Friday, April 09, 2004

The Rich Get Richer

Or at least luckier!
Magical CD

I had a dream last night that I had a magical CD that would burn its way through a laptop computer to pick the information contained within it (hence another meaning for the term CD-burning), and that I was going to use the CD in John Kerry's laptop computer from 1971 to find out his REAL position on the War on Terror. Sounds like a plan!
Bravery in the Mexican Outback

Still, this story makes me wonder if this is where we're heading, with rising health insurance premiums....
Condoleeza Rice's Testimony

I saw a portion of her testimony last night on CSPAN. What struck me most, beyond her general passivity, was the eerie lack of response by the Bush Administration to Al Qaeda's bombing of the USS Cole. The bombing occurred shortly before the Clinton Administration left power, and the question of retaliation was left for the Bush Administration, which apparently felt that another rather ineffective response (for example, a cruise-missile standoff attack) would simply gratify and reward the terrorists. Still, doesn't the complete absence of a response gratify and reward the terrorists even more?

It was almost as if the Bushies saw the Cole attack as an attack on Bill Clinton, and not the USA (even though the Cole was a US warship and the attack certainly qualified as an act of war), and therefore didn't merit a response. September 11th required a response only because it might be seen as an attack on Bush (the USA be damned). It's that weird hyperloyal autocratic personality cult Bush has developed that seemed to stand in the way.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Kenneth Feinberg, Special Master

This morning, I turned on CSPAN-2, looking for Condoleeza Rice's Sept. 11th commission testimony. I missed that spectacle, but instead found a much more interesting talk by Kenneth Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Fund, which Congress established to compensate victims of September 11th. Feinberg is an immensely engaging person, and he talked at length about the novelty of his position.

Feinberg was solely responsible for calculating the economic value of people's prospective lives and compensating the survivors, but only after accounting for insurance proceeds (a novel mix of tort law and social welfare safety net concepts), and together with his staff, devising his own administrative regulations. The position was fraught with potential disasters, but he was aided by the almost complete absence of fraudulent claims (!!!!) and widespread public and Congressional support.

Feinberg concluded by dwelling on two points:

How is it possible to compensate certain people more than others for premature deaths? It sounds terribly unjust, yet juries do exactly the same thing every day, and;

How is it just to compensate Sept. 11th victims, but then not compensate Daniel Pearl's widow, or Oklahoma City survivors, or anyone else who doesn't qualify for this particular fund?

Feinberg's talk was truly wonderful, a real gem of a speech, which touched on immutable principles of justice as applied to a single horrible disaster. I remember when I first heard of the September 11th Fund, I thought it was a disaster on wheels, a big rolling advertisement for fraud. Thanks in large measure to Feinberg's solid character, though, the Fund appears to be a success. May we never have need for such a fund in the future, but if we do, let us pray we have more such people to administer it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


As horrible as it is, I can't help but feel a bit of schadenfreude (pleasure at the suffering of others) for all the recent U.S. difficulties in Iraq. Even though I supported the intervention at the time, it was always with considerable reservations. We were opening the world's biggest can of worms, and only an urgent reason (unknown and unshared positive intelligence regarding WMD) would suffice for undertaking that dangerous endeavor. When WMD weren't found - poof! - there went the urgent reason! It's a horrible mess, and getting worse. Andrew Sullivan clearly senses that the whole project could unravel, and his apprehension is almost amusing.

"What we do know is that failure in Iraq is unthinkable." Well, Andrew Sullivan (he of settled mind) had better start thinking!

We wouldn't abandon Iraq, would we? We wouldn't make him and many of his colleagues look like total idiots for urging on the chariots of war - would we? Well, we may very well do so! Just like Vietnam, all over again! My hopes are that the Iraqi chaos may injure Dubya's reelection campaign enough to doom his prospects for a second term, and that we may still be able to salvage something good and noble from this Mesopotamian misadventure - under a Kerry administration!
Busy Weekend

First, Dannette's birthday party and get-together, followed by a successful foray to Thunder Valley (win: $775). Then the "It's About Time" fundraising concert Saturday night (I love the sound of live big band music!) Then Eileen and Wendy's dual birthday party in Roseville, and the normal Elks Dance, on Sunday evening. Can't remember names, only smiling faces!