If the Gulf oil spill made a hero out of anyone, you could argue that it was Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. The former Republican national chairman did a creditable job helping Mississippians deal with the spill. Yet are Haley's hopes for the 2012 GOP presidential nod as unrealistic as his "come on in, the water's fine" attitude towards Gulf tourism? Read more in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
While much angst has been expressed at the worsening of the Afghan War, the news from Iraq is better. The last American combat unit has left Iraq seven years after the US invaded the Mideast nation.
“Troops from the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Division, drove through the night and arrived in Kuwait just before 4 a.m. local time,” the New York Post reported on Thursday.
I’m happy that the troops’ mission is completed, happy for the loved ones who I hope will see them home soon, and happy that a war that, pre-surge, seemed as out of control as Afghanistan looks today now appears headed toward a satisfactory resolution. (If only the media shared this good news along with all the bad news from Afghanistan. Even the pro-military Post buried the story with a mere four paragraphs on Page 16, although there is a longer AP story online.)
Fifty thousand US troops remain in Iraq. The military faced an Aug. 31 deadline -- a week from next Tuesday -- to decrease its presence there. It looks like mission accomplished, although “a senior administration official” told the Post that “the combat mission is not over.” Yet it may be reaching what Churchill would have called “the beginning of the end.”
I am, frankly, surprised that the Iraq War is winding up before the Afghan War. We entered Iraq under far murkier reasons and with far less international support than we did Afghanistan … and in the wake of the atrocities committed against Americans in Fallujah and the resentment Americans created with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, it seemed like the war would never end. However, the US then adopted countermoves like the surge and pacifying locals … and they seem to have paid off. Gen. David Petraeus and Presidents Bush and Obama all deserve credit for this … some more than others.
We can’t bring back our military dead or the Iraqi civilian dead. Yet we can leave Iraq in a hopeful shape for the future. May its democracy last and its citizens know domestic tranquility.
Iraq still faces problems, but it’s good to know that the country appears to be in stable enough hands that the US can diminish its presence there so that now, we can focus on the remaining mess in Afghanistan.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The move to build a mosque near Ground Zero has drawn criticism from the Right, cautious approval from the Left, and an attempt at compromise from New York Gov. David Paterson. Now it's Satan and Frank Faust's turn to weigh in ... in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
For the past two days, concert venues in New England have come alive with the sound of Inca flutes and drums. The Boston Symphony Orchestra devoted Friday's concert at Tanglewood to music inspired by the Inca Empire ("Caminos del Inka"), while visitors to Waterfire in Providence Saturday also had a chance to see plume-covered dancers sway to the sounds of indigenous music in the 21st Bolivian festival of Our Lady of Urkupina.
Of the three major pre-Columbian empires in Latin America -- Aztec, Maya, Inca -- it is the Incas who have traditionally gotten the least amount of attention up North. Maybe it's because, geographically, they were a lot farther away. It is likely that more American tourists have visited Mexico City or Chichen Itza than Machu Picchu.
The past two days indicate that New Englanders are showing more interest. On Friday, the Berkshires evoked the Andes as the BSO gave its woodwind and percussion sections a different challenge than their normal Eurocentric fare. Saturday, visitors to downtown Providence could watch dancers wheel around the concert space, listen to the pipers play, and sample Bolivian cuisine such as steak, corn and plantains.
The Inca Empire lost its power long ago with the coming of Pizarro and the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. Perhaps interest in the Inca is appropriate in Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island because they, too, were the sites of confrontations between indigenous inhabitants and European arrivals. It is a welcome sign of humility for the West to recognize that history in the Americas did not begin with the European conquests ... and to celebrate pre-Columbian history through the enduring echo of the Inca flutes.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Open question, dear readers: Now that the Gulf oil spill has been contained, would you ever use BP products again?
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Despite the devastation wrought by the Gulf oil spill, Mother Nature might be able to show some surprising resilience -- thanks to some of her smallest creations.
"(The) sea floor in the Gulf is rich in `cold seeps’ -- communities of tube worms and other organisms that live off oil naturally seeping from beneath the seabed," British writer Matt Ridley notes in The Times. "Hundreds of these clusters of clams and tube worms have been found since the 1980s in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, living off the microbes that eat the oil."
This -- coupled with evidence that human attempts to clean up spills often worsen things -- might suggest that President Obama leave the cleanup work to Mother Nature. Or at least, that's Satan's advice in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Imagine driving down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge at lunchtime, seeing a tantalizing pizza place and a parking spot right outside it, and -- oops! -- having no change for the meter. Not only are you out of a lunch option, but the pizza place owner has missed out on a client, and the state is out of some tax revenue.
The big cities of the Bay State, places like Cambridge, Boston and Somerville, create a culture of unfriendliness with their legions of parking meters, some of which allow parking for a maximum time of as low as 15 minutes. Many meters allow only quarters, and oftentimes one quarter is only good for 15 minutes. Motorists who park in metered spots must constantly check their watches, interrupting their lunch to run back and put more change in the meters. And even then, they might get fined for an overtime violation.
I call on Gov. Patrick to push for a parking-meter holiday -- a stretch when motorists can park in metered spots at no charge -- to provide a hassle-free environment for drivers, and potentially more revenue for business owners. It would represent a small but significant easing of stress on drivers who already have to pay for gas and maintenance.
Granted, there might be a few wrinkles to iron out. Some drivers might abuse the privilege, parking in metered spots all day during the holiday and depriving peers of the opportunity to use the space. Perhaps Patrick could adopt a set of rules that stipulate that during the holiday, all metered spots would change to a minimum of one hour’s free parking (if the meter normally runs for one hour or less) with a maximum of two hours’ free parking (if the meter normally exceeds one hour), with normal ticketing policies in place for drivers who park beyond the allotted time.
As constituted, parking meters represent an additional tax on motorists that, while small in monetary value, is still unpleasant … kind of like the impositions that King George III, his Parliament and Govs. Bernard and Hutchinson of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wanted the colonists to pay over stamps and tea. Our present-day governor, Patrick, should not ignore the promising possibility of a parking-meter holiday as he battles for reelection.