Saturday, March 15, 2003

Blogrolling Along
Finally got around to cleaning up the roll.

First of all, welcome to Moveable Beast. Not only is she also a photographer, but she is a horsewoman. I'm envious: she just got back from Keeneland.

A hearty welcome to Tacitus and the Volokh Conspiracy. They join Jay Caruso and John Cole as the conservatives I'd love to get drunk and disorderly with. May the scales of conservative deception fall from their eyes someday :-) :-) :-)

On the other side of the fence, welcome Ted Barlow, Dangerous Sheep, and Skippy to the League of Leftists Defenders of the Universe.

An extra special welcome to Jane's buddy, South Knox Bubba. I'm voting Bubba the good ol' boy I would most like to spend a decadent week in a private island with....except that he's married to the lovely Mrs. Bubba. Darn!

Poetry Morning
Via Teb Barlow, a story about poetry and political litmus tests at Michael Totten's blog. Mr. Totten not only rightfully defends a great poet's works against post-mortem politization, but prints one of my favorites, the Ode to Salt.

And via Tim at Road to Surfdom two poets I've never heard of but who could bring me back to poetry. Check out Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow, written by a poet whose politics may be right of center but whose heart is big enough to encompass the human experience.

Friday, March 14, 2003

On the Innocence of Bloggers and the Perfidy of Nations
In my adventures in blogtopia (ysctw!) I have noticed several PhDs, a number of JDs, an assortment of other degrees and a sizable quantity of all-around pretty intelligent people.

So could you tell me why in the name of Koschei the Deathless are a number of us blathering about France and Russia as if we had been rejected by the loves of our lives?

Let me break the news gently to those innocent souls out there: nations are not family members, lovers, or charitable institutions. A modern nation has no raison d'etre (yes, it's french, want to make something of it?) other than to protect the interests of its citizens. France and Russia have a great deal invested in Iraq; therefore their position must be to defend those interests. And don't give me any bushwah (pun intended) about morality and evil dictators: until not so long ago Saddam was our dictator and we let him mow down the Kurds and the marsh arabs at will. We've kissy-faced-huggy-bodied with a lot of folks of less than sterling conduct to protect what we saw as American interests, so let's cut out the moralizing.

You want to know what I think about French behavior? Monsieur Chirac (who, by the way, is a first-class snake whom we have redeemed by our own imbecile behavior) examines the "evidence" of the links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and sees bubkes. Then he gets an eyeful of that precious little project for the New American Century that pretty much seems to relegate every other country to the condition of client-state or enemy, and which has been advocating the ousting of Saddam since at least 1998. Then, some wonk in his State department reminds him that Iraq sits in the second largest pool of oil in the Middle East. Three nasty little facts, from Monsieur Chirac's viewpoint.

Monsieur Chirac, who is steeped in the realities of European power politics and nobody's fool by any standards, also notices that the president is surrounded (1)rabid boosters for the little project and (2)oil types. So he reasons that the warmongers want Iraq as a base to establish American hegemony in the Middle East, and the oil types see a lot of profit, if not from the oil, then from all the collateral service industries.

The American administration, whose diplomacy is composed of carefully calibrated amounts of testosterone and stupidity, does nothing to change his reasoning, what with idiot remarks about "making the playing field level" and requesting bids for recovery services only from American companies--one of which still pays the vice-president a million dollars a year (this particular reasoning is not limited to Chirac). And, to put the cork in the bottle, our only president goes around making apocalyptic remarks that manage to piss off just about every moslem in the known universe.

Now, it is not in the best interest of France (or Russia, or Germany for that matter) to become either a permanent client-state of the United States or to lose billions of dollars in possible revenue, or to get its own muslim population in an uproar. Therefore, it is monsieur Chirac's duty to oppose American plans. By this time, it's probably also Monsieur Chirac's great pleasure.

That, children, is how the game of nations is played.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

No Blood for Oil? Honey, that is SO Twentieth Century!
So you're worrying about oil? You can stop now.

Start worrying about water.

A Conference Board's report on Water Privatization gives us the bad news:
Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Cyprus, Malta, and the Arabian Peninsula currently use all of their freshwater resources; Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt are expected to do so within the next decade. This means that any additional demand on water resources--from population growth or an increase in industrial activity--will force those countries to turn elsewhere to fill their water needs.
Saudi Arabia faces depletion of its fresh water within 50 years; the country is largely dependent on underground aquifers, which are being depleted three times faster than they can be replenished.
In the Gaza Strip, seawater is leaking into underground aquifers, contaminating them as far as a mile inland; they may become completely salinized and therefore unusable.

And the CIA, in its report, Global Trends 2015, says that measures undertaken to increase water availability and to ease acute water shortages--using water more efficiently, expanding use of desalinization, developing genetically modified crops that use less water or more saline water, and importing water--will not be sufficient to substantially change the outlook for water shortages in 2015. Many will be expensive; policies to price water more realistically are not likely to be broadly implemented within the next 15 years, and subsidizing water is politically sensitive for the many low-income countries short of water because their populations expect cheap countries press against the limits of available water between now and 2015, the possibility of conflict will increase...water shortages occurring in combination with other sources of tension--such as in the Middle East [bold mine]--will be the most worrisome. (pp.27/28 of PDF)

At least some of the jockeying among the Middle Eastern nations in relation to Iraq may be related to water issues. Although most of the length of the Tigris and the Euphrates lie in Iraq (passing through Iran and Syria), they originate in Turkey, and collect most of their flow there. Both are heavily "farmed" by all the countries. Since the 1980s Turkey has been embarked in a major project in southeast Anatolia. The project, known as GAP from its Turkish initials, would harness the waters of both the Euphrates and the Tigris to irrigate 10% of the landmass of Anatolia. GAP would significantly reduce the quality and quantity of the water coming down to Iraq. The flow could be reduced to less than 20% of its current flow, an it would be considerably more saline, a complete and utter disaster for Iraq's agriculture. And just last year, Turkey took the first steps towards developing a Middle Eastern water market.

Finally from a TED Case study from 1997, about the building of the Ataturk dam: Iraq has actually threatened a regional war if its water needs are not met. Turkey claims that its water policy is not political, but has been very critical of Kurds in Iraq that have been conducting cross-border raids into Turkey. Turkey has also conducted talks with Israel, as well as other neighbors, about a possible joint water project that would use a pipeline to carry water. These talks stalled mostly because Turkey wanted the oil producing countries to devise a similar pipeline to bring oil to Turkey.

I don't know how all this meshes yet. What is certain is that, for the Middle East, oil will become, in the near future, a currency for buying water. Under all the rhetoric, alliances are being formed and business deals made based on this new currency. A weakened Iraq would not be able to protect its access to the water and could become a de facto Turkish client-state, trading oil for water. The only effective opposition, if it can be called that, would come from the guerilla warfare of the Kurds and the Ma' dan (marsh arabs). And what happens in places like Gaza, who do not have oil to trade?

I have a feeling we are going to look back with nostalgia on the days when everyone was just fighting over the oil.

this has been slightly edited from the earlier post, mostly because I didn't want to sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist until I can get my hands on less, shall we say, circumstantial evidence

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

If your ears were assaulted by a window-shattering, cat-terrifying scream sometime around lunchtime, don't worry; just a little overexuberance on my part. I meandered over to Devra's to see who got picked as blog of the week (Devra has introduced me to a number of excellent stories through her award), and I found out one of them was ME! Not only that, but the other one was Sean-Paul over at The Agonist whom I consider one of the best in the business and will blogroll as soon as I can get around to doing the basic housekeeping work I know I should be doing (sigh).

By the way, Sean-Paul's grant got yanked and he needs help, so go over there and give him a little $$$ if you can.

And More Fun
The Carnival of the Vanities is up at The Daily Rant. Yours truly has an entry. But don't miss Michelle's entry about her summer job with the Yankees. WOW!!!

Monday, March 10, 2003

A Digression into the Joys and Sorrows of Possibilities
Today has been a day full of joys and sorrows. First this, from Julia:

[enter bedroom. small squidgy girl dancing to the (dreadful) music on Radio Disney. The voice of an adolescent female chipmunk with a deviated septum floats out of the hello, kitty teacup clock radio, singing "that's what girls do." hackles aloft, I wade into the lists, while HM grabs my shoulders so she can bounce on the bed higher]

Me: What girls do? Like being CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and performing surgery?

Her [bouncing over my head now]: Fly.

Then this, from UNICEF:

UNICEF said that a lack of access to clean water causes waterborne illnesses that kill more than 1.6 million young children each year. Lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities at schools often forces girls to drop out of primary school. Of the 120 million school-age children not in school, the majority are girls.

Do you remember the last time you were able to see only possibilities? When you could fly bouncing on a bed with your hands on your mother's strong shoulders? When you saw magic in a flower and a frog? When being a CEO or a surgeon or a pilot were real options? When growing up was just something to be taken for granted? Do you remember what it was like to feel safe?

Millions of children in the world do not know that feeling. For every war, every epidemic, every drought, there are thousands of children who won't see any possibilities. We--all of us, worldwide--seem to take it for granted. Stalin was right: a single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

Hundreds of American, foreign, and international organizations are trying to help. All they can do is to plug some of the leaks in the dike. Funding for their work comes and goes, hostage to political and ideological winds. Countries build bigger and better weapons, but can't find money for vaccines. Cities happily give tax breaks for millionaires to build multi-million dollar stadiums for other millionaires to play in, but can't seem to fund basic nutrition in public schools. Folks buy bigger and better toys but can't seem to find spare change for the local shelter.

Until we decide that every child is worthy of the same kind of care as Julia's daughter gets (lucky child; lucky mother), and each and every one of us work actively to make it happen we won't truly be a civilized species.

I've posted a link to a half-built personal page with my photos. Right below my e-mail on the right. Any and all creative criticism and suggestions welcome (not about the website; Bellsouth limits the hell out of what you can do with a template).