27 January, 2005

Welcome to the village. You won't be leaving.

Is there any limit remaining to what a supposedly liberal constitutional government can do to people? Evidently not, so long as it is done by proxy, or outside of the territory of the offending State. Take a look at this.

Asking questions

At least there's one member of Congress with the nerve to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, he's a marginalized member and former libertarian candidate for president. While I don't always agree with Rep. Paul (no surprise there--I don't entirely agree with anybody) I respect him.

20 January, 2005

Where are they?

The Fermi paradox nags at me. Now a team of Americans are arguing (again) in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society that we should have evidence of our being surrounded by one or more galactic civilizations. It sounds to be another review article and I suppose it's meant to be encouraging. Yet while the logical and statistical agrgument looks sound, we still don't have a contact so clear that it can be replicated by independent teams of observers. Granted, scientists may find it convienient to not look, or to misinterpret data that doesn't conform to preconceptions, but there are too many observers who are sympathetic to SETI to make "scientific closed-mindedness" an adequate excuse. At least some galactic civilizations (assuming technologies millenia in advance of ours) should be obvious--so obvious that all but the most stubborn would have to admit that something is going on.

So back to Fermi's question: where are they?

Whatever the answer, the consequences for politics (and for everything else) are profound.

18 January, 2005

Iran, intervention, and intelligence

Seymour Hersh's latest piece on Iran and American intelligence has made a few waves with its assertion that the US has conducted
secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.

There is also understandable concern about the CIA covert action mission being taken over by the Department of Defense. But all of that misses what I consider to be Hersh's critical point: with or without the intelligence, no matter who is put on the ground, the mission is NOT about Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is about changing the fundamental (if you'll pardon the expression) dynamic in the region.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region.

Rumsfeld is quoted that

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

Swell. Can anyone say "imperial overstretch"? I knew you could.

A first sign of spring?

I don't want to get carried away, but stories like this give me hope.

15 January, 2005


She's home. and resting. She's a little sore, but there's no evidence of a recurrence of the NF. We're planning to take it easy this weekend. Like 99 prtcent of Pittsburgh, we'll probably watch the playoff game between the Steelers and the Jets.

You can guess who we'll be rooting for.

14 January, 2005

Flesh eating bacteria

My wife, Susan, is in the hospital tonight for observation. At the end of September she was diagnosed to be suffering from subdermal necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria," and underwent emergency surgery. When that began to heal, the skin grafts began. She spent nearly three months in the hospital. We finally got her home a week before Christmas, and although one wound from surgery is still healing it seemed the worst was over.

Last night she began to feel the same symptoms she had before her hospitalization. The greatest problem with NF is that it shares symptoms with so many less-dangerous conditions, like the flu or muscle strain. Often, by the time it is recognized the damage is already extensive.

We spent today arranging to see the doctor who is monitoring her recovery. He, and the surgeon who removed the original infection, both advised that she be hospitalized tonight for observation, blood tests, and IV antibiotics. It's probably not a recurrence of NF: the treatment for subdermal necrotizing fasciitis is to surgically remove all infected tissue, and then to remove the tissue around the infection. There's no reason to believe any of the disease remains inside her body. Moreover, she actually felt better tonight. She almost didn't agree to stay for observation. But the mere possibility that she might be hit by it again is frightening.

So tonight she's not home. For that matter, neither am I: this house will not be home until she returns. With luck the doctors will declare all this to be a false alarm, and all the precautions a waste of time. Most likely she'll be home tomorrow. Meanwhile, we wait.

13 January, 2005

11 January, 2005

A new semester begins

I like the start of a semester. It feels a little like a first date, but without the crossed signals, second-guessing, and possiblity of an STD.

I intend to invite students to post here--especially the ones in my Terrorism and Foreign Policy classes. Sometimes a conversation starts that's too large to fit in the available minutes. Sometimes we can use this forum to highlight outside sources. Sometimes, it's just nice to lean back and shoot the proverbial breeze.

I know from expereince that things are about to get very hectic very quickly. I'll do my best to keep up. I will not make this blog a priority. So if you don't see a new post, or get an immediate reply, I'm not shunning you--I'm stuck under a pile of papers.

As long at it continues to be fun, I'll stick with it. Here's to the experiment.

Who am I to resist a trend?

I've talked for years about the liberating efffects of new media. It's time to get invovled.