m sure as hell sure it doesn’t spell out “J-o-s-e C-o-n-t-r-e-r-a-s”, either.

Whatever. May I say that I am 100% absotively, TOTALLY psyched at the news of the Red Sox winning the rights to negotiate with Japanese phenom hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is a big win for the Red Sox, in two ways: 1) it affords them the opportunity to sign someone who, by most accounts, is heads and tails above the bland array of free agent starters (i.e., Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito, etc.) out there this year, and 2) They beat the freakin’ Yankees at their own game of “Can you top this, sucker?”. I’m absolutely certain that, at this very moment, Herr Steinbrenner is downing double martinis at his local watering hole while at the same time chewing Yankee GM Brian Cashman‘s ear off over the telephone for hors-d’oeuvres.

God, it must wild on the Boston sports talk radio tonight. The Celtics $uck, the Bruins are in ruins, and the Pats have fallen to earth. It may be cool and gray in Beantown, but for Sox fans everywhere, the question is, how many days until the truck leaves Fenway Park for Fort Myers?

Sure, there’s this wee matter of being on the clock, having only 30 days to negotiate with über-agent Scott Boras to come to an agreement, but you don’t throw an estimated $51 mil at a problem and then walk away because of pennies on the dollar. Theo knows this is his big fish, and he ain’t gonna let him off the hook.

(Sure it’s a lot of money, but the way I figure it, it ain’t mine, and professional sports ceased to be true sport a long time ago. It’s now an entertainment industry and it’s all about media, marketing, and money. You can bemoan it all you want – but those days are long since past, and I’d prefer to just be a fan of the Red Sox and not worry about how many nations’ GDP the average professional sports team’s budget dwarfs every year.)

The potential of a starting rotation of Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield may not guarantee anything when it comes to baseball success in 2007, but you have to – at least on paper – figure the Sox would have one of the top starting rotations in the bigs. Everyone knows, of course, that World Series aren’t won on paper – eh, Joe Torre and “E”-Rod, but with a little bit of guts and more than a few dead Presidents, the Sox have made 2007 one of the most anticipated seasons in memory – at least since 2004.

The heck with all the sanctimonious baseball writers just itching to get their knives into the Sox and their prospective new hurler.

In Theo we trust.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments (0)

(Hat tip: Boston Red Sox Nation) OK, I don’t know what the title of this post says, so don’t blame me if it translates into “Hillary for President 2008!”. But I can tell you this – it sure ain’t, “Son of a bitch, the freakin’ Yankees beat us out again!” And I’m sure as hell sure it doesn’t spell out “J-o-s-e C-o-n-t-r-e-r-a-s”, either.

Whatever. May I say that I am 100% absotively, TOTALLY psyched at the news of the Red Sox winning the rights to negotiate with Japanese phenom hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is a big win for the Red Sox, in two ways: 1) it affords them the opportunity to sign someone who, by most accounts, is heads and tails above the bland array of free agent starters (i.e., Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito, etc.) out there this year, and 2) They beat the freakin’ Yankees at their own game of “Can you top this, sucker?”. I’m absolutely certain that, at this very moment, Herr Steinbrenner is downing double martinis at his local watering hole while at the same time chewing Yankee GM Brian Cashman‘s ear off over the telephone for hors-d’oeuvres.

God, it must wild on the Boston sports talk radio tonight. The Celtics $uck, the Bruins are in ruins, and the Pats have fallen to earth. It may be cool and gray in Beantown, but for Sox fans everywhere, the question is, how many days until the truck leaves Fenway Park for Fort Myers?

Sure, there’s this wee matter of being on the clock, having only 30 days to negotiate with über-agent Scott Boras to come to an agreement, but you don’t throw an estimated $51 mil at a problem and then walk away because of pennies on the dollar. Theo knows this is his big fish, and he ain’t gonna let him off the hook.

(Sure it’s a lot of money, but the way I figure it, it ain’t mine, and professional sports ceased to be true sport a long time ago. It’s now an entertainment industry and it’s all about media, marketing, and money. You can bemoan it all you want – but those days are long since past, and I’d prefer to just be a fan of the Red Sox and not worry about how many nations’ GDP the average professional sports team’s budget dwarfs every year.)

The potential of a starting rotation of Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield may not guarantee anything when it comes to baseball success in 2007, but you have to – at least on paper – figure the Sox would have one of the top starting rotations in the bigs. Everyone knows, of course, that World Series aren’t won on paper – eh, Joe Torre and “E”-Rod, but with a little bit of guts and more than a few dead Presidents, the Sox have made 2007 one of the most anticipated seasons in memory – at least since 2004.

The heck with all the sanctimonious baseball writers just itching to get their knives into the Sox and their prospective new hurler.

In Theo we trust.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments (0)
November 14, 2006

As I mentioned in a post last week, one of the hidden winners of Tuesday’s elections and the Democratic Congress about to assume office was Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his country’s nuclear program. With President Bush no longer having political cover in the U.S. Congress for any kind of military intervention – either unilaterally or in support of Israel – there’s one less hostile government in the way of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

What would a Middle East region with a nuclear Iran look like? What would be the challenges facing Israel and the West with Iran in possession of a nuclear bomb, or a willingness to share its nuclear knowledge with terrorist organizations or states aligned with it against the U.S.? Stanley Kurtz has written a harrowing column for National Review Online entitled “Our Fallout Shelter Future” about what the implications of such would would mean for both the U.S. and the free world. It is truly a must read. In his column, Kurtz references another extraordinary piece of journalism by Stephen Peter Rosen called “After Proliferation: What to Do if More States Go Nuclear” (which Kurtz links to) to underscore his argument that we must be prepared to have the world around us change dramatically, and soon. This particular exerpt is a stunner, when you think about it:

Rosen assumes (rightly I believe) that proliferation is unlikely to stop with Iran. Once Iran gets the bomb, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are likely to develop their own nuclear weapons, for self-protection, and so as not to allow Iran to take de facto cultural-political control of the Muslim world. (I think you’ve got to at least add Egypt to this list.) With three, four, or more nuclear states in the Muslim Middle East, what becomes of deterrence?

A key to deterrence during the Cold War was our ability to know who had hit whom. With a small number of geographically separated nuclear states, and with the big opponents training satellites and specialized advance-guard radar emplacements on each other, it was relatively easy to know where a missile had come from. But what if a nuclear missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in a fully nuclearized Middle East, in the middle of a war in which, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran are already lobbing conventional missiles at one another? Would we know who had attacked us? Could we actually drop a retaliatory nuclear bomb on someone without being absolutely certain? And as Rosen asks, What if the nuclear blow was delivered against us by an airplane or a cruise missile? It might be almost impossible to trace the attack back to its source with certainty, especially in the midst of an ongoing conventional conflict.

Clearly, the ‘good old days’ of nuclear deterrence against a tangible nation-state via the doctrine of mutually-assured destruction are rapidly slipping into the past, and with it the ability to work diplomatically behind the scenes to achieve peaceful solutions, a la the Cuban Missile Crisis. As the Russians discovered in Afghanistan, and we’re finding out in Iraq, the prospect of waging war and/or defending our interests against shadowy terror organizations having neither flag nor uniform has changed the paradigm irrevocably, and time is running out for 20th century superpowers like the U.S. and Russia to find a way to employ their once-awesome military and political muscle effectively in this new world.

The effects of Iran gaining a nuclear bomb may not be felt in the short term – perhaps not even in the next few years; nevertheless, Kurtz is certain the results will ultimately be a nightmare to be shared by all: “But like it or not, easy or hard, the sad fact of the matter is that permitting Iran to go nuclear spells disaster for the world, and for this country.”

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:14 | Comment (1)

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