A Man with a Flashlight


Upcoming interview: Susan Aldous
April 30, 2007, 3:41 pm
Filed under: The East, Undiscovered writers

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Susan Aldous has been doing charity work in Thailand for eighteen years. With little money and few resources, she has focused on helping people forgotten by society: prisoners, drug addicts, the sick and dying. Armed with her faith, and what donations she is able to collect, she works to let them know that, whatever they have done, they are worthy of love. That simple message has made a profound difference in the lives of many.

Susan is best known for her work counseling the inmates of Bang Kwang maximum security prison in Bangkok, and working to improve their abject conditions. She has appeared on this blog before here and here. She has written an autobiography, The Angel of Bang Kwang Prison, released this month by Maverick House.

Susan will be answering some questions for the readers of this blog in the near future, so check back soon to hear more about her story and her new book. In the meantime, please email me with any questions you’d like me to pose to her.

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The coming Republican revolt
April 29, 2007, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Politics, The Imperial President, The War on Terror

William F. Buckley – yes, the leading light of the conservative movement – doesn’t think Iraq is winnable. To wit:

What can a “surge,” of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.

How long will Bush have enough votes in Congress to keep his veto power secure? He’s going to get a spending bill after he vetoes the timetable (um, right?), but will he get the next one?

In the past month or so, the political fight over Iraq has taken on the feel of an endgame. Even if the President lives to fight another day for now, I just don’t see what else he can pull out of a hat. Particularly if he doesn’t really think Iraq is winnable – just postponeable to the next president’s term.



Surge, or time-delay fuse?
April 29, 2007, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Politics, The Imperial President, The War on Terror

Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo argues, citing circumstantial evidence, that the surge is designed to push the inevitable loss of Iraq into the tenure of the next U.S. president, protecting Bush from some of the blame for it.

I’m reluctant to believe that anyone could be that ruthless, let alone the man who still has nearly two years left to lead our country. And I don’t see how it could succeed – the war is just so integral to Bush’s presidency that I find it hard to imagine a McCain, an Obama, a Clinton, or a Giuliani in any way diminishing Bush’s identification with it.

But I’ve underestimated the administration’s shameless self-service so many times that I’m tempted to give Marshall’s argument some credence. And it would explain something I just can’t fathom. We are at the war’s most desperate hour (well, so far anyway). If our leadership can make it happen, they have to act now. Everyone needs to focus on what must be accomplished.

So why hasn’t Bush made any indication of what his tactical goals are? What exactly is the measurement that will tell us – or at least tell him – if he is succeeding? Shouldn’t this information be in the hands of every soldier? Do our Americans on the ground have any idea what the president wants them to achieve in the next few months?

Far from it. We have no goals in Iraq. “Stop it going to hell” doesn’t count. There is no sense of ambition, of hungering for something achievable. In fact, Marshall cites a NYTimes article saying that the administration is actually lowering its expectations of the Maliki government.

So the good news is that the surge is having some effect. The bad news is, it doesn’t matter, because it’s all a sham. A good tactic doesn’t matter if you don’t have a strategy.

Meanwhile, in case you hadn’t contemplated how losing Iraq could be worse for America than losing Vietnam was, the Washington Post counts the ways.



The sound of one jaw dropping
April 29, 2007, 1:52 am
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Now and then you come across a slap-to-the-face reminder of human ingenuity. Here’s a beauty – the Falkirk Wheel. Most futuristic visual design turns me off, but in this device, any attempt not to look futuristic would seem silly.

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My favorite line from the Wikipedia description: “The electric motors… consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.”

If we really do screw the pooch and melt the icecaps, how are we going to explain to the future that our civilization could build this, but it couldn’t stop a catastrophe that was seen coming for decades?



“The president is less in command of his administration than any president I have ever observed.”
April 27, 2007, 11:06 am
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

He’s had a method of operating in which he is the chief executive, and that he expects things to happen, and he doesn’t superintend them very closely, and a significant number of people who are nominally working for him don’t agree with him, don’t work very hard to implement his policies and in some cases even work against him, and that was certainly true at the State Department. It was certainly true at the C.I.A.

– Richard Perle, on the runup to Iraq, to a hearing organized by the Tricycle Theater in London.

It is eerily similar to Alberto Gonzales’ portrayal of his own role at Justice, and his explanation of how he fired 8 U.S. Attorneys without knowing why. No wonder Bush didn’t see anything wrong with his story.



Pure gold
April 27, 2007, 10:43 am
Filed under: Israel, The War on Terror

Reuters reporting from the Gaza strip. Check out the caption to the photograph. Yep, that’s right. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan.)



Stand in Vagina Power
April 26, 2007, 10:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

From Atlanta public access TV. NOT safe for work. But pure genius anywhere else. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan.)