Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mike's pumpkins

Mike's pumpkins
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
No halloween party this year, between car wrecks, wedding planning, and all that jazz, so we put our energy into carving pumpkins.

Christie's, of course, put mine to shame.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Here's a decent overview from AP of the missing explosives problem, laid out in question and answer format, listing what we do and do not know.

Let me start by saying that I really, honestly don't care about the politics of this story. I do, however, want the facts to keep coming out so that the American people can come to an informed decision next Tuesday.

What do we know so far? We know that 377 tons of RDX and HMX explosives are missing. They were in powdered form, making them stable and easy to transport, but still fairly easy to make into a weapon. We know that RDX and HMX can be used as rocket fuel, made into plastic explosives, or mixed with binders and formed into a variety of shapes, including innocuous ones (toys, stereos, etc.) that could easily be smuggled past any security that doesn't sniff for explosives. We also know they could be used to make a nuclear weapon, but that's less of a worry, given the difficulty of getting fissionable material. A dirty bomb, on the other hand, is a real danger. Remember the unsecured nuclear waste dumps? We know that, by themselves, these explosives have a total concussive force around 4,000 times that of the Oklahoma City bomb.

We know that the Bush White House was warned by the IAEA before, during and after the invasion that these explosives were there. We know that the explosives were sealed in January 2003, and that the seals were intact in early March, 2003. We know that American troops were in the compound in early April and didn't see them, but that they hadn't been told about the explosives, and didn't perform an exhaustive search. We know there was extensive looting at the site both before and after the Americans came through.

What's been claimed? The Iraqis claim they told Paul Bremer about the missing explosives in May, 2004, and that they were told not to tell anyone else. The White House claims they didn't hear about the missing explosives until October, 2004, the same time as the UN, the New York Times, and you and I. The White House has also claimed that the explosives were moved in the two week window before the war, rather than during the months after the war in which the site was left unsecured, but there's no evidence for this claim, and some evidence against it. A number of people and organizations have claimed that the White House has known about this at least since May, and rather than trying to find the explosives, has concentrated its energy on keeping this story out of the media before the election.

What don't we know? We don't know where the explosives are, if they're being used against us, or if they even still exist. We don't know when they were removed from the depot, nor have I been able to find a clear answer on when, if at all, our military was ordered to secure the munitions dump. We don't know if our military did an exhaustive search in April 2003, but we do know that neither the 101st Airborne (who was there on April 10) or the 3rd Infantry Division (April 3-4) did so. Obviously, though, it cannot be true that we found the explosives to be missing in April 2003 and that we didn't know the explosives were missing until October, 2004.

The White House is treating this as a political story, attacking Kerry for "blaming the troops", when he's very clearly holding Bush responsible, or talking about how untrustworthy Saddam Hussein was. But this is not a story about politics, it is a story about whether the invasion of Iraq has made us more or less safe, and it is a story about the competence and honesty of the Bush administration. In other words, it's not about rhetoric, it's about reality.

If the White House is right, and the explosives were removed before the war, why didn't they know about it sooner? Why are we just hearing about it now, when it's too late to get a full picture before the election? If the White House is right, why didn't they know about the missing explosives before the Iraqis told them in May 2004? And why didn't the White House know until October if Paul Bremer knew in May? Why did the chain of command break down? And why isn't Paul Bremer talking to the press?

Given the unknowns, there's a wide matrix of possible realities, but I'll boil it down to two:
  1. We left the site unsecured, and the explosives were stolen on our watch If true, then the invasion of Iraq has made us, and the world, less safe, but putting 377 tons of plastic explosives on the black market.
  2. The explosives were moved before the war, but we didn't find out about it for months, and made no effort to find them until very recently, when the story was on the verge of breaking in the press. This is the current White House version (it took them a while to settle on a story, which is never a good sign). If true, this would mean they took us to war under the pretext of making us safer, then made no attempt for months to secure a major threat to US security.
I've tried, but I really can't see a way that this isn't a firing offense.

Update: Click here to see pictures of the explosives taken in Al Qa Qaa taken on or around April 18th by a news crew accompanying US troops. Click here to see the IAEA seals.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Five good reasons to vote against Bush:
  1. Iraq - Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe it was the wrong one, maybe it was just the wrong time. It is, however, incontrovertible that this war has been marked by easily foreseeable errors that have done serious damage to our credibility, stability, safety and military readiness. Al Qa Qaa is only the most recent example, but it's a big 'un. 850 lbs. of some of the most powerful explosives we're capable of manufacturing are missing, and the Bush White House was more concerned with keeping that knowledge from the public than they were with keeping us safe.
  2. Homeland Security - Our ports are still unsecured, as are countless other points of vulnerability, and this administration has resisted every single suggestion for ways to improve our security that did not originate inside the White House.
  3. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay - Thousands of people have been jailed with scant evidence of guilt, and there is strong evidence that they've been badly mistreated to boot. Personally, I have faith in the ideals of our nation, and think we can win the fight against Islamic fundamentalism without sacrificing those ideals.
  4. The Economy - I don't blame Bush for the recession. The internet bubble was on the verge of bursting when he took office. But there are right things to do when you're facing a recession, and wrong things. Bush did all the wrong things, resulting in net job losses and decreasing the wages of the working class while increasing the incomes of those at the top of the heap.
  5. Responsibility - Whether it's a presidential briefing on a prospective terrorist attack, the economy, or problems with the war in Iraq, the people who work in the Bush White House, including Bush, act as though someone else were really in charge, and was bound to take care of things. At the same time, they refuse to listen to good ideas from outside their inner circle, or answer to critics. That's not the way leadership works.

Five good reasons to vote for Kerry:
  1. Terrorism - Kerry was shutting down terrorist's financial networks almost twenty years ago. And he understands that we're fighting organizations that transcend national borders. That kind of battle requires flexibility of mind and a willingness and ability to work with our allies, but of which John Kerry has. Which brings us to:
  2. Diplomacy - Kerry's international bona fides are impressive as hell. That doesn't mean that he's accountable to foreign governments, or that he's give up any of our sovereignty to them. It just means he knows how to talk to them.
  3. The Economy - Entrepeneurship is crucial to the success of our nation, and Kerry has actual experience running a successful small business, unlike his opponent, and he was chairman of the Senate Kerry Energy Policies Committe. And Kerry's plan will actually help small business owners by making their lives easier, while Bush's "plan" is just more tax cuts, which seem to be the only tool in his toolbox. Also, Kerry has a proven record as a deficit hawk, which we need.
  4. Red vs. Blue - If we're going to survive as a nation, we've got to do it together, which means we can't afford leaders whose response to any criticism is to call "traitor!" Kerry's got a record of working across the aisle to solve problems.
  5. Character - Both candidates are rich, ivy league educated white guys, and both were given much by the circumstances of birth. One squandered those gifts, and the other turned them toward a lifetime of public service. One has drifted through life until a group of people said, "Hey, George, you ever think about running for governor? How about president?" The other has, again and again, made hard choices and done the right thing.

So, that's it. That's my list. What's yours?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

First things first: Everyone's okay. And by "okay", I mean no serious injuries. And by "everyone", I mean everyone except Christie's car, Bubba. We've been operating under the assumption that Bubba was totalled, but we heard from the good folks at State Farm today that they consider him salvageable.

The long story short version of events is that somebody pulled out in front of her in Sedalia on Monday night, so close that she barely had time to brake before hitting him at about thirty miles an hour. Thank god for airbags and crumple zones.

All told, it could have been much worse. Christie's stiff, sore, and sporting a couple of deeply impressive bruises. Her passenger has a stiff neck. The moron who caused it had insurance, admits he was at fault, and there were plenty of witnesses. That's enough to make this a pain in the ass instead of a tragedy, so I'm grudgingly grateful.

In other news, here's a ridiculously over the top Halloween costume.

And here's the quote of the day, from William Gibson, who's blogging again: "Believing Bush is conservative in any traditional sense is like believing that a Formula One racer with the Perrier logo on its side is full of mineral water. " He also raises the excellent point that now is a really sucky time to be an actual conservative.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Billie and Emily's Wedding

Billie and Emily's Wedding
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
Minister: Repeat after me. I, Billie Cleek, promise...

Billie: I, Billie Cleek, promise...

Minister: to laugh with you and cry with you...

Billie: to laugh at you...

Emily: That is so true!
The photos from Billie and Emily's wedding are up over at Flickr. If you were there and want a high quality version of one, lemme know, and I can send it your way.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Well, I'm off the Ozarks for a wedding. Look for pictures next week of people you don't know and yours truly in a tux.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Monday, October 11, 2004

News from small town Missouri: Christie just called me from Marshall, Missouri, where she just finished a school visit. Apparently the Republican candidate for Southern District Commissioner is named Dick Hassler.

Well, I guess, in this case, hassling is better than teasing.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Things I am thinking about that are not the project I need to be working on:
  1. The best way to attach the rear legs to the bookshelves I almost finished last night.
  2. The best way to conceal the fucked-up, uneven cuts at the top of the bookshelve I almost finished last night.
  3. The best way to paint the hallway.
  4. Dinner (including what we need from the grocery store).
  5. Twisted Metal: Black.
  6. I got an email from a friend last week who's working on his PhD. in Music Composition. He wants to do a choral piece and can't find anything he really likes to adapt. He's previously done a piece of music based around one of my poems, and wants to know if I've got anything. I said I'd pull something together, but now I'm wondering if the intimate voice I've cultivated is well suited to a chorus, not to mention that it's been a long time since I've done any serious metrical work (doggerel doesn't count). Maybe a dialogue? Or a conversation? Is it okay to be funny in a choral piece, or should I go for a more serious tone? What if I overshoot serious and end up writing something overblown? Would the ordinary language I'm inclined to use exist in tension with the elevated expectations that a chorus might create, but still hold together? Or will the whole thing fall apart?
  7. I went to the hardware store over lunch to buy screws and dust masks, but I picked up a pack of Rolos while I was there. Now it's mid-afternoon, and I'm wanting those Rolos, but I left them in the car, and now it's raining. Is their chocolatey goodness worth getting soaked? And if the sun comes out, rendering the Rolos gettable, will they end up melted?
Whassup? I've been a bad blogger, and this is mostly just a post to let you know that I know it, too. Thing is, I've got three projects at work, two of which are at that all important "scratch your head and stare at the ceiling" stage, a hallway to prep and paint at home, bookshelves to finish building, a wedding to attend and another to plan, my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I'm swamped.

So I'm taking it as easy as I can. After all, if you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything.

Back soon. Probably with pictures of the shelves, and maybe the hallway.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Miki at Theory of the Daily has a nice post up on marriage and eroticism. The whole thing is worth a read, but the big piece I took away is that it's not so much that libido decreases as a relationship ages as it is that libido changes. So, we should aspire to a more holistic eroticism that is incorporated thoroughly into our domestic lives, rather than the crazy gymnastic sex we might have enjoyed when we were dating.

I'm not saying there's no more porno-movie sex after marriage, though. Just that a little grab-ass in the kitchen helps keep the home fires burning until you've got the time and energy for a real bonfire.