:: Saturday, March 29, 2003 ::
A very empty feeling
Kentucky's season came to a sudden and devastating end with an 83-69 loss to Marquette. The Cats just collapsed in the first half, playing scared all the way to a 19 point halftime deficit. There was no way to make that up against such a determined and well-performing opponent.
By almost any measure, this was one of the best seasons Kentucky ever had. I'll never forget their undefeated and almost unchallenged run through the SEC. But ending it this way, losing so badly and not making the Final Four, is a terrible disappointment.
:: Friday, March 28, 2003 ::
Something I've occasionally wondered about is answered quite nicely in this article on Slate:
Anyone watching Iraq war coverage has seen a stream of numbers go by, identifying particular Army divisions—the 101st Airborne, the 3rd Infantry, etc. What do these numbers mean? And if there's a 101st Airborne, what happened to the 100th and 102nd?
The article has links to websites for most of those divisions, including the no longer existing 100th and 102nd.
The first thing to know is that the Army's divisions were numbered in the order they were created. So the 1st Division was actually the first division; then came the 2nd, 3rd, etc.
There are, of course, gaps in the sequence. Today's Army has eight infantry divisions: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, along with the 10th, 25th, 82nd, and 101st. What happened to the rest of them? Well, the military has cyclically expanded in wartime, creating lots of new units—during World War II, for example, the Army's had infantry divisions running all the way up to the 106th. But during peacetime, most of the war units are deactivated, which accounts for the holes.
How does the Army pick which divisions to keep? Each unit has its own customs and history, and the Army basically preserves the ones with the most glorious lineage. Take the 101st Airborne Division, which has been part of the Army since 1942. During World War II, the "Screaming Eagles" parachuted into Normandy and fought their way across Europe, making a heroic stand at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The Army has kept the division on active duty ever since. During the same war, the Army's 100th and 102nd Divisions served no less bravely but somewhat less famously. Both were shuttered for good after the war.
The show must go on
According to this report, any potential Iraqi attacks on Israel won't thwart the manufacturing of one of Israel's indigenous products:
Even if Iraq pounds Israel with missiles, plans are under way to keep supermarket shelves stocked with essential items like milk, sugar, flour, bread - and bags of Bamba.
Bamba is a snack food for young kids that sort of resembles Cheetos. It's puffy and crunchy, with various flavors like peanut butter. It most certainly isn't "well-loved" by yours truly, although one of my aunts in Israel still likes it a lot. I hated it ever since I was a kid.
The well-loved snack was declared yesterday by the Labor Ministry to be a vital staple food and the Petah Tikva factory that produces it was preparing to issue "call-up" orders for its workers to ensure that production goes on even if there is a missile attack.
The ministry believes that parents have stocked up on Bamba along with other food items as part of preparations advised by authorities in case Iraq attacks Israel with a missile in response to the U.S.-led war.
"We see the Bamba factory as vital, just like a bakery," said ministry spokesman Nahum Ido. In case of an emergency, the workers at the Bamba plant will receive "call-up orders" just like soldiers do, he said.
Too close for comfort
:: Thursday, March 27, 2003 ::
Kentucky advanced with a tough 63-57 win over Wisconsin that was still in doubt in the last minute. The Wildcats' best player, Keith Bogans, hurt his ankle and might not be too effective in the next game, if he plays at all. It's against Marquette, surprise winners over a formidable Pittsburgh team.
An opposing view
:: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 ::
I must dissent from Diane's dislike of NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell. I think Mitchell is one of the best international news reporters out there.
Bring it on
:: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ::
Whoa, it looks like Republican Guard troops might be about to come out in the open:
A column of up to 1,000 Iraqi military vehicles was reported moving south Wednesday night toward Najaf, the scene of an earlier battle with U.S. forces, U.S. Army officers told CNN.
If it's a choice between fighting those guys in Baghdad and fighting them outside the city, I'll take the latter. They're about to get creamed.
The column is believed to be made up of troops from Iraq's elite Republican Guard. The forces were moving from Baghdad at a rate of 18 mph to 36 mph, toward the lead elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, CNN's Walter Rodgers reports.
UPDATE: Then again, it might not be happening:
In central Iraq, there were conflicting reports about whether large numbers of Iraqi Republican Guard troops were moving out of Baghdad toward the lead elements of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.
Top U.S. military officials in Washington and at Central Command headquarters in Qatar said field reports seemed to be based on inaccurate intelligence and that officials could find no evidence of such an operation.
Mixing war with politics? Not our W!
The Washington Post has an editorial about the administration's stealth approach to getting war costs into the budget:
In the not-so-distant past, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the costs of war in Iraq as "not knowable." A few weeks ago White House spokesman Ari Fleischer agreed that "it is too soon to say with precision how much this war will cost." Earlier this month the president himself refused to discuss the costs of the war, while calling the benefits "immeasurable -- how do you measure the benefit of freedom in Iraq?" Nevertheless, yesterday -- just five days into a war whose length, shape and final outcome remain unknowable -- the administration managed to produce an admirably precise figure: $74.7 billion...
Then there was Rumsfeld a few days ago, claiming that "the coalition in this activity is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991." Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institute succinctly explains how that's not just spin, but an egregious lie:
Why was this precise figure, unknowable last week, magically produced this week? Last week the House and the Senate were debating the latest tax cuts the administration has proposed; the House voted to lock them in, and the Senate is on the verge of doing so, both acting on a fictitious spending figure that took no account of the war. Now that key votes on the tax package are behind it, the administration apparently feels it is safe to start telling Congress and the American people what the real size of this year's budget may be. For there should be no misinterpretation: This "supplemental" package is not the same as the amendment the Senate passed last week (which could still be overturned) to limit the $726 billion tax cut by $100 billion to pay for the war. This $74.7 billion is additional spending, which the administration does not intend to offset through budget cuts, caps on the tax cuts or anything else. No one is being asked to tighten his belt to pay for this war: Instead the spending will enlarge the deficit for this fiscal year, next fiscal year and well into the future.
Twelve years ago, 32 countries joined the United States in combat, providing 160,000 troops, more than 500 combat aircraft, and more than 60 naval vessels. NATO countries contributed 70,000 troops (including 18,000 from France); much of the remainder came from Arab countries. And even those who did not participate on the ground (like Germany and Japan) helped by defraying the cost to the United States of ousting Iraq from Kuwait. (Foreign contributions to the U.S. war effort amounted to $54 billion, covering all but $7 billion of the U.S. costs.)
Feel the "moral clarity," y'all.
In 1991, only Cuba, Yemen, Jordan, and the Palestinians openly condemned a war that the UN Security Council voted to authorize (China abstained in the vote). Even Libya was then on our side. Today, Washington suffered a stunning defeat at the United Nations, finds itself opposed by major allies like Canada, France, Germany, and Mexico, and can count on only four other countries actually to participate in combat operations. There is no comparison between the two.
Fighting amongst themselves
:: Monday, March 24, 2003 ::
I don't know if anyone else has commented on this, but some of the Iraqi guerrila tactics--fake surrenders followed by attacks, soldiers dressed as civilians joining the battle--probably have an element of "psy-ops" against their own terrorized conscripts. Namely, the more nervous that coalition forces get about trusting surrenders or any ordinary Iraqis they come across, the harder it is for Iraqi soldiers to give up without fearing that nervous allied forces might take them out anyway, so they might figure they have nothing to lose by fighting. This is in addition to the more obvious reasons for the guerrila tactics--increase allied casualties to try to turn public opinion here at home against the war, score propaganda victories with claims of "massacres," etc.
More on hoops and hoopla
:: Sunday, March 23, 2003 ::
Kentucky rolled past Utah 74-54 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the tournament. Next up is Wisconsin.
Several of the Oscar winners were predictable or not very surprising: "Chicago" for Best Picture, Nicole Kidman for Best Actress in "The Hours," Catherine Zeta-Jones for Best Supporting Actress in "Chicago," Chris Cooper for Best Supporting Actor in "Adaptation." I was surprised at the two big awards that "The Pianist" won: Roman Polanksi for Best Director and Adrien Brody for Best Actor. I was hoping that "Gangs of New York" would win those, specifically Daniel Day-Lewis and Martin Scorsese, but "The Pianist" was an amazing movie, so it's nice to see it getting such major recognition.
Aside from Michael Moore's idiotic rant that got more cheers than boos, the acceptance speeches were pretty subdued and definitely not offensive. Kidman mentioned the families of the 9/11 victims along with the Iraqis, and Brody's plea for peace ended with him wishing all the servicemen and women well, including his friend stationed in Kuwait whom he mentioned by name.
Andrew Sullivan (his permalinks are down) starts a recent post by praising Tom Friedman's latest column as "generally good," but then he goes into an apoplectic rage about Friedman's use of the word "unilateral" to describe the Iraq war. Sullivan maintains that because the US has allies in the fight and tried to win support in the UN, it's not unilateral, and that Friedman is a liar for using that word in this situation.
But the message that Bush had for the UN in his speech last fall was "either enforce your resolutions, or we'll do it without you. Get on board or become irrelevant." Was that "unilateral"? You bet your ass it was. How else to describe asking support for an invasion that we had already declared to be within our rights to undertake? It was clear that the forced disarmament of Saddam was something we were going to do regardless of what anyone else thought. No one else got a say in shaping that aspect of the policy.
I also think it was the right thing to do, as a certain amount of unilateralism is sometimes in our interest. But even though we have allies in the fight and even though we worked through the UN, let's not pretend that this is anything other than a "unilateral" exercise of American power. It's our war, and the only choice for everyone else was to join up or stand aside. When lots of others feel that they have a stake in the application of American power and some influence over it, that's "multi-lateral." When they don't, it isn't. People might want to worry less about adjectives and more about how our relationship with the world affects our ability to generate support for the things we need to do.
Non-war stuff continues
Normally basketball and movies are pretty much all I follow this time of year. While war rages on, Kentucky plays Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament this evening. The Academy Awards are happening tonight as well. I thought "The Hours" would win Best Picture when the nominations were announced, but everyone now seems to think it'll be "Chicago." It still looks good for Scorsese winning Best Director, so hopefully that'll happen, as he's long overdue.