Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, July 19, 2003 ::

Worth watching
I just recently watched The Sorrow and the Pity, which is a difficult movie to track down for renting, but it was pleasantly available on DVD at the public library near where I live. It's a French documentary from 1971 about life under the German occupation in WWII. Among people who have heard of it, most of them (myself included) know the name because of the obsession that Woody Allen's character has for watching it repeatedly in Annie Hall.

It's very well made (though extremely long, 4 hours over two discs, which I watched in two sittings), consisting mainly of interviews with French people from both sides of the story, resistance figures and collaborationists, along with a few Germans and Englishmen. The people interviewed range from working-class people in a medium-sized French town to prominent public figures like Pierre Mendes-France and Anthony Eden. The movie also mixes in some French and German newsreels from the time, which are interesting to see for a take on how events were presented to the various publics as they were happening.

The soundtrack uses some fun songs by France's most famous entertainer from the period, who was also in the punchline of an Allen joke from "Annie Hall" about the documentary: "Boy, those guys in the French Resistance were really brave, you know? Got to listen to Maurice Chevalier sing so much."
4:03 PM
:: Friday, July 18, 2003 ::
They should have just called it "War and Peace"
The LA Times is running an article about the pre-Iraq-war planning called "Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace", although the title I suggested above would have been more reflective of its monstrous length. The basic theme seems to be that the problem wasn't a shortage of planning--there was plenty of that, including lots of work on disasters that thankfully didn't happen, like huge oil fires and refugee flows--but rather a lack of co-ordination of the planning between different government departments, a lack of time devoted to organizing it all under one roof, and a lack of troops on the ground to secure key infrastructure.

This particular point, which draws a connection between the lack of a second front from Turkey and the continuing problems with attacks on US troops, struck me as an interesting one:
On March 1, Turkey upended Washington's battle plan by denying the use of Turkish land as a staging area for a northern front. That allowed an escape route for Hussein sympathizers to their traditional strongholds north of Baghdad, where the resistance since the war has been the worst.

1:30 AM
:: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 ::
A good way to put it
I just saw Madeleine Albright on PBS saying that the key questions about the Iraq war were not so much "why?" but rather "why now?" and "what's next?" (in terms of rebuilding the country). Administration partisans prefer to denounce anyone who raises any questions about anything as if "why?" was the only question that ever mattered. Bush and company have already lost some ground in terms of justifying why we had to act now, and they never said much of anything about how we would handle the aftermath. They probably could have done a lot better, as I said some weeks ago, if they had dropped all the fear-mongering pre-emption/terrorism stuff and instead tied everything in with enforcing the UN resolutions. But, of course, you would only take that approach if you thought about international law and institutions as things that the US should be trying to strengthen, not undermine.
7:55 PM
:: Tuesday, July 15, 2003 ::
Somebody's got to get some jokes out of this uranium thing
It might as well be me. A star athlete's legal problems appear to be winding down today:
On the eve of his federal perjury trial, Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of criminal contempt in a deal that is expected to allow him to avoid prison time.

Webber had been charged with lying to a grand jury about money authorities say he received from former Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin. He could have faced up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

During Monday's hearing, the former Michigan player admitted that in 1994 he gave Martin about $38,000 in cash as repayment for past expenditures the former booster made on his behalf.

"I'm relieved that it is in the process of being over,'' Webber said after the hearing.

In the agreement with prosecutors, Webber will face a fine.
Left unreported was how his lawyers convinced Webber to plead guilty instead of mounting his original defense. Webber had insisted that his statement to the grand jury was "technically correct" because his exact words were "The British government has learned that I never gave money to Ed Martin."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw supported Webber's original account, claiming that the government had based its statement on secret documents that Webber never saw (or even asked to see). Straw wished Webber a speedy recovery from the knee injury that ended his season during the 2003 playoffs, opining that the Kings' line-up was "a complete Horlicks" without Webber.
12:42 PM
I'm no political consultant, but...
...isn't there a problem with this bit of strategizing reported in a Washington Post article about the soaring federal budget deficit?
Rich Meade, the House Budget Committee's chief of staff, sent out talking points yesterday to gird GOP lawmakers, staff and the press for the deficit figures. They suggested that the deficits are being fueled by excess government spending, not tax cuts, and will be reversed only by the economic growth that three successive years of tax cuts are supposed to fuel.
How exactly do you run against "excess government spending" when your own party controls every branch of the government?

Maybe the Republicans will demand to know who failed to stop the President from approving all that spending. Tenet must go! It's all his fault!
1:32 AM
:: Monday, July 14, 2003 ::
What about those tubes?
With all the sudden media interest in the bogus Niger uranium claim, I wonder why there's been little or no focus on the other specific administration claim about a recently renewed Iraqi nuclear program, the bit about aluminum tubes being purchased for nuclear weapons development. The NY Times story linked above says that the aluminum tube theory "has come into question" but gives no details. Former weapons inspector David Albright gave plenty of details in an article before the war. The thing is, the Niger uranium claim was dropped from Powell's Security Council presentation that came just a week after the State of the Union speech (Powell's explanation for why that happened is itself a bit dubious, according to this report), but he repeated the aluminum tubes thing. So the administration was emphasizing it even more than the Niger connection, despite its not being much more credible, if at all. The startlingly Clintonian "it was only 16 words in one speech!" administration narrative about the Niger claim doesn't apply to the aluminum tubes, yet nobody's really talking much about it. I guess it's partly because of the technical nature of the debate, as seen in Albright's article, whereas the Niger claim was simply based on forged documents. Although the administration still says that there were other sources (British sources, even better, keep the secretive stuff at a distance) about Saddam trying to get uranium from Africa, which, as The New Republic pointed out a month ago, is an absurd thing to say. Still, there was a widespread technical expert consensus going completely against the administration on the aluminum tubes, which is not that complex a thing to report. There were more than 16 words worth of publicly presented intelligence about Iraqi nuclear aims that was bogus.
1:14 AM

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