-- George Kennan, American Diplomacy (1951).
No Sift next week. The next articles will appear September 29.
This week's featured articles are "Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson" and "Is Ray Rice's Video a Game-Changer?".
This week everybody was talking about war against the Islamic State
Look at the Kennan quote above, and think about this: If, right now, there were a secular Sunni leader who could hold Iraq together, keep the religious radicals in check, and serve as a regional counterweight to Shiite Iran, that wouldn't sound so bad.
I've just described Saddam Hussein.
That ought to make us humble about what American military power can achieve in Iraq, or Syria, or anywhere else in the Middle East. At great expense in both lives and money, we fought two wars and lost no battles. But if there has been any gain at all in the overall situation, it's pretty hard to discern.
Nonetheless, the march into a third Iraq War -- expanded to include Syria this time -- continues. In a speech Wednesday night, President Obama admitted that "we can't erase every trace of evil from the world" (an implicit criticism of President Bush), but pledged that "We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy."
And when we've done that, then will the situation be better than it was in 2002 or 1990?
For some mysterious reason, Dick Cheney is advising congressmen on what to do in Iraq, rather than testifying at his war crimes trial. Thom Hartmann:
When we, the supposed leaders of the free world, don't punish the worst political criminals in our history, it sets a terrible example for the rest of the world. ... [W]hen we do terrible things and nobody is held accountable, that gives the green light for everyone else to do the same.
Leaving aside moral considerations, the country listened to Cheney during the run-up our Iraq invasion of 2003. Pretty much every fact he told us was false, and every piece of advice he gave was wrong. Why would anyone ever listen to him again? (Except when he testifies at his trial, of course. We owe him that much.)
and Ray Rice
You can't un-see the video of Ray Rice decking his wife in the elevator. I think a lot of the men who see it are going to have a harder time explaining away future stories of domestic violence. That point gets spelled out in more detail in "Is Ray Rice's Video a Game-Changer?".
and AppleIt's amazing how much buzz surrounds the announcement of any new Apple product. Three were announced this week
- iPhone 6, which is bigger, thinner, faster and so on, but really not that revolutionary. If you have both an iPhone 5 and an iPad mini, you might be able to replace both of them with one device.
- Apple Watch, (I guess iWatch sounded too voyeuristic) which is promised for early 2015. It's a time-telling thing that you wear on your wrist and costs hundreds of dollars, but otherwise it clashes with all our traditional notions of an expensive watch. Previously, such a watch was an heirloom to hand down through the generations, not a gadget to replace every two or three years. It'll be interesting to see whether Apple can change that. First responses: some people like the idea, some don't.
- Apple Pay. (Again, iPay doesn't sound right.) Someday, somebody is going to get the electronic wallet right, and that will change everything. Is this it? Maybe. Maybe not.
[full disclosure: I own Apple stock. I've tried not to let it bias me.]
but I'm still talking about Ferguson
I know, it's starting to look like an obsession. But the example of Ferguson illustrates some previously hard-to-grasp theories about how our society might decline. I connect the dots in "Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson".
and you also might be interested in ...
The Senate debated a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision and allow Congress to pass laws regulating campaign finance again. 42 Republican senators voted to filibuster, so the auction of our highest offices will continue.
It was a party-line vote. Remember that the next time a Republican senator like Susan Collins -- or any Republican candidate -- claims to be a moderate or independent-minded or something. Or when someone tells you that a Democrat like Landrieu or Manchin might as well be a Republican.
On important issues like this, the individual candidates don't matter. Only the party matters. You may wish it weren't that way, but it is.
The ObamaCare "train wreck" keeps refusing to wreck. Connecticut was supposed to be evidence of the wreck; it's second-year premiums were going to go up 12.5%. And then they went down instead. Premiums are also expected to drop in Arkansas. Costs to the federal government have been lower than expected. An update from Washington state shows that other train-wreck predictions are also failing: More people continue to sign up as they become eligible, and the number of people who stop paying their premiums has been small.
Weren't the death panels supposed to be up and running by now? What's taking so long?
The Daily Show sent a reporter out to get an ObamaCare "disaster" story, and he did indeed find someone who lost her job: a nurse in a free clinic in Tacoma, which has closed because they got all their patients signed up for insurance. The parody of media attempts to spin continuing good news as bad news is hilarious. The clinic's former patients are happy with ObamaCare, but they are "obviously biased by their personal positive experiences". When the nurse says that she has moved on to work on other important causes like human trafficking, the reporter imagines his headline: "ObamaCare Forces Nurse Into Sex Slave Trade".
Nearly three in 10 former NFL players will develop at least moderate neurocognitive problems and qualify for payments under the proposed concussion settlement, according to documents filed by the league and the players. ... Former players between 50 and 59 years old develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population of the same age range, according to the documents. The rates for players between 60-64 are as much as 35 times the rate of the general population, the documents reported.
Air Force Times reports that an atheist airman will have to sign an oath that ends "so help me God" if he wants to re-enlist. Otherwise he will have to leave the Air Force when his current term expires in November. The Air Force claims its hands are tied by Congress, which mandated the oath.
Article VI of the Constitution says:
no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
I wonder if all those congressmen who talk so much about the Constitution and religious freedom will support changing this clear violation.
On lighter religious note: When the Rapture comes, what's going to happen to all the pets left behind? Not to worry, After the Rapture has you covered. For a one-time fee of $10, they'll add your pet to their database and promise that their Rapture-proof heathen care-givers will give him/her a good home.
Is this a joke, a scam, or a serious attempt to fill a need? Your guess is as good as mine.
and let's close with something I am never ever going to do
... skateboard the Alps.