Monday, January 5, 2009


Bob Hebert of the NY Times gives his take on Obama and Afghanistan:

"The U.S. military is worn out from years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. The troops are stressed from multiple deployments. Equipment is in disrepair. Budgets are beyond strained. Sending thousands of additional men and women (some to die, some to be horribly wounded) on a fool’s errand in the rural, mountainous guerrilla paradise of Afghanistan would be madness."

I could not agree more. A conventional ground war against either Afghans or Al Qaeda operatives is the height of futility. History has shown that the only way to conquer this country is to occupy it entirely; we would literally need to move our entire armed forces into Afghanistan. And even then, we would only be squeezing the balloon. The Afghanis themselves have no inborn hostility towards the United States. The Taliban only gives help to Al Queda out of political convenience.

Terrorism itself is a psychological war. It cannot be won through conventional warfare; the only result is a campaign of Pyrrhic victories. It can only be won by changing the minds and hearts of potential terrorists. Conventional warfare against terrorism is a twisted game of whack-a-mole; one in which every dead terrorist results in the creation of two more.

We should, at this time and point in our economic history, realize that our resources are indeed limited. We must accept the fact that unsavory dictators will rule countries in ways that we will not like. We have to choose between a Quixotic quest to force Western civilization upon people who are not prepared for it or don't want it, and what may be our last chance to stay true to our American ideals and become the country that the rest of the world can look to.

Violence begets violence; further incursions into Afghanistan will only solidify our reputation as a country that will force its will on others without thought. Barack Obama has a real opportunity to make a difference, to change the perception of America throughout the world while saving American lives, Afghan lives, and American resources. Campaign promises are just that; when they are mistaken, they should be forgotten. Better them then the untold Agfhans and Americans we will lose if he does not.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Consent Cards

 I've been thinking about the recent call (made by the heads of a number of prestigious universities) to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. In my line of work (I'm in the bar business), it's an issue that we deal with regularly.

I wonder where the resistance to this is coming from, besides MADD, who are understandably irrational about the subject. Are parents worried that their kid will start drinking to soon?

Maybe they are. But if they are, then maybe we can come up with a consent card, signed by a legal guardian, which would enable the 18-20 year olds to drink. Of course, it just as quickly occurred to me that 18-20 year olds don't have guardians, since, in every other aspect of life, they are considered adults. So, in a sense, this would be an attempt to work within a system that makes no sense.

Sometimes, though, in order to make progress, you have to compromise.  Perhaps a compromise would be for the states to come up with Drinker's Ed; a class that you could take when you got your drivers license that would enable you to drink in bars. If you passed the class, you would get a license that specifically allows you to drink. 

This system is broken. But tearing it all down overnight is politically impossible. We have to start somewhere, and maybe this is one way to do that. 

Blago vs Voters of Illinois

Rod Blagojevich is no saint. He's a classic Chicago politician who's taken Chicago politics to a new level. Or maybe he's just the first to get caught. But lost amid the furor over his appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacant senate seat is the fact that he has not yet been tried, much less convicted, and is still the governor. His claim that he has the right and the responsibility to appoint a new senator is absolutely valid. 

The U.S. Senate has itself tolerated corruption on  huge scale for years. It has very little moral authority in this situation, and its refusal to seat Burris, who has not been connected in any way to this scandal, will likely result in a constitutional crisis. The voters of Illinois, and Chicago, in particular, have courted this crisis by ignoring and often embracing the culture of corruption from which this scandal was born. 

For now, however, the Senate must do its constitutional duty, hold its nose, and seat Mr. Burris. This is not a racial issue, as some have said. This is a constitutional issue. Mr. Burris may make a fine Senator in the end.